Kia Soul EV Coming in 2014, But 120 Miles Range is Unrealistic

By · November 12, 2013

2014 Kia Soul EV in development

2014 Kia Soul EV in development

Kia Motors confirmed yesterday via a press release that in late 2014 it will offer an all-electric version of the Soul, its youth-oriented affordable small car. The first bullet of Kia’s press release said the Soul EV “targets a range of more than 120 miles.” That’s the metric used in many headlines covering the announcement. It looks like Kia has fallen into the trap of over-promising range—based on its announcement that the size of the battery pack will be 27 kilowatt-hours. The 2014 Kia Soul EV is more likely to deliver real-world range of between 90 and 100 miles.

Small EV Battery Sizes

  • Nissan LEAF: 24 kWh
  • Fiat 500e: 24 kWh
  • Ford Focus Electric: 23 kWh
  • BMW i3: 22 kWh
  • Chevy Spark EV: 21 kWh
  • Honda Fit EV: 20 kWh
  • Smart Electric Drive: 17 kWh
  • Mitsubishi i-MiEV: 16 kWh

One-hundred miles of range, if the Soul EV can deliver on it, is excellent—considering that the other small EVs in its class offer between about 70 and 85 miles of range. “More than 120 miles of range” will be experienced by few Soul EV drivers.

In the early days of the EV market in 2010 and 2011, Nissan advertised the range of the LEAF, with its 24 kilowatt-hour pack, at 100 miles—only to learn that drivers more commonly get about 80 miles of range (and even less if driven vigorously on the highway). Yes, with considerable restraint, EV drivers can get close to or better than 4 miles per kilowatt-hour of battery capacity. But hyper-focusing on maximum efficiency, and driving a car all the way down to its last electron, is not an enjoyable experience.

Nissan’s marketing now states that the LEAF “can get you 75 miles on a single charge,” based on the EPA’s modest range estimate that utilizes an average between 80 percent and 100 percent of the pack’s capacity. That’s conservative, but mostly accurate, based on my driving experience.

The Kia Soul EV is likely to have about the same curb weight as the LEAF, and will probably not be as aerodynamic. All things being equal, the Kia Soul’s 12.5% bigger battery pack, if it delivers the same degree of increased range compared the LEAF, could push the Soul’s range over the 90-mile mark.

Avoiding Hype

I rely on a general rule of thumb that places average efficiency of an EV—which is vastly more efficient than a gas-powered internal combustion car—at 3.5 miles per kilowatt-hour. That would mean 94.5 miles of range on the Soul’s 27 kWh pack.

Bigger batteries, offered at lower cost, will be the key enabler of longer range, and greater acceptance of electric cars. The Kia Soul’s bigger pack is a definite step in the right direction. So is it’s youth-oriented design, which might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but has been met with market success. Those cute Hamsters on Soul ads have also been effective.

Let’s hope that Kia makes and sells a gazillion Soul EVs. But marketing managers at Kia should take note. Chalk up your first real press release to experience. Let this be the last one that inflates the car’s EV driving range. It’s better to set the right expectations from jump street—rather than having to explain why drivers aren’t getting what's been advertised. At the very least, use the nice round number of 100 miles. That has a good ring to it, and will be closer to everyday reality.


· · 4 years ago

I wonder.
The Kia has a much later drive train than the Leaf, which increased its range significantly at any rate in the winter with the introduction of the heat pump.

The battery is also of a different generation, and may be capable of using a bigger percentage of its energy than that in the Leaf.

I would not dismiss Kia's claims out of hand.

· · 4 years ago

I trust that the Soul EV will go 200km / 120 miles... on some very lenient test cycle, like the European NEDC. Heck, the Leaf does too. :-)

90-ish miles EPA would be pretty decent already, especially when the vehicle also has a quick-charge port (likely CHAdeMO).

· · 4 years ago

I would like to see all of the EV manufacturers working towards 30-40KWh batteries. I don't think 24KWh / 75-85 miles of range is enough and neither do most consumers.

