Right after our 2015 Kia Soul EV long-term test vehicle arrived in April, Chicago experienced a sustained stretch of mild weather, with temps hovering in the mid-60s–somewhat of an anomaly in these parts. And for those of us on the Consumer Guide Automotive® staff, it was appreciated for more than just the obvious reason.
Since an electric car’s heat and air conditioning — which are also electric — draw their power from the same battery that drives the car, the use of either reduces the driving range. Thus, the moderate temperatures resulted in impressive range estimates according to the Soul’s computer, which bases its estimates on recent driving experience. In many cases, our Soul EV’s dashboard display showed range estimates far exceeding the EPA numbers. The best our drivers saw after a full charge was 105 miles, which beats the official EPA range estimate of 93 miles by more than 12 percent.
But we have a saying here in the Windy City: “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” (Indeed, we went to lunch today under a nearly cloudless sky, and now — in mid-afternoon– we’re experiencing torrential rain.) Of late it’s been far warmer, and will get warmer still as we proceed through the summer. That means the Kia’s air conditioning will be in use, so the range estimates will undoubtedly fall.
However, they’ll probably fall less than they would in most electric cars. Why? Because the Soul uses a heat pump for producing warm or cold air, which is more efficient (Kia says by 27 percent) than the conventional compressor-driven air conditioning and resistance heating used in most electrics. But we’ll see. Regardless, its unlikely we’ll see range estimates of more than 100 miles again until next fall. But even the 93 miles on the EPA sticker is a pretty impressive feat, as it exceeds that of all other moderately priced electrics except the large-battery (30 kWh) version of the Nissan Leaf, which has a 107-mile range estimate. (The “normal” 24 kWh Leaf has an 84-mile range estimate.)
So how much will warmer weather affect the driving range? Stay tuned ….
Tested vehicle: 2015 Kia Soul EV
Base price: $35,700 (Before federal or state incentives)
Price as tested: $36,625, including floormats ($125) and destination ($800)
EPA city/highway/combined ratings: 120/92/105 (MPGe)
EPA estimated range: 93 miles