2015 Kia Soul EV + first drive review: Hamsters on tiptoes

2015 Kia Soul EV +

2015 Kia Soul EV +

According to Carl Sandburg, it was fog that comes in on little cat feet, sits on silent haunches and then moves on. According to Kia, it’s the Soul EV that comes and goes silently.  And perhaps on little hamster feet.

That’s silently for the 2015 Soul EV because the battery-electric vehicle is one of the quietest cars we’ve driven. The hamster kids will be able to glide silently up the driveway in this one.

2015 Kia Soul EV + interior

The 2015 Kia Soul EV + interior, other than a few details, is the same as the regular Kia Soul. (click to enlarge)

Seriously, the 2015 Kia Soul EV is one quiet machine. True, not only does the Soul EV run silent, it also runs deeply into eco materials and other “earth-friendly” bits and procedures.

First, start with the drivetrain. The Soul EV is powered by a 109-hp electric motor rated at 210 lb.-ft. of torque, which comes at zero rpm, when the vehicle first moves.  The liquid-cooled AC synchronous permanent magnet motor has multi-layer magnets, something that reduces the familiar electric motor while also improving efficiency.

As the electric motor replaces the gasoline engine in the standard Kia Soul, drive is to the front wheels through a single-speed constant-ratio gear reduction unit. The faster it goes, the faster the motor spins. The electric motor requires no shifting, as usual with electric cars.

2015 Kia Soul EV + instrument panel

The 2015 Kia Soul EV instrument panel replaces the tachometer with an energy use gauge. (click to enlarge)

The batteries for the Kia Soul EV are under the floor. Only several inches thick, the batteries are stacked to fit under the front seats without raising their h-point, the distance of the occupants’ hips from the floor of the vehicle. The floor behind the front seat, however, is raised to allow the batteries to fit. There’s minimal reduction in rear seat leg room, however, because the seats are moved rearward, Instead of legs hanging down, the rear passengers’ feet ride further forward. The seat is still high enough—the Soul has a high seating position to begin with—and because the boxy Soul has generous head room, that doesn’t change because the rear h-point doesn’t change.

2015 Kia Soul EV mid

Do you know where the closest electric plug is? The 2015 Kia Soul EV does. (click to enlarge)

Battery packs also occupy the space otherwise used for the gas-powered Soul’s fuel tank, with all batteries cooled via a fan in the erstwhile spare tire well. Because the batteries are under the floor and where the fuel tank would go, the rear cargo space of 18.8 cu.-ft. (with rear seats up) doesn’t change. There’s room under the cargo floor for storage of the standard 120v portable charger.

Charging ports are behind a swing-out panel in the middle of what wold be the Soul EV’s grille if the Soul EV did have a grille. Two charging ports are standard, including a SAE J1772 port for Level 1 and Level 2 AC, and a CHAdeMo DC fast-charging port (480v).

Recharging can take up to 24 hours for a fully depleted battery using a standard 120v outlet, but that’s reduced to less than five hours when plugged into a 240v outlet.  A similarly no-charge battery can be brought up to 80-percent charge in as little as 33 minutes with a 50 kW-output DC fast charger.

2015 Kia Soul EV underhood

The 2015 Kia Soul EV looks like this when the plastic cover is removed. (click to enlarge)

Of course, no one runs a battery completely to the bottom of the electric pail, so real life charging times will be less, especially if the electric Soul driver takes advantage of opportunistic charging in mid trip. For home charging Kia has partnered with Bosch, Leviton and AeroVironment so Soul EV owners can get the best unit for their applications…and so Kia doesn’t have to worry about stocking its own branded charger.

The appearance of the Soul EV’s front end is altered by the closing off of the “tiger” grille of the standard Soul, though the outline is retained both for identity and to point out, hey, that thing ain’t got no radiator grille. Cooling air—even running batteries and the electric motor creates heat—is brought in under the front bumper.

2015 Kia Soul EV shifter

The 2015 Kia Soul EV shifter had a “D” position for Drive, and a “B” position for Brake. (click to enlarge)

Otherwise the 2015 Kia Soul EV can be recognized by color accent trim in the front and rear fascias, projector headlights, LED “positioning lamps”, and LED tail lights, which for an “E 3” when looked at from behind. The Soul EV gets 16-inch alloy wheels unique to the model, with super low rolling resistance (SLRR) tires that roll 10 percent easier than regular tires for better range.

The Soul EV also has “EcoElectric” badges on the front fenders for those who don’t get it otherwise. At first, the Soul EV will come in four color schemes, Caribbean Blue lower body with Clear White roof, Shadow Black lower body with Inferno Red roof, Titanium Gray, and Clear White.

The Soul EV will be offered in two trim levels, the base Soul EV and the upgrade Soul EV +, priced at $33,700 and $35,700 respectively. The EV+ will most easily identified by its standard fog lights.