Auto123 puts the Kia Niro EV to the long-term test. Today, part 7.
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 1: The carmaker, the reviewer and the (young) enthusiast
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 2: Electric cars, a new idea with a long history
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 3: Let’s look a little more closely at this here Niro EV, shall we?
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 4: Getting a charge out of charging
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 5: Many kilometres, many questions
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 6: When the computer decides things, without consulting us
It was in Prescott, about 100 km from Kingston, that I had my first encounter with a EV charging station. It was put there by Electric Circuit, the English-Canadian counterpart of Circuit électrique, an entity created by Hydro-Québec.
At the moment of introduction, a question reached my consciousness: What exactly is the Electric Circuit, and how does it work?
Here's the thing about public charging stations. Statistics say that 90 percent of an EV's charging needs are met by at-home charging posts or stations at work. The remaining 10 percent is when we venture far from both places. But, irony of ironies, that’s exactly when we’re most prone to range anxiety! It’s no fun running out of gas, but most of us probably agree it’s even worse running out of charge. You can’t walk with a canister to the nearest charging station.
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That's why, in 2012, Hydro-Québec and four founding partners (Les rôtisseries St-Hubert, Rona hardware stores, Metro grocery stores and what is now called EXO, the name given in May 2018 to the network grouping together public transportation services in the Greater Montreal area) agreed to deploy a network of public charging stations.
The brains at these entities must have seen the growing popularity of EVs in their dreams. They made it their mission to reassure motorists: “No, you won't be left stranded, because our charging stations will be there!” At which point motorists would naturally feel more comfortable venturing out further out afield. Road trips in EVs would become imaginable.
Each of those entities has their own reasons for participating in this type of project, of course, but everyone benefits: EV owners planning trip according to the charging stations along the way, Hydro-Québec that sells its electricity, and shops and restaurants that encourage EV drivers to spend money in their establishments while recharging.
Follow the steps
So there I stood before the charging station in Prescott, a charging virgin. There were instructions on the terminal. First, I was instructed to download the Electric Circuit mobile app on my phone. I did so. The app is supposed to help me start my charge remotely. It also invited me to register, to open an account. I decided to keep that for another time, like when I'd be nice and warm in the hotel room waiting for me, for example.
The app didn’t mind. But it still warned me that the charging session as a “guest” of the Electric Circuit would cost me an extra $2. A premium that members do not pay. It’s an incentive that carries weight.
I still had to enter a credit card number. I might be a valued guest of the Circuit, but I still had to prove my creditworthiness. Once I had my Visa number, I followed the instructions posted on the small sign before me. I pulled the cable to the socket of the Kia Niro EV. I noticed that the charging nozzle had a different tip than the one Kia provides with the Niro. To plug it into the car, I had to remove a plastic piece that otherwise always stays in place when I charge at home.
Later I'll do some research to understand the subtleties between the different plugs and I'll let you know, I promise. But at that moment I didn't want to figure it out, I just wanted to get to Kingston.
No doubt about it, if I were driving a Niro hybrid powered by a combustion engine and an electric motor (starting at $28,905), I'd already have been there. Or the Niro PHEV (starting at $36,505), the plug-in hybrid of the lineup. I wouldn't have had to stop in Prescott!
Oh well, with my EV version (starting at $46,905 minus the $8,000 in provincial (in Quebec) and $5,000 federal subsidies, I was doing my part in the fight against global warming and pollution, plus I was driving in a more zen way.
Well, zen as long as I had juice in my battery...
Anyways, I plugged in the nozzle and... nothing. It didn’t work.
What did I do wrong?
Fortunately, there’s also a toll-free telephone number on the terminal. It put me in touch with one of the CAA agents on hand 24/7 to guide users of the stations, especially rookies like me for whom this is a first experience.
The kind gentleman asked me to read him the identification number of the kiosk. And, from wherever he sat (probably in a comfy, warm office or at home), he started the charge. Phew!
He explained to me that sometimes this happens, where the remote connection between the application and the terminal is not automatic.
I could see on my phone that the charging had started. The application showed me in real time how full the battery was, as well as how much I was spending in dollars and cents as the current flowed from the station to the car.
Technology is beautiful.
All of these emotions had whetted my appetite. Did I mention that the charging station is located next to a Tim Hortons? Since it would take easily 20 minutes before the Niro EV recovered enough range to reassure me, I strode off with what I hoped was the gait of a grizzled EV veteran, masking my face along the way, to enjoy a real Canadian feast. Again like a veteran, I declined to stare dumbly at the app to see where my charge level was at every moment, and instead watched a few YouTube videos as I devoured my sandwich. And, I’d brought a good book, just in case.
I was able to confirm it was a good book, in fact, because I ended up sitting there for 58 minutes and five seconds, after which the app said I had extracted 44.57 kWh of energy from the terminal. Cost, $16.46. Electric Circuit’s invoice was on the way via email before I’d even put my tuque back on.
They say travel is the key to staying young. But when you take up the challenge of traveling without a gas engine, it can make you feel old as well...