· · 4 years ago

Im wondering if this is another compliance car or will it make it to other areas. If its only a compliance car i've wasted 2 minutes reading this article that I can't get back.

· · 4 years ago

Well, it is not like the Hyundai Motor Group has ever been caught exaggerating their mileage claims . . . . . oh wait . . .

· · 4 years ago

Because the 2014 Soul was designed with an area under the rear seats for battery storage (pay attention, FORD), Kia says they didn't lose trunk or passenger space in the conversion to EV. That's pretty amazing, making the Soul remarkably cargo-friendly for a plug-in.

Unfortunately, Kia's statements have included phrases like "limited markets", raising the suspicion that we're looking at yet another compliance special. Hope not, but it might be a while before we know for sure.

· · 4 years ago

120 miles with a 27KWh battery pack IS unrealistic. With those stats, it calculates to means the Soul EV would get 149MPGe, more than a Volt (98MPGe) or leaf (~115MPGe).

I find this quite impossible since the Soul is so un aerodynamic, and with the 27KWh battery pack it'll probably be a bit heavier.

· · 4 years ago


I suspect you are calculating MPGe incorrectly, as it includes charging loses and we don't know how efficient the Soul is. My guess is that you assumed 100% efficient, which cannot be true. The Volt and Leaf numbers given include that loss, so the Soul would probably be lower, even if it did get 120 miles on a 27kWh battery.

I suspect that the 120 miles is on a much more lenient measure than the EPA. The Leaf gets 100 miles on the Japanese cycle, so I would believe 120 miles for the Soul. I expect ~90 miles of range, which is still respectable.

While Kia does not need a compliance car in CA today, they will within a few years. This sounds like a jump on that. I'll believe it's more when I see it outside of CA (and maybe OR). That said, I'll accept a limited initial rollout, like the Leaf and Volt experienced. Check back in 2016, and see where their plans are.

· · 4 years ago

"I rely on a general rule of thumb that places average efficiency of an EV—which is vastly more efficient than a gas-powered internal combustion car—at 3.5 miles per kilowatt-hour. "

It's even easier to remember that 1 mile = 1 MegaJoule.. But harder for non-engineers to recall that 1kWh = 3.6MJ (3600 seconds in an hour).

· · 4 years ago

Range is a question on any vehicle. The second issue I wonder about is battery thermal control(liquid cooling) for here in Phoenix. That will make what ever range they start with stay a long time.

My Focus Electric seems to be holding up very well after a summer of record heat since it has liquid cooling. Long life of the batteries is a big key.

Even the Tesla S won't keep the batteries cool unless it's plugged in. This needs to be addressed with better battery chemistry and a cooling system. A few year of each Electric tells a lot.

· · 3 years ago

re: “ with considerable restraint, EV drivers can get close to or better than 4 miles per kilowatt-hour of battery capacity “

No, it is not hard to get 4 miles / kWh.
¾’s of the year 250 watts/mi ( or 4 mi / kWh ) is easy enough and normal.

It is hard to get 5 miles / kWh

· · 3 years ago


I disagree. 4 miles / kWh is only possible in a Leaf if you stay off the highway (or hang in the right lane under the speed limit as everybody tears by you). In the summer, A/C makes 4 miles/kWh and in the winter, heat makes it impossible.

I do know how to get 4-4.5miles/kWh, but I rarely drive the car that way. Since I rarely go more than 30 miles in a day, it just isn't worth applying the necessary restraint.

· · 3 years ago

If I am correct, the Soul EV is not yet available for purchase/lease. However, I did see one in Orange County, CA about 10 days ago on one of the freeways in the HOV lane. It was a blue one with white top/ trim. Unfortunately, it was traveling NB and I was SB, on my way to San Diego. I would have enjoyed chatting with the driver, checking out the car, etc. The Soul appears to be a larger car than the LEAF and WAY bigger than my I-MiEV. If 94 miles range is accurate, this could be a very popular EV pretty soon.


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