Electrical Box: We (Attempt to) Make An Electric Car Our Primary Wheels For A Week – The Future?

Electrical Box: We (Attempt to) Make An Electric Car Our Primary Wheels For A Week – The Future?

So sometimes you get the chance to do something in the name of science and you just have to do it. Having never driven a true electric car (only hybrids) more than around the block, I was legitimately interested in seeing what life would be like if tomorrow there was no longer a drop of gas to use and we were all forced to drive something that you had to plug into your house. The whole thing started when I got offered the key fob to this thing, which is a 2015 Kia Soul EV. No, it is not a Tesla or some sort of electric super car but it is representative of what most “electric car” buyers are looking for. Something that they car drive as their primary means of transportation and smugly look at people filling their cars as they glide on by in virtual silence.

This was a bit of a family social experiment and it was a genuinely interesting one at that. I am not going to do a dedicated review of the Kia but by the end of this story you will know all you want to know about the car. I am more interested in sharing the different elements of the experience here and what we can all expect if the gas pumps turn off tomorrow and there’s no mo oil to feed the needs of our driving lives. In fact, after a week with this car, I am more scared of being faced with that reality now more than ever because I KNOW what the alternative is.

The Sensory Experience –

kia soul EV009The first and most startling thing about driving this car was the fact that it made NO noise. Like literally none. There was not buzzing or whirring or anything of that nature. Instead what you heard was the tires in contact with the pavement, and weird reverse chime that alerts the people who are about to be squashed by your silent car to get the hell out of the way, etc. In the case of THIS car in particular, the silence of the whole thing works strongly to its benefit. The thing that mostly makes a cheap car feel cheap is the little buzzy engine that always sounds like it is killing itself to get the machine down the road. With that gone, you feel like you are just kind of floating along and the car feels more rich than it really is.

The complete lack of gear changes is bizarre and another sensory thing that you are subconsciously waiting for the revs to rise and fall but they never do. Procedurally, operating the thing is identical to any other car. You pull the shifter down, and away you go. There is a regenerative braking function you can shift into and it helps to tender the battery while you are cruising but it is pretty violent when it activates and it took a solid week before I stopped launching people out of their seats.

The Bad Stuff –

While it is probably unfair to use this car as the bell weather for all electric cars that are currently for sale it is what we were driving and there were plenty of draw backs. The two that I would have in a deadlock tie for first place are MSRP and range. I’ll deal with the MSRP first because the range follows after that. The sticker price on this car is $36,625. That is before whatever rebates and governmental programs exist to ease the (literal) pain of the purchase price. In many ways the discussion on these cars starts and ends right there. To repeat, this is a $36,625 Kia Soul. The gas version with the base engine delivers 24 city and 31 highway with a base price of a shade over $15,000. For an extra $20,000 you buy a car with the ability to travel 95 miles TOTAL before you are sleeping in it on the side of the road, sitting in a mall parking lot waiting for it to charge, or moping around with an extension cord and begging for help.

The range thing is scary on a few levels. Consider our family. We like to drive, we have no problem going two hours for hot dogs but if this car was our family car, we’d never be able to leave the state again on a day trip because we’d need to plan out where we were going to charge, kill the time charging, and essentially waste half the day because of the car. The larger implication outside of my family not being able to take this thing anywhere of consequence is what would happen given the proliferation of cars like this one tomorrow. Your world would shrink immensely and immediately. The restriction on movement is the creepiest thing about this car. Just knowing that you can only go about 50 miles from your house in one shot before needing to return is not comforting. Yes, there was a GPS that could have directed us to charging stations but who in the world has time for that? Don’t be sad for us. We just ditched this thing and took the gas burner to the hot dog joint.

While this is coming from a biased source of a guy who loves internal combustion engines and of course identifies himself with cars, there was a fair amount of derision thrown my way while cruising this car. Anyone with anything resembling a hot car sneers, laughs, and has a grand old time looking at the little blue box that makes no noise sitting there. Normal driver guy would likely never notice these people but I sure did. I’d list this as another downer.

The last bad thing I’ll list here before moving to happier topic is the cost of the electricity. While I have not gotten my bill yet (When I do I will kia soul EV004gladly reporting the spike), I was able to stand and watch my electric meter spin like a whirling dervish as the car got charged. The perception by some that these cars have no environmental impact is insane and very, very wrong. We all know how electricity is made. It is not exactly a “green” process.

The Good Stuff –

I’m not here to write a hatchet piece about the car but to share my experience with it. Therefore, I have some good stuff to report to go along with the bad listed above. The first is that from 0-50mph, this thing hauls the mail. I’d venture to guess that it is significantly better than the gas burning version in acceleration performance and I blew off more than a couple of cars/trucks at intersections with the hammer down. The power and torque are enticing and I found myself zipping away from lights and stuff pretty hard with a smile on my face.  I actually can report that the car will smoke the (front) tires with all the nanny equipment shut down. I would have loved to run it at the strip but since it was too far for the range, we did not.

