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Sep 21, 2018, 12:33 AM
BEC
BEC
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Electric powered transportation - I love it!


Having been flying electric airplanes since the very early 1980s, I had often dreamed of having the same sorts of advantages in the car that I drove. You know the list - instant starts, and instant torque, very little mechanical maintenance, silence - that sort of thing.

Then, when the first Nissan Leafs started to appear around here I took a quick look, but was put off by some of the packaging design decisions Nissan engineers had made, and, of course, there was the whole "range anxiety" thing. At the time I was working about 15 miles from home (at Boeing's 737 plant in Renton) but there was always the possibility that I would be sent to Everett on a short or longer term basis, and a car that could only do 60-odd miles on a charge just wouldn't do it. So I shelved the idea and kept on happily driving my Mazda.

Then, in the spring of 2016, I was still working in Renton when the company offered me a "voluntary layoff" -the upshot of which is that they would pay me a lump sum of 26 weeks' salary to retire two or three years sooner than I had been planning. This set into motion a fairly large chain of events, but one of them was that I knew that I would no longer be under threat of having my job relocated to Everett. So I took another look at getting an electric car through I had never driven one - just thought about it. By this time there were quite a few choices beyond the Leaf (and the Leaf itself had been improved, but still had that funky interior packaging). And, between the state and federal incentives in the fall of 2016 there were some absolutely killer deals being offered to lease an EV.

Much more quickly than I normally do something like get a new car, I did a quick survey of what was available locally that was affordable (sorry - no Tesla Model S....) and very quickly zeroed in on the electric version of the Kia Soul. Like a Telsa, the Soul EV has the battery underneath the passenger floor, so the interior space is uncompromized relative to the gasoline-fueled Soul. I had had a good experience with a gas Soul as a rental car a year or so earlier and so was favorably disposed toward the car. So in less than a week I went from my first test drive of an electric car of any kind to bringing a 2016 Soul EV home on a 3-year lease for just under $200/month on September 15th of 2016. So now we have an 360V 80 kW motor with a 27 kWh lithium polymer battery parked in front of the house.

We have about 23,000 miles on it now and my wife and I both love it. We did have to spend the money to put in a Level 2 charger attached to the front porch (we have no garage) though Puget Power had a rebate that just about bought the charger itself (actually called an EVSE - electric vehicle service equipment). We mainly had to pay for the electrical work to run a new 220V 50A circuit from the main power panel to where the EVSE is installed. But with this we can recharge the Soul EV from as low as we dare let it get (single digit percentage charge left) in four hours or less.

It has all the characteristics I love about electric power -instant starting, instant torque and therefore snappy acceleration in spite of the fact that it's rather heavier than a gas Soul, silence, and essentially no maintenance. So far it's had one dealer service, which consisted of replacing the cabin air filter and rotating the tires. That's all. That instant torque makes it a real kick to drive - getting the best of most cars from a stop light in town and zipping up hills that are a challenge for most anything else we've owned (well at least without shifting down two or three gears). And with the regenerative braking (we use the higher setting all the time) we almost never have to touch the mechanical brakes at all. I expect they'll go 150,000 miles or more before it even needs front brake pads.

So my 2013 Mazda3 5-door (one of the things that got paid off with that lump sum severance check) doesn't get out much anymore unless my wife and I have to be two different places at the same time or we are going on a long trip (like the one to Colorado to NARAM-60 I mentioned in my last post). That means that other than on those long trips it gets filled up about once every six to eight weeks.

The Soul EV's range goes between a low of a little over 70 miles in the winter (yes, lithium polymer batteries that drive full scale cars don't like cold any more than the ones in our models) to close to 100 miles during the warmest weather in the Seattle area. Yes, running lights and wipers and heat (and those lovely heated seats) in the winter do affect the range a little - but the effect is small and not much more than running the air conditioning (a heat pump system!) in the summer. There are also lots and lots of public charging options around the area - though that market is a bit chaotic still. That can be helpful - though with the range we have we almost never charge elsewhere than home. Sometimes I'll top up during the day between trips, but generally it gets recharged at night (it can be programmed to charge itself at a set time). Our electric bill is on the order of $40/month higher since we've had the car. I would like about half again the range, though, so some trips that have required us to fast charge away from home could be done round trip from here. And more range would also make road trips (planned around fast charging locations) a little more practical.

That said, it only took a short time to reach the conclusion that we'll never again be without an EV. We are absolutely sold on them. With one year to go on the lease, I'm starting to think seriously about what next. Frankly, if Kia pushed the Soul EV's range out to 130-140 miles I'd be happy to just get a 2019 or 2020 model (whatever is available a year from now) as the rest of the car suits us so very well. But I will look at the Chevy Bolt (though it's quite a bit smaller inside), the recently revamped Leaf, and at least investigate availability of the Tesla Model 3 (though there I think the timing will be wrong). And I expect there will be other choices 11 months from now that there aren't now.

So we've just begun our electric car journey, really.....but it's been fun so far and I expect it will get better as we go.
Last edited by BEC; Sep 21, 2018 at 12:40 AM.
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