Natural Gas Vehicles: A Viable Solution or Just Another Pipe Dream?

Natural Gas Vehicles: A Viable Solution or Just Another Pipe Dream?

A Look at One of the Alternatives To Petroleum

An alternative to petroleum-based fuel is urgently needed to address climate change concerns, so the search is on for a car that is not only environmentally friendly, but also something that can be easily adapted into our everyday routines. One alternative of increasingly interest, which has led to a few instances of fleets making a switch, is NGVs or natural gas vehicles.

For those unfamiliar with this technology, the vehicle in question can run on compressed natural gas (which is methane stored at high pressure) or liquified natural gas (which is usually methane in a liquid form). Originally, natural gas can come either from the same places where oil deposits are found in nature or it can come in the form of biogas (or renewable natural gas), which is created from landfills and wastewater. It’s stored like any other gas in cylinders and can be transported through dedicated pipelines.

cng tank,storage,trade-offs

Tanks A Lot (of room)

The reason why NGVs are becoming so appealing is that not only is natural gas a plentiful resource that we can produce domestically, but it is also a much cleaner burning fuel. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (via Consumer Reports), CNG can reduce carbon-monoxide emissions by 90-97% and nitrogen-oxide emissions by 35-60% when compared with gasoline. However, CNG’s aren’t completely environmentally friendly, and there is much controversy surrounding how it’s widely obtained; through hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”), which can result in upstream emissions of methane if done incorrectly. The Department of Energy cites the Argonne National Library’s GREET model as stating that while natural gas does emit 6-11% less greenhouse gases than gasoline during it’s fuel life cycle, those emissions it does release are widely the result of production-phase fuel leakage. It’s also worth noting that while it may release less GHG’s than gasoline, it takes more natural gas to do the same job as gasoline because it’s less energy dense than gas. What this means is that if you were to purchase a NGV you’d have to have a bigger tank in your car and have to refill it more often than a traditional gasoline fueled car. However, the GREET model also shows that CNG’s produce around 20-45% less smog-producing pollutants and about 5-9% less greenhouse gas than gasoline powered vehicles, though recent studies are challenging the GHG reductions (though those findings are challenged in the latest California Air Resources Board analysis in its LCFS CA-GREET 2.0 model for measuring the carbon intensities of various fuels.

So, how exactly do NGVs stack up to electric vehicles? Let’s defer to a recent study from MIT, which stated that: “While both EVs and NGVs have significant infrastructure requirements, there are major differences in their relative efficiencies. An NGV does not have comparable efficiency gains relative to electrification via natural gas generation. In general, 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas, converted to electricity, yields 457 miles in an EV. This same 1,000 cf in an NGV would only have a range of around 224 miles.”

However, an article by Forbes contradicts this saying that a “four-door CNG taxi with a tank that can hold the equivalent of 15 gallons of fuel can get close to 300 miles on a tank. 200 miles is easy. Most mid-range and economy-level EVs like the Nissan Leaf get almost 100 miles on a charge.” At this point these contradicting studies could be the result of different methods of research or using different vehicles from each other. (Ed. Note: some of the confusion is comparing apples and oranges, in this case relative energy efficiencies with real-world functionality.)

Another strike against natural gas is the lack of infrastructure, high cost of storage, and lack of availability here in the U.S. While traditional gas stations are abundant, NGV fueling stations are few and far between due to the general lack

honda,civic, natural gas,cng,badge

A Badge of Honor

of demand with the DOE showing only 746 in the continental United States. Also, chances are if you do find a NGV fueling station, it’s only available to fleets belonging to companies like AT&T and UPS who use NGV’s.

However, there are companies and municipalities advocating for CNG. Honda is building a CNG gas station in Columbia, Ohio, in concert with Columbia Gas of Ohio, and some states have decided to use CNG to fuel their mass transit fleets. The Sun Tran transit line in Tucson, Arizona is fueled exclusively by CNG, and many transit agencies and other entities in the state of California has been using CNG powered buses also.

