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Sep 21, 2018, 12:33 AM
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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Sep 24, 2019, 06:35 PM
BEC
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In case anyone here cares - an update.

It is now 10 days after the lease for the Soul EV was to be up. We had it extended for six months, as the option we most want to go to is the 2020 Soul EV (which will have close to three times the range of the current one). BUT - there aren't any in the US yet, and we don't know when there will be. The Tesla Model 3 can be had, but between the issues they've been having and that the interior isn't as practical as the Soul for hauling things like my wife's harp or a bunch of airplane or rocket equipment, it's no longer a consideration.

We did have one warranty issue with it since the previous post: the onboard charger died one weekend, which means we couldn't charge from our EVSE on the front porch or the slower one that came with the car. We could, however, use DC fast charging, which bypasses the onboard charger. This turned out to be a known problem with the Soul EV and it was taken care of fairly quickly by the dealer, at no cost to me other than the gas we had to put in the gas Soul loaner car we had for a few days.

More recently the EVSE itself started giving me errors and refusing to send power to the car. This was resolved by the EVSE maker (a company called Clipper Creek) entirely by email - they saw the symptoms and the error code I reported and promptly sent me a new EVSE as a warranty replacement. It took me maybe an hour to swap the new in for the old and package the old one up to ship back to Clipper Creek on their nickel.

So just as with our models, chargers and such can be sources of trouble.

Now my main concerns are wondering if the 2020 Soul EV will be here by mid-March, and if I will need to put new tires on this Soul EV before then now that the Seattle Rain Festival has begun. The car currently has about 35,500 miles on it. That instant electric torque on wet pavement has seen the traction control kicking in rather more than I'd like over the last couple of weeks.

Some who read this (if anyone) may wonder "what about the Kia E-Niro?". It has the same power train as the 2020 Soul EV (and the Hyundai Kona EV), which is a 64 KWh battery and a motor with over twice the power of the current one. AND it's available now.

Well, I looked at it and thought "that could work" but my wife has told me in no uncertain terms "no more black interiors". We grew up in the southwest and cars with black interiors are NO fun in the summer—and that is true really even up here in the Pacific NorthWet. The only interior colors available on the E-Niro are so dark a grey as to be black. I really do like the Soul better, though and the current one's interior is a nice light grey. So we shall see.
Last edited by BEC; Sep 24, 2019 at 08:36 PM.
Apr 25, 2020, 06:03 PM
BEC
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We just bought it off the lease....


Another update:

The 2020 Kia Soul EV has been pushed out into 2021. From what I gather, Kia is having trouble keeping other markets supplied (or at least they were before the virus thing....) especially since the only Soul being sold in Europe these days is the EV. So, after having turned down the Niro EV (kind of pricey and no option for an interior other than black), we finally decided to just buy the one we've been driving off the lease, and upgrade in a year or two. As it turned out, the sum of the 3 1/2 years of lease payments and the payoff (plus the value of the Federal tax credit we didn't get to take because we leased it, not bought it) was still several thousand dollars less than the list price of the car. And thanks to a reinstatement of a state incentive and extending it to used EVs as well as new ones, we didn't have to pay any sales tax either. So we came out ahead relative to having purchased it back in 2016.

The only service done since I last posted was that I changed the cabin air filter (instead of paying Kia of Puyallup to do it) and put on new wiper blades. There are a little over 41,500 miles on the car now. We will probably have to get tires before the winter, but otherwise, it costs essentially nothing to maintain. I love it.

By the time we're ready to upgrade, the 2021 Soul EV, the Tesla Model Y, the Ford Mustang Mach E and who knows what else will be available....


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