We just tested the BMW i3 and the Kia Soul EV back to back, and their appeal is obvious.
In order to learn to love new things, one has to have an open mind. If you can’t get past the idea of a car having no liquid fuel requirement, then we wish you the best with that VCR clock re-setting in a few weeks.
Electrification of automobiles is high on the priority list of our elected officials and the embedded bureaucrats they then appoint. Like it or not, electric cars are coming, and the next two that are due – the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 – may have a big impact on the market. We’re here to report that it’s not all bad news.
The BMW i3 is different on purpose. It looks goofy. My kids, no stranger to seeing new cars, laughed and pointed.
Inside, it’s a hot mess of great ideas gone too far. Compressed plant matter on the dash that looks like the trunk liner of a 1972 Pinto. Doors in back that are hard to use in real-life and rear windows that don’t open. Bicycle-like tires that you are not going to find anywhere in a pinch – and no spare of course. The one we drove cost $54,395. On the other hand, the BMW i3 is quick, fun to drive and refined. The car has huge appeal, and most i3 owners love theirs.
First, though, let us tell you that the $38,025 2016 Kia Soul EV is familiar on purpose. If you have driven a conventional Soul, the electric version will seem like an exact duplicate except it has a plug connection in the front bumper where the electrons go in. Otherwise, it’s the spitting image of the Soul you know and love. The Kia Soul EV is about 30% less expensive than the BMW i3. These two EVs could not be more different, and yet, they both have three appealing aspects in common.
It’s All About EV Torque
Remember those things the affordable diesel car fans used to harp on, back before we found out those cars were orders of magnitude more polluting than gasoline cars? They would go on and on about the torque. They’d use words like “pulls like a train.”
Well, they exaggerated. A lot. Still, they had a point. In everyday driving, most of us don’t use the peak horsepower our cars produce way up in the high RPM range of our engines. What turbocharged cars can do (and turbocharging is the real secret behind diesel engines) is provide low RPM torque that stays at its peak where you can use it, in the low RPM range. EVs do this too, but better.
When you turn right or left from a stop, even the most mundane EVs can spin their tires. The peak torque is available from the get-go, and you will love it. It yanks you forward more strongly than the affordable cars you’re used to, and the low-end pull is addictive. In most of the driving you do around town, all you really want is to squirt from zero to about 30 mph quickly. EVs do that very well.
EVs also have another trick up their sleeve. They are super quiet. If you can find one someplace, pick up a car magazine and look for a review of a luxury car. The interior sound, or lack of it, in decibels (as in deci-Bells, from the days of Alex G. Bell) will be listed. EV motors don’t have decibels. They are so quite there is no point dragging out the sound meters. Believe us when we tell you, you will not miss the sound of a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder crossover engine thrashing and buzzing its way up the RPM band when it’s gone.
No More Brake Pedal
Using the brake is so 2000 and late. With EVs, when you lift off the power pedal the cars slows right down. As it does so, it puts range back in your battery. This is the free power that makes hybrids and EVs so efficient. Sure, that brake pedal will still be there, but you won’t use it except in unusual circumstances, and the car will probably be braking automatically in emergencies anyway. The feeling is a little odd for a while, but within a day or two, you will love one pedal driving.
The Kia Soul EV makes it optional. The Soul EV’s PRNDB has an setting called “B” for one pedal driving mode, or the default, D, has a normal feeling, and you still use the brake pedal.
Post-Script: Other EV Advantages Real and Imagined
In this section, most stories you read will say that EVs cost less per mile than gas powered cars. But with gas at about $2/gallon, and electricity about 20 cents per kWh, EVs cost more per mile than gasoline-powered green cars.
Then you’ll hear that the maintenance costs are lower. They aren’t, but the EV fans won’t believe that no matter how many receipts from Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S service appointments they are shown.
There are other things we like about EVs. The windshields can be larger, because there is really nothing up front that requires the hood be as high as we normally have on ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars. Charging up your car at home is pretty cool too. Assuming you have an actual home, and not an apartment or condo. There’s still no viable EV-charging plan for those folks.
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