The bottom line with CNG vehicles appears to be this: We’ve got a ways to go before it becomes a truly viable option for all consumers. At this phase, while CNGs can be seen as better for the environment in some aspects, their lack of availability in the United States, paired with the shortage of public fueling stations makes them generally an impossibility for those who aren’t willing to the costly trouble of installing a home fueling station. Also, for consumers (other than fleet customers) there is only one model available, the compact Honda Civic. However, based on the dropping cost of natural gas, it’s potential to boost the American economy, and a growing concern for environmental health, it’s likely that CNG’s will pick up steam sooner rather than later. Right now they may not be the most viable option for the average person, but it’s something that we could see become commonplace in the future.

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Road Test: 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX

Road Test: 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX

Sleek Design in a Midsize Hybrid

It may not have occurred to you until you start shopping for a midsize car that most of the major brands offer a hybrid version. One of the latest to do so was Kia with its Optima Hybrid. Debuting in 2011, the 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid has freshened styling, technology upgrades and mechanical improvements to make it worth adding to the list of good-looking five-passenger cars that might include:

Drivetrain

The front-wheel drive 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid is powered by a 2.4-liter, 16-valve double overhead cam (DOHC), gasoline-powered in-line four-cylinder engine and a 74-kW electric motor with a lithium polymer battery. The two power sources produce a combined peak output of 199 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission.

Fuel economy for the Optima Hybrid is rated at 36 city/40 highway with a combined of 38 mpg. Running on regular unleaded, I drove 1,034 mostly highway miles and averaged 36.9 mpg. The 17-gallon tank is a good size for long distance

2014,Kia,Optima,Hybrid,styling,fuel economy

Good to go

road trips, only having to refuel after 600 miles.

As with all modern hybrid vehicles, to maximize fuel economy the Optima Hybrid system automatically switches between the electric drive (EV), gasoline engine or both modes. The Kia system worked well except when at a stoplight and needing to accelerate hard as there is a small, but noticeable, delay before the car goes from pure electric to gasoline/hybrid mode. Otherwise, the transitions were not noticeable and the car ran smooth and quiet on gasoline power when cruising the highway. The Optima Hybrid automatically slides into EV mode when coasting down a hill, increasing the fuel economy when running on gasoline is unnecessary.

The Optima Hybrid has two drive settings, EV and ECO, that are indicated by a lighted EV and ECO on the instrument cluster. ECO is the default setting for optimal fuel economy when cruising on the highway and EV is where you will be for around-town driving. The Kia Hybrid system automatically chooses the drive setting based on power needs and driving conditions and cannot be manually controlled.

The lithium polymer battery is charged through the regenerative charging system (and of course by the gasoline engine), which converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery when applying the brakes or coasting. This process is also viewed on a dash gauge where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and engine.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid weighs in at 3,622 lbs., which is 385 lbs. more than the gasoline-powered, base model Optima LX and 154 lbs. more than the gasoline-powered Limited model. These are small weight differences considering the added hybrid components.

The previously noted EV and ECO drive modes get the car to 60 mpg in about eight seconds, which is certainly respectable and sufficient for getting into the flow of freeway traffic. Once on the freeway, passing was efficient but there were

2014 Kia,Optima Hybrid,handling,mpg

Smooth on the highway

noticeable shift-points of the six-speed automatic.

The Optima Hybrid EX comes with 17-inch alloy wheels and all-season tires, hydraulic power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering with front independent MacPherson struts and anti-roll bar, and a rear multi-link independent anti-roll bar suspension. All this delivers a smooth and quiet highway ride with little wind noise. While common freeway maneuvers were done with confidence, the Optima Hybrid is not designed to be a sports sedan. Hard or spirited cornering revealed understeer and a lack of steering feel. Overall, the car felt heavy to drive, which is a unique experience among mid-size cars, whether they are hybrid or gasoline-powered.

But going fast is worthless if you can’t stop. The Optima Hybrid comes with Kia’s Brake Assist System (BAS) that includes power-assisted disc brakes with ABS, which are part of Kia’s regenerative braking system. The stops were straight and consistent, but the brakes were touchy to the point of making me want to stay off them as much as possible until some experimentation took place. We hope the dealer service department could dial out the over-sensitivity so stopping isn’t a series of coasting and then gingerly applying the brakes. When coming to a stop, the combination of the regenerative braking and the hybrid motor made a noticeable, but not unpleasant, whine.

Driving Experience: Exterior

2014,Kia,Optima,Hybrid,styling,fuel efficiency

Good-looking long-range transport

The Kia Optima is arguably the best looking car in the mid-size category. The dynamic design of the 2014 Optima Hybrid EX has dramatic front and rear views that give the car a sense of motion even when sitting still. The high beltline rises gracefully from the front to rear taillights, drawing your eye to a sleekness that would look good on cars at a much higher price.

Kia has thankfully stayed away from an overabundance of chrome bits and pieces, including the temptation to place a chrome eyebrow on the trunk lid above the license plate. And for fun, the LED rear lights give off a slightly menacing, but enticing, look.

Driving Experience: Interior

Clean Fleet Report was driving the fully optioned 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX with the optional Panoramic Sunroof, Technology and White Interior packages, which made for a very enjoyable, 1,000+ mile experience behind the wheel. It is easy to say that, as good looking as the Optima Hybrid’s exterior is, the interior may be the high point of this car’s appeal.

The optional dual-panel panoramic sunroof gives an open-air feeling through a wide opening that at speeds up to 50 mph is quiet. Much above that and the wind noise can get a bit much. Our EX model had

2014,Kia Optima,Hybrid,interior

A touch of luxury

white leather seats that were power eight-way adjustable (with memory) for the driver and four-way for the passenger, were heated, air cooled and ventilated. It was easy to find a comfortable driver seat position, including power lumber support. However, the passenger seat position was too low and could not be adjusted.

The rear seats have a center fold-down console and can hold three adults, but two is more realistic for a long journey. They offered good support and leg room, but taller passengers might find the sloping roof takes away some head room. The outboard rear seats are heated, which is a nice touch for a midsize sedan.

The Optima Hybrid’s infotainment (entertainment and information) comes through Kia’s EVO system, which includes telematics and voice command navigation. Tunes come from the Infinity surround-sound audio system with eight speakers and an external amplifier and subwoofer to enjoy the SiriusXM/FM/CD/HDAM with MP3 playback capability. There is an auxiliary audio jack, USB

2014,Kia,Optima,Hybrid,interior,rear seats

It can get hot back here

port with iPod connectivity, music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology and hands-free phone capability. The auto-dimming rearview mirror was Homelink equipped and the voice activation for the telephone and navigation worked well.

Features that are now expected to be standard equipment on many cars included power windows, door locks and mirrors, 12V power outlets, cruise control and multiple cup holders.

2014,Kia,Optima,Hybrid,dash

Everything in its place

The cockpit design is driver-friendly. The gauges are in easy sight and the controls within easy reach, especially with the video screen, dual-zone automatic temperature controls and the radio buttons angled towards the driver a slight bit. The leather-wrapped steering wheel contains audio and telephone buttons. The optional Nappa white leather seats have gray piping accents and the gloss black interior trim added an upscale contrast.

But what is all the comfort and convenience worth if the car isn’t safe? The Optima Hybrid is well-equipped with active and passive safety features including six air bags, TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), High-Intensity Discharge (HID), projection and self-leveling headlights and LED fog lights. The smart key system for the doors and trunk, push button start and illuminated entry added safety and convenience, as did the heated, power folding and adjusting outside mirrors with turn indicators, rear view camera and the previously mentioned four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic stability traction and hill assist control, and vehicle assist management.

Pricing

The 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid comes in two models, but can be ordered with Option Packages that will affect your final price. The base MSRP for the two hybrid models, excluding the $800 Inland Freight and Handling Fee:

 

LX $25,995
EX $31,995

The Optima Hybrid EX Clean Fleet Report was driving had the optional Panoramic Sunroof ($1,500), Technology ($700) and White Interior ($400) packages bringing the total MSRP, with the $800 Inland Freight and Handling Fee, to

2014,Kia,Optima,Hybrid,sunroof

An All-round view

$34,695.

