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2015 Kia Soul EV
(Cold Cold) Windy City Review By Larry Nutson

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2015 Kia Soul EV

2015 Kia Soul EV
Running on Empty

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

“I was always driving around with no gas,” Browne recalled to Rolling Stone. “I just never bothered to fill up the tank because — how far was it anyway? Just a few blocks.”

Thus the seed was planted for “Running On Empty,” a huge hit for Jackson Browne in 1978 and the title track to one of his most well-loved albums.

I’ve driven a variety of the pure electric vehicles (EVs) that are on the market today, and that’s the feeling I get when I first sit down behind the wheel. In driving the 2015 Kia Soul EV it wasn’t any different. But…in reality, living in the densely populated “capital of the Midwest, Chicago” you don’t have to drive very many miles to go about one’s daily business.

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At the February 2014 Chicago Auto Show Kia revealed the 2015 Soul EV (see video below) that went on sale in the third quarter of 2014. The Soul EV is Kia’s first all-electric, zero-emissions car sold in the U.S. and it is initially being sold in California. Kia has plans to expand Soul EV sales across the south and into the Eastern states. We may very soon hear from Kia about their expansion into the regions with the largest EV markets and infrastructure.

The Kia Soul has been around for about four years. Some categorize it as a hatchback and others as a small station wagon, or even, a “boxy” car. Either way it offers loads of versatility, great quality and is really a good value.

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2014 Kia Soul Gasoline Model
About a year ago, in March of 2014, I drove a 2014 Kia Soul, with the usual gasoline engine, on a visit to Florida. My road trip covered about 600 miles and you can read my write-up and review of the Soul right HERE.

I mentioned that I’ve driven a number of EVs. Those drives all were in warm weather. I was scheduled to drive the 2015 Kia Soul EV in mid-February.

February 2015 in Chicago set a new record for cold. My time with the Soul EV was when outside temps were around zero, with overnight temperatures hovering at five below and daytime highs only around ten above.

Why is this of interest? Efficiency of the high voltage battery is reduced under extreme cold (and also high) temperatures. Kia says the driving range of the Soul EV in on average 93 miles when the high voltage battery is 100% charged. Additionally, the high voltage battery is needed for the heater (and air conditioner) causing a further “drain” on charge. Kia says the range could be down to 62 miles on a full charge when using the heater or air conditioning.

When the Soul EV arrived it had been driven from the car-handlers facility. It was 5-degrees outside, the heat had been on and the indicated driving range was now at 39 miles. No problem. Thirty-nine miles is a lot for running around the city. However, I will admit if this was a gasoline engine car the first stop would have been to a gas station to fill up.

I knew charging wouldn’t be an issue because there is a fairly decent charging-station infrastructure in Chicago. One was nearby my home in a parking garage at a Whole Foods market that is a fifteen minute walk away. I could use the Level 2-240V AC charger for a few hours to “fill up”. Kia refers in the owners manual to the level 2 charger as “normal charge”. The Level 1-120V AC is a “trickle charge” and the Level 3-500V DC is the “quick charge”.

After a couple days driving the Soul EV in very cold temps, using the heater occasionally and relying on the heated seats to provide a bit of body warmth, the instrument display was showing 42-percent charge and a driving range of 26 miles. By the way, using the heater zapped driving range by 8 to 10 miles.

Off I went to the Whole Foods to charge up. I had used Level 2 chargers in the past and knew I would need to leave the Soul for three or four hours to get a full charge. I was hoping to use the Level 3 charger to have this experience but to my dismay I didn’t have a charge network access card. As I was about to move the car to a Level 2 charger a Nissan Leaf driver arrived wanting to do a quick charge on his car. After a brief pleasant exchange he offered to activate the Level 3 charger for me. He was interested in my experience with the Soul EV and we conversed about EV driving. After 18 minutes the Soul EV was up to 81 percent charge. Yes, only 18 minutes of charging!

Note here that the Kia owners manual says you can get 83 percent charge on a quick charger in 33 minutes, from a near-empty battery. To get more charge up to 94 percent will take a re-start of the charger and then take 15 additional minutes.

We said our goodbye, and from me many a thank-you, and off I went with an indicated driving range of 58 miles. I was ready to roll.

Temperatures remained near zero outside. My 58 miles of driving range was displayed while inside the parking garage where it was about 50 degrees. After leaving the Soul EV parked outside overnight in zero-degree temps, the next day after not having used the car at all, the driving range now indicated 41 miles. And so now we see the loss in battery efficiency in cold ambient temperatures.

This 41 miles of driving range made me a little nervous since I was about to make a 36 mile round trip drive to drop my wife off for an early morning airplane flight. I made the drive, conserving energy…the car was cold inside, making use of regenerative braking, and on my return the indicated driving range was 22 miles. Not bad at all.

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For the next couple days I did more driving around in the Soul EV depleting the charge down to 25-percent and an indicated 12 miles of driving range. A warning was then displayed advising me to recharge. I headed off for another charge-up using a Level 2 charger at Whole Foods. Charging was free. I just needed to call an 800-number to get the charger activated. I left the car connected and after 3 hours-14 minutes the charge was up to 96 percent and 69 miles driving range.

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Concluding from my EV charging experience, the use of a level 2 charger in your home garage will easily charge the battery in a few hours to provide enough miles of driving range for a typical day’s activities. A level 3 charger can provide a quick “fill-up” while you stop for a morning coffee break or perhaps over lunch.

The 2015 Kia Soul EV base model is priced at $33,700. My tester had optional carpeted floor mats for $125 plus the $800 shipping brought the total to $34,625. The Soul EV+ (plus) model lists for $35,700. The Soul EV comes fully equipped including navigation system, comfort features like heated seats and heated steering wheel and a city-use friendly rear camera display. Also included is a charging cable for level 1 charging on 120V house current. An optional battery heater is also available to improve efficiency.

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In terms of driving dynamics the 109HP Soul EV accelerates quickly, is very quiet, handles snowy roads just fine, and is not very much different than the gasoline engine Soul. Handling might just be even a bit better due to the lower center of gravity coming from the low, under-floor batteries.

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For more product information and detailed specifications on all the 2015 Kia Soul models go to You will see that the Soul is basically the same vehicle with either gas or electric drive. Kia provides lots of EV facts, information on the federal tax credit and their initiative to support the installation of fast-charger networks.

If you are interested to compare the 2015 Kia Soul to other small wagons or hatchbacks, or compare the Soul EV to other EVs, you can do that right here on

The bottom line for me is, the 2015 Kia Soul EV does very well when used in cold winter climates for running around a large urban city where distance traveled is not very great. If I had Soul EV, I would want a somewhat warm garage to keep it in overnight and have a Level 2 charger installed for me to plug in to conveniently. I would freely use the heater or air conditioner. And, whenever I was at home the car would be connected to the charger.

Ultimately, here in the U.S. we need charging infrastructure put in place to allow EV charging at both ends of a commute. Then we will see more widespread use of EVs. As an urban dweller, an EV could be your only car. If you need to take a long road trip call up Enterprise or Hertz and get a rental for that purpose.

As Jackson Browne sings, “Running on – running on empty.”

2014 LA Auto Show Kia Press Conference

Kia Soul EV Recall

2015 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy