This week, while the world was finally given an in-depth look at the Tesla Model X, I spent time driving the Kia Soul EV. It got me thinking the electric SUV might be the segment that saves the electric vehicle market in the United States.
Why’s that? Because electric SUVs allow Americans to be practical, drive a big vehicle, and feel themselves green enough to deserve praise (at least their own).
Sure, you may have seen the gull-wing doors of the Model X, which Tesla calls “falcon doors,” and thought, “Wow!” But this vehicle is going to be known for so much more than its looks. Consider the fact that it’s going to have enough room in the rear to hold a sheet of plywood. It also has front cargo space where a traditional gas engine would go.
There’s also the matter of it having 3 usable rows of seats. (I’m discounting the Model S and its rearward-facing third row, which apparently is suitable only for short jaunts with short children.) This instantly makes the Model X appealing to soccer moms.
Sure, there are vehicles like the Toyota Highlander Hybrid and the Infiniti QX60 Hybrid on the market. They’re not electric, though. The Highlander gets a combined 28 mpg, and the QX60 gets 26. The Tesla Model X is supposedly rated at 92 mpge and has a 257-mile range.
The Model X is the first electric vehicle with a 5,000-pound towing capacity. No real-world figures are available yet, though, on what towing does to range. Doubling the weight of the vehicle has to make a significant impact, as it would with an internal combustion engine, too.
Okay, so Kia recommends you don’t tow with the Kia Soul EV, but that’s probably the only flaw in this vehicle. After a week, I’m sold. As someone casually researching the purchase of an EV (they fit my family’s lifestyle), it’s at the top of my list.
One reason would be its cost to operate, as well as its cost. It starts at $31,195 before the $7,500 tax credit. Plus a man much smarter than I tells me it gets more miles per kilowatt hour than the much smaller and much worse Mitsubishi i-MiEV, a truly unspectacular EV I can recommend under no conditions whatsoever (except if you were to win one at church bingo).
The Kia Soul EV is rated at 101 miles on a full charge, and that was what I observed over a mix of highway and city driving. Plus, I was able to charge it overnight off a standard household plug. Sure, the Soul EV’s range doesn’t match the Model X’s, but it’s also one-quarter the cost.
Toyota used to make the RAV4 EV, but unfortunately discontinued it. You might be able to find a used one on the West Coast where it was originally leased. It had a range similar to the Kia Soul EV’s, which is available in much wider distribution across the United States.
One concern from the launch of the Model X: What will its reliability be like? Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder, in explaining why the SUV took so long to come to market, said he would have made the X less complicated. Its complicated nature made it harder to engineer and build. Things that are hard to engineer and build can sometimes have trouble in the real world. It will be interesting to see what happens.
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