The 2014 Optima Hybrid EX comes with these warranties:

• 10-year/100,000-mile  Powertrain

• 5-year/60,000-mile      Basic

• 5-year/60,000-mile      Roadside Assistance

• 3-year/36,000-mile      Non-impact paint repairs (fading, cracking, chipping or flaking)

• 10-year/100,000-mile  Hybrid-related Component Coverage for Pennsylvania and Washington

• 15-year/150,000-mile  Hybrid-related Component Coverage for all other states not listed above

• 5-year/Unlimited miles Anti-Perforation

Observations: 2014 Optima Hybrid EX

The Optima Hybrid was completely redesigned in 2013, carrying-over to the 2014 model. As mentioned earlier, Kia did an excellent job of bringing the Optima to the top of the midsize class in looks, stance and image. The Optima interior has an upscale look and feel with refined materials, subtle mood lighting and contrasting leather seats. The Optima Hybrid was designed in the Kia design studios in the United States and Germany, under the leadership of Chief Designer

2014, Kia, Optima,Hybrid,styling

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Road Test: 2014 Ford Fusion Energi

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Road Test: 2014 Ford Fusion Energi

Road Test: 2014 Ford Fusion Energi

Ford’s Everything Car — Super Mileage, Style & Functionality

Clean Fleet Report had two chances to test the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi — the plug-in hybrid version of Ford’s best-selling car — and came away from both with a clear view of why this model is so popular. It hits on all of the key metrics that make a car great, starting with its looks. The Energi version of the Fusion is the supermodel doppelganger who has just done an IPO with a cleantech startup. When the restyled second-generation Fusion first came out in 2013, it was a head-turner. It took a pedestrian midsize car and turned it into something that could easily be mistaken for a more exotic car costing two or three times as much. Two model years later the Fusion still looks fresh.

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,plug-in hybrid,mpg

Looking like something else

Beyond looks, the 2014 Ford Fusion represents another strong approach by the company to fuel economy, showcasing its EcoBoost turbocharged smaller engines throughout the lineup, optional start-stop technology as well as offering a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid version. That lets them give a choice of fuel economy ranging from a minimal of 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway/25 mpg combined in the all-wheel-drive based model (which can max out at 25/37/29 with the 1.5-liter EcoBoost in the front-wheel drive version) up to 108 MPGe city (miles per gallon equivalent, which accounts for the miles running on electricity) in the Energi version that Clean Fleet Report tested. In between is the Fusion Hybrid that delivers 44 mpg city/41 mpg hwy/42 mpg combined. Using EPA numbers you should be able to get 550 miles on a tank of fuel, but, of course, if you plug in more and take short trips, that range can extend exponentially.

Finally, the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi and its siblings represent the epitome of the monstrous midsize car market. Along with the style and fuel economy the car will comfortably seat five adults. It has all the bells and whistles available and many of them are standard features, including leather heated front seats, Sirius/XM radio and SYNC with MyFord Touch. The only engine available is the 2-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine mated to a 118 horsepower electric motor and an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (eCVT). The power system’s final component is its 7.6 kWh lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery (with 35 kW of peak power), which will supply power to drive up to 21 miles under electric power alone.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The 2014 Fusion Energi drives like it looks — smooth and stylish. The front independent MacPherson strut and rear independent multilink suspensions, both of which have stabilizer bars, deliver a stable on-highway ride and solid

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,mpg,styling,plug-in hybrid

Strutting its stuff

cornering, aided by the added weight of the batteries in the bottom of the trunk. Braking is as you’d expect from a best-selling contemporary sedan, straight and true from the four-wheel discs with ABS and integrated regenerative braking, which convert the kinetic energy of braking into electricity and store it in the Li-Ion battery. A “Brake Coach” feature in the instrument cluster teaches you how to maximize your regen effectiveness by giving you instant feedback on how much energy you were able to store.

Driving Experience: Interior

The range of electronic gadgetry available on the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi is extensive. Standard features include a rear-view camera and optional are active park assist (which will park your car for you), a reverse-sensing system, adaptive

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,storage

Storage-your luggage shares with electrons

cruise control, blind spot/cross-traffic alert and a lane-keeping system.

Inside all of the usual power equipment is standard, including a 10-way driver’s seat with power lumbar support and a six-way passenger seat. The standard audio system includes an AM/FM stereo with CD player, MP3 capability and six

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,interior

Trimmed in luxury

speakers. The optional Sony-branded audio system doubles the number of speakers and adds HD Radio technology.

Ten airbags round out the interior, which also includes a trunk pass-through and 60/40 split fold-down rear seats. Luggage space is compromised with the battery taking up a good portion of the trunk. We found when traveling with three adults that we ended up having to use the back seat in order to carry all of the luggage.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Fusion has been accused of borrowing its exterior style extensively from a former Ford stablemate, Aston Martin. We don’t see anything wrong with that since we find it a truly exquisite design. The aerodynamics are there and we feel it’s got more street presence than its two main plug-in competitors — the Toyota Prius Plug-in and the Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid.

Standard wheels are 17-inch painted aluminum with 18-inch ones optional. The whole package looks fairly svelte for weighing in at just under 4,000 pounds.

Charging is through a port in the front fender. A lighted ring around the charge port glows to indicate the state of charge, a handy an aesthetically pleasing touch.

Pricing & Warranties

Though we tested a 2014 model, here are the latest prices on the just-release and virtually identical 2015 models of the Fusion. The prices do not include the $825 delivery charge.

Fusion S                               $21,970

Fusion SE                             $23,935

Fusion Titanium                 $30,600

Fusion Hybrid S                 $26,270

Fusion Hybrid SE               $27,280

Fusion Hybrid Titanium  $32,600

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,styling,mpg

Looking ready to move

Fusion Energi SE               $34,700

Fusion Energi Titanium  $36,500

The Energi models come with a higher level of standard equipment to accompany their higher initial price tags so true apple-to-apple price comparisons need to be made with the SE and Titanium models, and even then it’s not strictly comparable. The indicated “step” between the basic Fusion and the Hybrid is about $2,500-$3,500 and the “step” between the Hybrid and Energi models is roughly $4,000 to $5,000. Ford has been lowering prices on its hybrid models during the current generation and claims the payback through reduced fuel costs is roughly three-and-a-half years.

The Energi has a few extra warranties to cover its unique electronic components. Those warranties vary between California and some of the other 49 states that follow California’s emissions regulations.

Bumper-to-bumper         3-years/36,000-miles

Powertrain                         5-years/60,000-miles

Safety Equipment             5-years/60,000-miles

Corrosion                            5-years/Unlimited miles

Electronic Components   8-years/100,000-miles

California Warranty         15-years/150,000-miles

2014 Ford Fusion Energi Overview

Ford has come a long way since introducing its first hybrid, the Escape SUV, 10 years ago. The hybrid systems have become more sophisticated, more powerful and more integrated into the overall vehicle. Ford now assembles its own batteries from cells purchased from Sanyo, which has helped both in cost reduction and vehicle integration.

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,plug-in hybrid

A clever light

The choice for a car buyers looking for a plug-in hybrid boils down to three basic contenders with some options around the edges. In addition to the Fusion Energi, Toyota has a plug-in version of its Prius hybrid and Honda offers a plug-in version of its best-selling Accord. Slightly smaller is the Chevy Volt and slightly larger is the Ford C-Max Energi, which shares the Fusion propulsion system but is built more like a wagon. Rounding out the plug-in hybrid universe are three high-end luxury cars — the Cadillac ELR, Porsche Panamera SE-Hybrid and BMW i8. The group will be growing in the coming years (next to join will probably be the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid), but it has the distinction of presenting electrically-enhanced models of three of the best-selling cars on the market.

Compared to its head-to-head competition from Toyota and Honda the Fusion has more power, more electric-only range and comparable EPA mileage ratings. We think it’s got styling that puts it beyond those two and pricing that’s comparable when you look at equipment. The Fusion has the biggest gas tank and thus the longest range, offers the most variety of colors and equipment. The Accord is slightly longer overall, but the interior volume is almost the same; it’s is priced higher than the Fusion. The Prius is smaller and also the least expensive of the three and has the most cargo room because of its hatchback configuration.

