How Kia Soul EV Stacks Up to Electric Competition

By · February 10, 2014

Kia Soul EV

Kia Motors last week unveiled the 2015 Soul EV at the Chicago Auto Show. It is scheduled to go on sale this fall in California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey and Maryland. Pricing has not yet been announced.

By the time the Soul EV goes on sale, consumers will have no fewer than nine small relatively affordable all-electric cars to consider, including the: Chevy Spark EV; Fiat 500e; Ford Focus Electric; Honda Fit EV; Mitsubishi i-MiEV; Nissan LEAF; Smart ED; and the Volkswagen E-Golf. Small luxury EVs from BMW and Mercedes will also be available.

This begs the question: What is Kia bringing to the market that is not already available? On a technology level, it's hard to find anything novel in Kia’s Chicago announcement. While the Soul EV’s 27 kilowatt-hour battery pack is slightly larger than competitors—and therefore will likely grant a dozen or so more miles of everyday range than, say, the Nissan LEAF or Ford Focus Electric—those few extra miles are not likely to make Kia’s first electric car truly stand out from the crowd.

This is especially true because the Soul EV will not use a liquid-based battery temperature management system, which has become the standard best practice for ensuring optimal range during very hot and cold weather. Consumers have become accustomed to hearing advertised electric car mileage of between 80 and 100 miles from a full battery pack. The Soul EV will be no different.

For car shoppers putting a premium on driving fun—in other words, high torque and maximum horsepower—the Soul EV’s 81.4-kW, 109-horsepower electric motor is also unlikely to steal customers. It's quite decent, but right in line with the leading competing small electric cars, with the exception of the Chevy Spark EV, which delivers an impressive 400 pound-feet of torque.

Other bullet points in Kia’s press release regarding the electric Soul—such as the use of driving modes, the availability of a CHAdeMo quick charge port, and the offer of free charging at Kia dealerships—are also old news.

Kia Soul EV

Perhaps where the Kia Soul EV will truly stand out to represent a legitimate alternative for EV buyers is in the platform itself. While the Soul’s looks are certainly not everybody's cup of tea, the gas-powered Soul has earned legions of fans. It has an undeniable quirky charm (while steering clear of the eco-geek gizmo design found in other battery-powered cars). Interior visibility is vast. There is ample cargo and passenger room. The overall package combines a small hip design, with a generous amount of everyday utility.

Maybe the electric car market has matured to the point where the EV technology that used to seem so extraordinary is now becoming more understood and commonplace. Looking forward, what will win customers for new EVs is not about electric motors, batteries, thermal management systems, and quick charge protocols—but the same old stuff that makes the difference for shoppers of any automobile: brand, driving dynamics, reliability, utility, style, and personality. And as far as those things are concerned, the 2015 Kia Soul EV is a pretty cool electric car.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.