The introduction of the 2015 Kia Soul EV brings the notion of a practical, affordable all-electric car closer to the driveway.

Kia has taken the compact Soul – a funky, yet practical, hatchback – and given it a battery system that gives in a range of more than 90 miles between charges. The 27kWh, air-cooled, 200 watt-hour/kg lithium-ion polymer battery gives the Kia Soul EV an EPA estimated range second only to the Tesla Model S luxury EV — a sedan with a starting sticker price that is twice as much.

While a range of 90 or miles doesn't seem like much, it is more than enough for most daily driving needs. In a U.S. Department of Transportation household survey, 95 percent of drivers traveled less than 40 miles to work, with the average commute distance of less than 30 miles round trip. Set to launch in California, the Soul will go on sale in a handful of additional markets in 2015.

The front grill of the Soul EV features two standard charging ports, a SAE J1772 port for Level 1 and Level 2 AC charging, and a CHAdeMo DC fast-charging port (480v). It can be charged to 80 percent in as little as 33 minutes with a 50 Kw–output fast charger — the sort found in many public charging stations. Owners can have a charger installed in their garage and Kia has partnered with three charger providers – Bosch, Leviton and AeroVironment — to provide options in selecting the unit best suited to their in-home needs. But while a 240-V charger speeds things up, it's not necessary. Plugging into a standard 120v outlet overnight will likely be enough for most days. In a week-long test drive, the battery typically charged from 30 percent to 80 percent or more overnight, allowing us to pull out of the drive with range of 80 miles.

The 2015 Kia Soul EV charging port

The 2015 Kia Soul EV charging port.

But how does it drive? Quite nicely.

The 109-horsepower electric motor produces 210 lb.-ft. of instantaneous torque, making the Soul EV quick from a standstill. The battery makes the car heavier than its gas-powered counterpart, so it's a bit slower getting to 60 mph, but not so that you would notice. The power is delivered seamlessly and the cabin is quite. Almost zen.

The interior is roomy, although the battery eats up a little rear legroom. Again, not enough to notice.

The Kia Soul EV also makes extensive use of bio-based materials — nearly 53 pounds bio-based organic content in interior plastic.  Bio-based plastics made from cellulose and sugar cane are found in many places within the cabin, including the door panels, headliner, seat trim, roof pillars and carpeting. 

The Kia Soul EV comes loaded with features such as heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, satellite radio, rear camera display and heated, power-folding mirrors. It also comes with a hefty price tag — $36,625.  A federal income tax credit of $7,500 drops the cost into the $20s and state income tax credits may drop your final costs even further.

And your fuel costs will be dramatically cheaper. According to a vehicle cost calculator developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, driving a Kia Soul EV 10,330 miles a year will add $316 to your electric bill. That is less than half the cost of gasoline – at $1.80 a gallon. And how long do you think gas will stay under $2 a gallon?

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