By Carguy – Keith Turner
I love the car. The vehicle is a joy to drive.
The Soul EV zips around town like a child on a sugar high.
Unfortunately, coming down from a sugar high can be bad news, as is searching for a location to charge an EV during my daily driving. Because I live in an apartment complex, there is virtually no way for me to link the EV into an electric outlet. And even if there was, who would be paying for and regulating that electricity?
Driving an EV these early days of EV charging equipment availability, one is forced to search for open charging stations on or hopefully near one’s path.
If this were a conventional gas-burning vehicle, like its Soul sister, I wouldn’t have to worry about re-fueling for some 400-plus miles.
But the top range for the Kia Soul EV is 93 miles on a charge, and that goes faster than you might think. Especially when you include in the stress factor of not knowing where you will be when you clock down to your final kilowatts of range.
These were my Top 5 thoughts during my entire week driving the EV:
• How much range (miles) do I have?
• Where is the nearest charging station?
• Is it available?
• How much time do I need to kill waiting for it to charge?
• Why can’t I just pull into a gas station to fill up?
These thoughts definitely raised my stress needle beyond what I usually feel during daily driving.
Here are some impressionistic highlights of my week in search of electrons:
1) Having been delivered the EV with only 20 miles range left, I immediately began looking around for public charging stations and found about 10 at the Sacramento International Airport, just about four miles away. I found them in the airport’s five level parking garage and each and every one of them was spoken for by various models of EVs including the Nissan Leaf, Ford C-Max, Tesla S, and even a Chevrolet Volt, which has its own gasoline engine as a back-up.
So I scrambled around the entire parking lot and finally I created some space in a “no parking zone” right next to a silver Leaf that was suckling on the teet of an electric charger. Then, in an act of desperation, I unplugged the silver Leaf and plugged the charger into my blue Soul.
Then, I sat in my Soul EV in the no parking zone for about three hours, when it was charged enough for me to feel safe continuing my commute. Then, I plugged the charger back into the Leaf, knowing that it should be fully charged by the time that the owners returned from their travels.
2) Finding a charging station directly across from my workplace. It’s dead. Internet comments show that the charging station has been dead for years. Calls to the help line listed on the station went to a full voice mail box.
3) Charting my day around being able to charge at one of several stations in the gold rush town of Auburn, California, but finding that the stations required one to have previously registered on a website, and then downloaded a mobile app. I had done none of that in advance, so I called the number of the station and got a recording. The second number I called gave me a charming administrative lady who was very understanding of my plight, but had no additional information to provide — she just worked for one of the businesses in the corporate business park where the chargers were located.
I gave up on that location and found another just a few blocks away that was both available and free. I spent about three hours taking care of errands and having lunch with my daughter and walked back to my fully-charged Soul EV.
I found some stations in various plubic places, such as a Walgreens parking lot; the historic Colfax railroad station, and in the parking lot of Sacramento’s Arden Fair Mall, where a sign urges parking and charging for a maximum of four hours – long enough to shop or have dinner, but not monopolizing the charger for well over your need.
The Kia Soul’s ability to scope out charging stations is based in a touchscreen system that provides data about battery percentage and range, plus lists all the nearby charging stations providing turn-by-turn navigation to the hallowed ground of electrical regeneration.
All of which is very cool.
As will be the day when many more chargers are readily and conveniently available.