We drove it on the highway and through the city of Boston on a (late) Father’s Day trip to my favorite restaurant which ended about 10 blocks before the restaurant when one of the kids reported that they did not feel good. Let’s just say that the little thing got quite the workout on the way home from that near miss. It is weird setting the cruise control in this car and hearing nothing or punching the gas and immediately leaping ahead, not waiting for an upshift.

As mentioned above, the car is completely silent and that means shakes, rattles, and squeaks would be front and center. There are none. The car was very tight, it felt good, and with the lack of the engine buzz and the performance of the electric motor, it honestly did not feel like a Kia. Another fun element of the car is that people were falling all over themselves to go for rides in it because there is huge novelty in the electric car experience right now. We cannot imagine that Kia plans to sell many (any?) of these and likely it is in the lineup to help raise the CAFE average some and meet whatever idiotic rules the government has imposed over the last few years.


With that, we arrive at the great paradox. This is a car designed for people who live in the city and who need a way to get around town but not make long term travel plans. It is one designed to appeal to a budget buyer, hence the model used, and yet there is another version of this same car that gets great mileage and can be replenished in a minute or two at the local gas station. It also costs $20,000 less than the one you see here.  If you want a small city car that you don’t drive very much, how would you even consider this Kia Soul EV? We’d sure have a hard time swallowing that extra 20-large coupled with everything else.

So there you have it. A look into what could be the way you drive in the future –

kia soul EV001 kia soul EV002  kia soul EV004 kia soul EV005  kia soul EV007 kia soul EV008 kia soul EV009 kia soul EV010  kia soul EV012 kia soul EV013   kia soul EV016  kia soul EV018 kia soul EV019

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27 thoughts on “Electrical Box: We (Attempt to) Make An Electric Car Our Primary Wheels For A Week – The Future?

  1. Chevy Hatin' Mad Geordie

    What – have you taken leave of your senses!

    Electric cars have no place on these hallowed pages!

    I’d rather you had stuck a cursed LS in it than drive a battery on wheels – and that’s saying something…


    1. mooseface

      “I’d rather you had stuck a cursed LS in it than drive a battery on wheels – and that’s saying something…”
      This sentence makes me picture Brian with no car at all, just a bare engine on a stand parked in his driveway. A bare engine that he rides around town like Slim Pickens on the bomb in Doctor Strangelove.

      1. Chevy Hatin' Mad Geordie

        Damn – you got that right!

        I’m so glad there are more crazed lunatics out there in BSland!

        This is an image that will stay with me as Dr. Strangelove is one of my favourite movies.

        Now my head has fallen off with bouts of insane laughter…..

  2. Clark

    So what is the resevoir next to the ECU on the left when facing the car? I assume the big blue lid is washer fluid….what other fluid does this thing take?

    1. Brian Lohnes

      Clark, I believe that it is coolant. I think that there is a liquid cooling system to maintain the temperature of the electric motor.

  3. Nick D.

    I still think the Volt is superior to the straight EVs. Once you run out of battery charge, you can just keep fuel in the electric generator and still nab pretty good mileage. It’s biggest problem is that it is ludicrously expensive, and even at that cost GM loses money on every one built. That, and it can only seat 4 people maximum

    I’ve driven multiple Volts as part of my job and have found them quiet, comfortable and reasonably zippy. They aren’t Camaro SS fast, but they were quicker than expected. And other than routine maintenance and service updates, we haven’t seen any come in for nay major malfunctions or repairs. In fact, our dealership employs 2 of them as courtesy shuttles.

    1. mooseface

      I’ll definitely second that assertion from my armchair motorhead’s perspective. Series hybrids are inherently more efficient that parallel, that’s why diesel electric trains and ships are so popular: the electric motors do the heavy lifting while the combustion engines sit at a comfortable steady pace and make the juice.

      As far as the car itself goes, GM had a lot to prove and even more to lose on the Volt gamble; usually cars designed from that perspective usually offer owners more for less. That’s part of the charm of old Hondas or AMC cars.

    2. Mike

      The 2016 is going to have better ev range before the gas engine (generator) fires up witch is also a more efficient engine, and it will seat five and the cost is supposed to come down. The cost on first gen has come down some over the last couple years, and they are incredibly reliable. I’m a internal combustion engine guy for life but I’m definitely interested in the next generation volt.

  4. BBR

    $20k difference….. If I the used the current gas price that is right out my window and assuming 24mpg, I could buy enough fuel to drive the standard model 192,000 miles….. yeah, makes perfect sense. lol

    1. Beagle

      I didn’t check your math at all but I’m assuming that your math also assumes the electricity is free?

