Auto123 puts the Kia Niro EV to the long-term test. Today, Part 4.
Thank you Michel for the hand-off! And especially for the excellent presentation of the Niro EV so far.
Having talked to many people around us, some we already knew and some we didn’t, we certainly got confirmation that the idea of the electric vehicle is increasingly compelling for many motorists. But that interest is accompanied by questions. Why is that? Simply because the average person is still more used to driving a vehicle, stopping at a gas station, filling the tank and driving away.
To paraphrase American engineer and inventor Charles F. Kettering, the world may hate change, but it’s the only thing that has brought progress. World, meet the electric vehicle.
In the immediate, for our part we were curious to see how we would experience driving an electric vehicle every day for several weeks. How would we manage the range? Would we run to the fast chargers every day to compensate for our puny 110V outlet at home? And if we took the highway, would the battery charge melt away? So many questions…
Levels and wattage and oh my
The Kia Niro EV's battery size is 64 kW for an official range of 380 km. According to Kia, it will take 59 hours to fully charge the Niro EV using the manufacturer-supplied cable (ICCB), which is Level 1. With this cable, you plug into 110V at home. This is a 20-ampere circuit, and capacity is 1.4 kW/hour.
For Level 2, now: You can use the same cable (with a different plug) to connect to a 240V source or an EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) type of electric terminal, which will allow you to recharge your vehicle in about 9.5 hours. This is the type of at-home installation that most electric car buyers will choose. This is a 40-ampere circuit, and capacity is between 6.2 and 7.6 kW/hour.
The Niro can be charged at a speed of 7.2 kW/hour, with a 48-ampere (not 30-ampere) terminal; in one hour you can recover about 65 km of range. This figure is worth filing away in your mind, because when your vehicle has about 100 km of range left, you know that in only three hours you’ll recover almost 200 km.
By the way, a very practical feature in the Niro is the ability to set the vehicle's charging time. Say you get home at 9 pm; you don't have to go out again at midnight to unplug your car. Just use the vehicle's scheduling system or the app that comes with it.
Now, about our own experience. Keep in mind that when we drive EVs like this, we’re testing them for a short period, and we aren’t fitted with a charging terminal at home. So we’re like a shoemaker who wears ratty old shoes. Our only lifeline was our regular power outlet. But in the event, this posed no problem at all during the eight weeks we had the vehicle, and during which we drove it over 3,000 km.
We noted that when the Niro EV was plugged in at home, we were getting about 1 percent of charge back per hour. We also calculated that on our daily travels we covered an average of about 80 km each day (mainly in urban setting and in normal driving mode), and we used up about 17 percent of the charge. Once back home in the evening, we plugged in the car, and the next morning, we just had to calculate the number of hours the car had been plugged in to know how much percentage we’d recovered. So if the car had been plugged in for 13 hours, we’d gained about 13 percent of charge back.
For a quicker charge, before heading off for a Montreal-to-Sherbrooke drive, with the battery at less than 50 percent, we only had to stop at a 100-kW station to get up to 91 percent in 40 minutes.
I know, I can hear you from here, 40 minutes to recharge is too long. That's true, but it’s progress, and with these charging stations starting to appear everywhere, you can plug in somewhere convenient, then run a couple of errands, grab a coffee or a snack, etc.
The better news is that 350-kW Level 3 charging stations are also starting to become more common. With these terminals, we would be able to go from 5 percent to 80 percent in about 20 minutes. They are being installed mainly along the major highways that cross Canada. Special mention to Petro Canada, which has taken the lead and is starting to equip some of its gas stations with fast-charging stations.
We managed to keep our Niro EV powered for almost two months without having access to a Level 2 terminal at home. While the vast majority of electric vehicle buyers will equip themselves with a fast-charging station at home (house or condo building) when they purchase their vehicle, it is reassuring to know that you will only need fast charging stations during longer trips.
As well, we’re seeing an increasing number of 350-kW charging stations sprouting up across Canada, which allow for zooming from 5 to 80 percent in just 20 minutes or so.
We also can’t help but feel that oil companies hold their future in their own hands; they should seriously consider charging stations at all current gas stations lest they miss the electric-mobility boat.