Courtesy of Kia

Kia EV9 Is Nearly The Perfect Electric Car

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Three-row people haulers are the new sweet spot of the new car market. We don’t know who all these people are who need to drive seven people from place to place. Maybe more people carpool than we realize? In any event, the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade are very popular 7-passenger cars with gasoline engines. The Kia EV9 is virtually identical in size to those vehicles, but has even more interior room, thanks to being designed from the ground up to be electric. The Hyundai Ioniq 7, which is a twin to the EV9 but with different styling, will be along shortly.

Before we get to the specs and other technical details, let’s focus on what the Kia EV9 does best. Digital Trends says the great experience of driving the Kia EV9 “starts with comfortable seats that are easy to sit in for hours on end without issue.” They are “plush and padded,” with good lumbar support and easy adjustability.

Front seat heating and cooling are standard and also available in the available second row captain’s seats. Three climate zones that can be individually controlled by the driver, the front seat passenger, and the second row passengers are standard. The climate controls for the front can be adjusted for temperature and fan speed by using actual physical controls instead of searching through digital menus on a touchscreen.

What really got a big thumbs up from Digital Trends was wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay. Get in, place your phone on the easily accessible charging pad and drive away. No messing around with cables if you don’t want to. In addition, there are two USB-C ports at the front of the car, with one of them offering a button that toggles between charging and data connectivity. And there are more USB-C ports for second- and third-row passengers. There are enough ports in the car for every occupant to charge at least one device if they choose.

None of this is radically new or different, Digital Trends says. Kia hasn’t invented any crazy new technology or fundamentally changed what makes a great car interior. Instead, it has simply pulled together all the key details into a cabin that’s comfortable and pleasant to be in. All of this really boils down to ensuring that climate controls are intuitive and there are features like cupholders and USB-C ports for charging in the back. A great roadtrip car for the whole family, in other words.

Batteries, Range, Motors, & Range

Courtesy of Kia

Kia offers five trim levels of the EV9. Telling them apart can be challenging. The entry level Light is equipped with a 76.1 kWh battery and a single electric motor that powers the rear wheels. It lists for $54,900 and has an EPA range of 230 miles. One step up is the Light Long Range that comes with a 99.8 kWh battery and captains’ seats in the second row. It lists for $59,200 and has an EPA range of 304 miles.

The Wind trim brings dual motors with a combined 379 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque and 7-passenger seating. It comes with a heat pump for heating and cooling, which helps extend range. It also has dual sunroofs and higher ground clearance. The EPA range is 280 miles and lists for $63,900.

Next up is the Land trim that also has dual motors and 280 mile range. It has the second row captains’ chairs as standard and lists for $69,900. What do you get for an extra $6,000 more than the Wind? More comfy seats, 20-inch wheels, 360-degree surround view, and lots more bells and whistles like slide-out tray tables for the second row seats and a power leg rest for the front seat passenger.

Finally, at the top of the Kia EV9 model lineup is the GT-Line AWD. It features 516 ft-lbs of torque — a feature that is an extra cost option on lesser versions of the car, a self-leveling rear suspension, a tow package that can pull up to 5000 pounds (optional on other trim packages), 21-inch wheels, remote self-parking, and a bunch of other really cool stuff. It lists for $73,900 and has an EPA range of 270 miles. Car and Driver drove one at 75 mph on the highway and saw an actual range of 240 miles, which is quite good considering it’s such a large car at highway speeds.

The EV9 uses the company’s highly regarded 800 volt E-GMP platform which allows it to accept up to 350 kW of power for some of the best charging times available today. There is also a 11 kW onboard AC charger for faster charging from Level 2 charging equipment.

The EV9 is currently manufactured in South Korea, which means it is not eligible for the US federal tax credit/incentive. But you can lease one and get the advantage of the tax credit anyway.

Driving The EV9

Courtesy of Kia

While preparing this story on the Kia EV9, I came across an interesting report by Joel Stockdale of Autoblog. He drove a dual motor Land 290 miles to the Chicago auto show in cold weather recently and — gasp! — had no issues (other than a clueless Chevy Bolt owner hogging a 350 kW charger en route).

Before departing, he did some research on PlugShare to figure out where best to recharge en route to Chicago. Available in browsers and as an app, PlugShare provides detailed information on the locations of a wide variety of chargers from different chains and of various power levels. It was extremely helpful to be able to view basically everything on the route, and to be able to filter out slower chargers and ones with connectors that might not work for him.

His charging experience along the way was seamless — plug in, swipe the credit card, and bazanga! Charging started with no issues. A quick trip to the nearby store for snacks and such and back on the road in less than 30 minutes. In the cold. Amazing.

But Stockdale says he did have some concerns about charging as he got nearer Chicago. “Miraculously, I pulled into a parking lot to find a bank of green-glowing Electrify America stations, all 350s and seemingly all functional. Just as with the EVGo station the night before, I plugged in, tapped my card and, as the EV9 literally says out its front speaker, ‘charging started.’ The estimated time to 80% said about a half hour, and by the time I went into the store, used the restroom and purchased some snacks, that 80% had in fact arrived.”

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The Takeaway

At a time when electric vehicles are under assault by paid influencers working for the fossil fuel industry, Stockdale’s experience is perhaps the best takeaway on the Kia EV9 and where the EV revolution is today. He writes,

I learned a number of things from this trip, all of which point to the fact that EV transportation actually has the potential to be stress-free, and it’s not as far off as it might seem.

For one thing, we actually have charging speeds that are more than acceptable for road trips. No, fueling is not as fast as the 5 to 10 minutes of filling a gas tank. But there’s a key advantage that isn’t usually mentioned — You don’t have to be with the car while it’s filling up. When you’re on a road trip, there’s a good chance you’re still going to pop into the shop to recharge yourself (or drain). Even if you’re really quick, you’re often looking at about 15 minutes in total, maybe 20-30 if you’re waiting on others.

As I only needed about 30 minutes in the EV9 to charge to 80% on each stop, recharging didn’t really add any extra time to my drive and was just as convenient. I was even able to refuel at my destination, something you can’t do with a gas car.

Planning my trip was pretty easy, too. It wasn’t as carefree as simply punching in my final destination and just filling up when I felt like stopping, but I only ever had to use one site and then my phone’s navigation app (though Kia’s is quite good and starts suggesting charging stations when you approach 20%). I did NOT need to have 10 different apps to charge along the way because I could simply pay with my card. You know, the thing I use to purchase goods and services from literally every other physical retail place in the country.

I experienced the best-case scenario of road tripping with an EV. This is how it’s supposed to work and one assumes will work as the infrastructure continues to be built out. Of course, this is not how it typically goes today. Some combination of charger malfunctions, payment difficulties and crowded stations is still unfortunately the norm, with the prospect of poor weather conditions adding yet another layer.

We’re obviously not there yet, but this trip shows that carefree EV road tripping is not fantasy, it can be a reality. Not a common enough reality, but a reality nonetheless. I’m feeling more excited and optimistic that as dependability and availability improves, EV life will be as pleasant, if not more so, than internal combustion life.

All we can add is, “Amen.” Check out the video below for a closer look at the Kia EV9.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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