      I can’t get past the cost, and the government incentives offend me so I’ll just say it’s not for me yet.

      Hamsters in an electric toaster… not quite the picture I expect Kia wanted me to get when I read this?

      1. Beagle

        meh – I grossed myself out with the image of burnt Hamster in the toaster and forgot to ask a couple of real questions.

        Was the range anywhere close to 95 miles? How big are the batteries? (that would give us an idea of electricity consumption).. Was it a 110v charger or did you have to unplug the dryer to plug in the toaster? From fully depleted, how long does it really take to charge with max capacity charger?

        A couple of really important questions for somebody who might consider this but has to drive 85 miles point A to point B:

        How much range reduction does the A/C cost? If you’re sitting in gridlock, what’s the power consumption rate on the A/C alone, nevermind a fatass stereo amplifier for those so inclined….

        Does it have a limp home or does it just shut off when it’s done like my stupid Lithium Ion power tools do? A lead acid or nickel mh battery gives you a bit of notice before it completely dies and sometimes it’s enough to finish a job. Lithium’s don’t like being drained fully so they just shut them off electronically and WHAM, you’re hanging in the breeze with no real advance notice.

        Instead of carrying a 1 gallon gas can in the toaster’s hatch, I guess you carry a 89.00 Harbor Freight generator and a 5 gallon can of gas.

        Kind of like Larson’s truck huh… haha.

        1. Brian

          I found the “range meter” to be accurate, even on days when we were running the air conditioner. I used an outdoor 110V plug and to put about a half “tank” in it was 8-10 hours that way. From a dead battery it would supposedly be 16 hours on the 110v plug.

          RE: what happens when the batteries go down, I didn’t have the balls to try it.

      2. BBR

        No. You could drive the gas model ~192k miles before you even meet the buy-in price of the EV version. Then the cost to operate the EV just goes up from there. Giggidy.

  5. jerry z

    When these EV’s start having a range of 250+ miles on a charge, then maybe it will be justifiable to pay $37K. Until then they are a waste of money.

  6. Sumgai

    The price premium doesn’t make sense at all for a buyer. As another commenter pointed out, that buys a lot of gas. For less money you could buy a gas version and convert it to electric. I’m guessing Kia expected buyers to get lots of state rebates though.

    For 15k I could see this being a viable option for some buyers. Personally if I wanted an EV that bad, I’d hop on eBay and pick up a Ford Ranger EV. Might need a new battery bank but that’d be a lot more useful and cheaper.

  7. ColoradoSquid

    You could always download this and listen to it as you drive if it’s too quiet.



    I could see the fun in owning an electric car. Knowing what I know about electric motors they make all the otrque they are going to make…right now…there is no waiting so the off the line punch could make it fun….

    There needs to be a way to extend the range. You are paying almsot 40K for a glorified golf cart. This is more suited for the links that it is the open road.

  9. TheSilverBuick

    I joke about “I’ll get an electric car when an electric car can make it to Ely without a tow truck.” lol, though I have seen Tesla’s here, so they must be able to make it here and out again (I think?).

    My drive to work is about 10 miles each way, and electricity is $0.05 per coal fueled kW/hr, so pretty cheap. If I could get a Volt or one of these toasters for sub-$20k, I would consider it. But as BBR points out, you can by a helluva lot of fuel for that $10k-$20k mark up, especially for an econo-box that should be getting 25+mpg. Then there is battery replacement costs….

  10. checker99

    All-Electric Cars: The Solution that doesn’t work to The Problem that doesn’t exist.

  11. Ty

    Don’t hate on me, Just a little food for thought. Pretty sure the first people on horse back to see gas cars had these exact same thoughts.

    1. Tedly

      There may come a day when electric surpasses gas in both practicallity and overall usefullness. That day is still quite a way off though.

  12. anthony

    The abomination is that the gas version of that turd can only get 31 mpg. The Buick Roadmaster with an lt1 can get 25 mpg . I think even a ligjt duty full sIze pickup can do 25 now. You want to save gas? Buy a diesel.

  13. Tedly

    Electric cars have come a long way recently, but they haven’t come nearly far enough for exactly the reasons you listed:

    The range sucks and it takes forever to charge them back up.

    Because of that, they will continue to be on the outside of things until those issues drastically improve. I’ve toyed with the idea of attempting an electric car, but it has always been a hybrid type. I do way too much travelling to even consider something that you can only go 90 miles a day in.

  14. Wes

    Compliance vehicles are not a fair yard stick with which to measure BEV’s. And, admittedly, a Tesla is simply out of economic range for most to “try” for a week. Come back to this subject after the Bolt and Model 3 hit the market in a couple years. Rumor has it out of Dearborn that Ford is moving forward with a non-compliance BEV, too.

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