It’s hard to go wrong with any of these, but we lean toward the Fusion because of its capability of being an all-electric driver (for 20-mile trips) combined with the versatility to take on longer stretches. We like its styling, handling and high-tech features. We like that it seems to get better every year. When given the option of beauty and brains, we’ll take that option every time.

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First Drive: 2015 Kia Soul EV

First Drive: 2015 Kia Soul EV

Good, Clean Fun

Kia dipped its toe into the green car world a few years ago with the Optima Hybrid and now digs into the Crayon box for even a deeper shade of green with the all-new 2015 Soul EV. This fun, zip-around-town car is a kick to drive and, of course, you won’t spend a dime on gas and oil.

Drivetrain

The front-wheel drive 2015 Soul EV is powered by an 81kW electric motor good for 109 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque with an EPA range estimate of 93 miles. This range is better than EV competitors Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Spark EV and Fiat 500e. Only the Tesla Model S, which costs three times as much as the Soul EV, can go further on a charge.

2015,Kia,Soul EV,test drive

Ready to quietly roll

Available in two models, Base and Plus, the Soul EV gets you to 60 mph in about 12 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 90 mph.

The Soul EV is currently (October 2014) only available in California so be warned there is little dealer support outside of the Golden State. The Soul, which also comes in a gasoline version, is a small car, sometimes also classified as a city, urban or sub-compact. Similar diminutive cars are the Scion iQ, Nissan Versa, Toyota Prius c and Mitsubishi Mirage, to name a few.

A Lithium-Ion battery (Li-Ion for short) packs the power for the Soul EV with charging accomplished through a regenerative braking system and two plug-in ports offering three charging levels (based on a fully discharged battery):

• 120V (Level 1)    24 hours               To a full charge

• 240V (Level 2)    5 hours                 To a full charge

• 480V (Level 3)    33 minutes            To an 80% charge

The regenerative braking system converts braking or coasting into electricity, charging the battery. The charge and mileage range is shown by dashboard gauges. It is quite common to start an in-town journey of stop-and-go driving, to return with more or only a few miles depleted from the beginning range. However, where the regenerative braking system does not offer any help in charging the battery or adding to the driving range is on the freeway. Cruising along at 55 – 65mph over an extended period will result in the battery charge and driving range depleting right before your eyes.

Initially, at least 17 Kia dealers in California will have Level 2 chargers available for free quick charge, which brings the total number of public Level 2 chargers in California to 215 (as of November 2014).

A safety net in California, if you are a AAA member, is a limited area program where you can get an emergency charge from one of their service trucks. Just like if you ran out of gasoline and AAA dumped a five-gallon can in your tank,

2015, Kia, Soul EV,test drive

Road worthy–for a distance

select AAA trucks are equipped with a 480V generator that will give you about 20 miles of driving range to get you to a dealer or charge station. But do not rely on AAA to get you to your destination, just plan better.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The Soul EV weighs in at 3,289 lbs. which is evenly distributed as the Li-On batteries are located low (under the seats). This balance helps with good handling, even though the 16-inch aluminum wheels and super low rolling resistance tires aren’t the best combination for spirited corning. To help get around the corners you have an electric motor-driven steering system coupled to front independent MacPherson struts and coil springs, along with a rear torsion beam suspension. Overall, the car felt sprightly and was fun to drive.

Stopping comes from front and rear active hydraulic boost-assisted, vented disc brakes, with ABS, which are part of Kia’s regenerative braking system. The stops were straight and consistent and, as can be common with regenerative braking systems, the brakes were not touchy nor did they produce an unpleasant whine.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Soul EV has the same body design as the gasoline-powered version with a few tweaks differentiating the two. Changes include two-toned paint schemes with the roof carrying a different color than the body, unique wheel covers, “eco

2015,Kia,Soul EV, badge

Badged with pride

electric” fender badging, LED head and taillights and a different front fascia that includes the charge port door centered in the grill. Overall, the Soul EV has an identifiable shape that is unique among hatchbacks.

Driving Experience: Interior

The Soul EV is very nicely equipped as a base model with the Plus version Clean Fleet Report drove having just the right finishing touches.

