With the big push for Electric Vehicles (EV) by the government I thought I would spend some time doing some research and testing a few cars for myself.
First up was the KIA Soul, KIA are growing as a strong brand offering 7 year warranty for the cars and having peter Schreyer who is a German automobile designer, widely known for his design contributions to the Audi TT. He has been the chief design officer at KIA Motors since 2006 and on 28 December 2012, was named one of three presidents of the company. Now the brief background is out the way, back to the Soul, I decided that I would really put this car to the test.
The car itself is spacious and roomy, the driving position I would say was ok, not the most comfy, no option for lumbar support which you may want on longer journeys or sitting for long periods sitting in the London traffic. The Model I drove was the first release of Kia soul, so there is no options for spec, what you see is what you get which is a shame. It comes with some gimmicks on the car like mood lighting govern by music being played and lights up around the music speakers in doors, which on first look though was cool some may like it (more on the mood lighting later).
Officially figures for the Soul estimate a range of up to 132 miles dependent on driving style, picked the car up with 110 miles worth of range on the car, first journey was to help a friend move home locally to picking up car and moving home with in less that 5 miles of the two locations which involved 5 back and fourth trips the range had dropped to 85 miles, now I never had the heating on just the radio so minimal electricity being used.
Next planned journey was Croydon to Birmingham with 3 people including myself and no luggage, one thing I should explain, if you decide to buy an EV you really need to plan your journey well regarding your charge points. On collecting the car I asked the sales man for the Radio-frequency identification (RFID) and was told not needed and you can tap your debit or credit card on any point to charge, I was given the fast charge plug with the car which is standard when purchasing unlike the BMW i3 in which i will get into later. The route to Birmingham is advisable to go via the M1 as the M40 has mainly Tesla charge point which are not compatible with other manufactures, so that limited the route in trying to avoid traffic.
So with 80 miles range we set off to Birmingham thinking I can just charge on the way, with any charge point as advised by salesman. Well this soon came to light to find out you cannot use any charge point and you have to register with each different companies and await for your RFID card to arrive in the post so had to keep going and see how i got on with the motorway stops as thought surely there is away for emergency charge.
With 4 stops to charge and 7 hours later arrived in Birmingham, the charge points on the motorway are run by a company called ECOTRICTY which offer a app download or via phone at pump to pay. The good thing about these pumps are sometimes you get free electricity if they go offline and go into free mode, you can tell his by the missing WiFi symbol in the top right hand corner or a red line though the greyed out WiFi lines.
The trip to Birmingham (Approximately 153 miles) was to visit some friends and spend some time with them, unfortunately I didn't arrive until 11pm due to the stopping for charging which takes 30 minutes for a fast charge then the car automatically stops the charge, as after that it needs to be trickle charged which the fast charger at the motorway will not do, and every time you plug in it is a £3 connection charge plus your cost for charging.
30 minutes charge gives you 80 miles roughly give or take few miles, after arriving in b-ham so late with 13 miles range left the panic was on, it was looking like I would be getting recovered back to London, that would have been an interesting call "Hi yes I have run out of electricity please could recovery me"
The satnav has a list of charge points you can use, but it list ones you cant use for example ones at dealerships which are locked up at night and some supermarkets in which you need your RFID card relevant to that charge point.
There are a few apps which you can download to see if the charge points are in use or broken of even compatible with your car. Thankfully IKEA use ECOTRCITY charge network and as a side point if you charge with IKEA during normal hours and spend over £10 in store IKEA give you £6 back, so in effect your charge is free.
With my charge back to 80 miles max charge range setting off at midnight to head back to London via the M1, only to find that the M1 was partly closed due to road works which I would never had thought to factor that in with a EV car. As it was dark needed headlights on and raining, so wipers and heater to stop the car misting up the rate the electricity fell was astonishing. Earlier in mentioned about the mood lighting, now why on earth would you want something in the car that is going to sap the life out of your battery, flashing these lights to set the mood in the car. The mood in the car was we want heat but we couldn't because of the lack of electricity available in the car.
6 charges 5 hours later arrive back in London, as soon as we set off from the last charge point we needed to start planning the next charge stop, we arrived back to London with 9 miles left of range.
Would I buy this car, no! The new model seems to have a better claimed range but at nearly £30k for the Soul, even with £4,500 grant from government still a lot of money for not getting anywhere very far.
The infrastructure is not ready yet and the charge points need to be universal to allow you to charge with your debit car just like an Oyster card for TFL.
BMW i3 With Range Extender
BMW first released the i3 in November 2013 to the European market after the unveiling at the international motor show in Germany. The estimated range is 190 miles with range extender can add an extra 70 miles to that figure.
The i3 may look futuristic and funky looking but it is quite a pleasant car, and its no slouch either off the line and once it winds up. This car is comfy around town running errands and hardly using any electric at all covering around 20 miles. Fully spacious and ideal for tall people with plenty of head room, only thing is if it is raining someone has to get out of car to allow the rear doors to open to allow passengers in the back.
The tech in the car is very modern, allowing you to read news check weather and other things with the on board system which is all controlled with a turn nob conveniently placed for your left hand to reach.
After my local around town drive thought it was time to take the car on the motorway to see how it copes, this time went from Croydon to Brighton. Two people in the car no luggage, car rides nice and smooth and 70 mph slight twitch on car if passed by something larger than you due to the quite slim tyres fitted to the car, not much ground support.
With the ranger extender fitted on this model which is a Engine: 600cc 2cyl petrol which generates electric once you drop below 5-6 miles of range. With the full confidence of this on the journey to Brighton we could have heating on or a/c, charge phones.
The journey to Brighton (45 Miles) and back and an extra 20 miles doing local errands used up our full range of electric, and with the generator kicking in which sounded like a little lawn mower in the back or a small gremlin humming away was quite reassuring you wouldn't need to call the breakdown. The charging system works the same as the KIA Soul, the only downside to the BMW i3 is that you do not get the fast charge cable as standard when buying the car, which is really a shame as the car cost around £36k and BMW will only supply you with the 3 pin house plug charger which takes 12+ hours to charge to max.
Would i buy the BMW i3, no not this model on the principle of the sheer cost and no charge cable, a newer model i3 is due out next year in 2018 offering a 0-60 mph of 6.8 sec (current 7.2) and a lot more range. Lets hope this comes with a fast charge cable as standard when spending your hard earned cash.
I feel plug in hybrids are the way forward, best of both worlds.
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