Standard equipment includes a six-speaker SiriusXM/FM/CD/AMHD with MP3 playback capability, two-toned cloth seats (the Plus has leather) with accent piping and stitching, voice-command navigation with an 8-inch screen, rear

2015,Kia,Soul,EV, interior

Very nice, as Borat would say

back-up camera, Bluetooth for hands-free telephone operation and music streaming, power windows, outside mirrors and driver seat, heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise control and audio/telephone controls, push button start/stop, automatic climate control, tilt and telescopic steering column and Kia’s UVO infotainment system.

2015,Kia,Soul EV,rear seat

Room for more than hamsters

Our Plus model had two-toned heated and ventilated leather seats for the driver and passenger with the driver’s being power six-way adjustable. The rear outboard seats are heated and split 60/40. Cup holders abound and soft-touch dash and upper door panels had a good feel and look.

The cockpit design is driver friendly with the gauges in easy sight and the controls within easy reach; all are easy to understand. A unique feature aiming to reduce energy use is the button that isolates the ventilation only to the driver, therefore eliminating running the climate system for the full interior when it is not needed.

Kia has equipped the 2015 Soul EV with active and passive safety features including six air bags, TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), Hill Start Assist Control (HAC), Pedestrian Warning System, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) and the aforementioned four-wheel disc with ABS and push button start/stop.

Pricing

Depending on your taxable income, you could potentially reduce your final purchase cost by as much as $10,000 through Federal and California State programs. It is recommended contacting your CPA before considering a Soul EV purchase so you are completely clear on the tax credits. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best.

2015 Soul EV pricing before any Federal or State tax programs, but including the Destination Charge of $800 is:

Base           $34,500

Plus             $36,500

In California the Soul EV automatically qualifies for the coveted HOV sticker, which allows driving in the Carpool lane even with only the driver. If you haven’t heard the stories, people buy electric vehicles just for this benefit. Also expect some competitive lease deals to help move these cars.

The 2015 Soul EV comes with these warranties:

• 10 year/100,000 mile   Powertrain

• 5 year/60,000 mile       Basic

• 10 year/100,000 mile   Electric Vehicle System

• 5 year/60,000 mile       Roadside Assistance

• 3 year/36,000 mile       Non-impact paint repairs (fading, cracking, chipping or flaking)

• 5 year/100,000 miles   Anti-Perforation

Observations: 2015 Kia Soul EV

The biggest electric vehicle purchase considerations are how far you drive daily and if, when you get to your destination, you can recharge the battery. It doesn’t sound like much, but these factors are no small thing when owning a fully electric car.

Before starting the Soul EV, you need to do some simple math. Your days of leaving the house with a 1/4 tank of gas knowing you can fill up at dozens of stations in mere minutes are over. If you run out of electricity in the Soul EV you will

2015, Kia, Soul EV,electric car

Blue is the new green

need to find a charging station and wait until the car has sufficient battery charge to get you to your destination. So, is this enough to scare you away from considering owning a Soul EV? Let’s talk about the car and what to consider before pushing the Start button, then we will come back to if a Soul EV should be in your garage.

If you are not familiar with electric vehicle technology, let’s lay down some basics:

• There is no engine (gasoline, diesel, natural gas) so there are no    tune-ups, filters and belts to change, oil to check or add, etc.

• There are no transmission fluids or filters to service

• You will never, ever buy any type of petroleum product to make    your car go down the street

The gasoline use part of an EV purchase is significant, especially if you are currently spending $200 – $500 monthly on gasoline for your work commute and around town driving. If 90-percent of your driving is within 60 miles of your house, a Soul EV could be right for you as you would never need to buy gasoline again. Ever. But what about a longer trip where the Soul EV range can’t get you there and back? In this case, the Soul EV is probably your second car or you would rent a car for the day, weekend or week.

Before visiting your local Kia dealer, call ahead and make an appointment with one of their certified EV sales representatives. Do not speak with anyone at any dealership, regardless of brand, who has not gone through the factory training and education programs of what makes an electric vehicle unique, which includes its benefits and limitations. Once at the dealership, make sure to take a lengthy test drive, which replicates your longest and most common trip, as this is the only way to truly see if the 2015 Soul EV is right for your lifestyle.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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