The auto industry is moving at a searing pace and the one constant is change. Those who cannot keep up with the times will surely be left behind.
If that title doesn’t make you go ‘And admit that the waters around you have grown’ then you have wasted your life so far. Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’ is one of the greatest songs ever written and if you don’t know every single line, I have to ask: what have you been doing?
It was one week ago that Bob Dylan – born Robert Zimmerman on May 24, 1941 – won the Nobel Prize in Literature. The times are definitely changing. Amidst a sea of controversy, with half the world praising the choice and the other half damning the Nobel Committee, everyone seems to have an opinion.
I have one too, by the way: just why did it take so long? Are the words written by Mr. Dylan not as important for our lives as those printed by Samuel Beckett, Gabriel García Marquez or John Steinbeck? I say they are.
But, you might be wondering, what does that have to do with cars? It’s not like Dylan is a known Ferrari collector or an amateur racing driver. Far from it, actually: I simply heard the news of his Prize at the wheel of a Kia Soul EV, the South Korean’s first global electric vehicle.
On a week when I had to consider how times are, in fact, changing on the auto industry, I couldn’t help but smile at the fact that America’s greatest songwriter became one of the world’s greatest writers. Just as the Nobel Prize Committee understands it must follow a world in constant change, so automakers know that those who fail to adapt will inevitably perish.
The future seems to be electric and battery-powered cars are becoming more and more important. Things are moving so fast that Germany says it wants to stop producing fuel-powered vehicles by 2030. Now that seems a bit unrealistic to me, but it only comes to show how important a role electricity will play in the cars we will be driving over the next decades.
The Soul was Kia’s choice as the basis to develop their first electric car. It remains a high-riding hatchback with a very particular personality and a funky look, albeit revamped for the battery-powered model. The basic structure of the car suffered some updates in order to accommodate the elements that are new to the EV. The upper body structure is carried over but has been strengthened in the B-pillars and sills. Five extra crossmembers have also been bolted across the floorpan, increasing the rigidity of the bodyshell by 27%.
The 27kWh lithium ion polymer battery pack is located under the floorpan and takes nine hours to charge on a domestic socket. A wallbox decreases that to around five hours and a fast-charging station can get you 80% of battery charge in half-an-hour.
There are 110 horse power available, meaning 11 seconds to 100 km/h and a top speed of 150km/h. Kia says the Soul EV can take you as far as 212km and, even if that is a tad optimistic, 160-170km of range are perfectly attainable.
Let’s be honest, nobody buys an electric car (yet) to travel the country and, as a city runabout, the Soul is pretty much perfect.
The instant torque, the smoothness of the electric drivetrain and the underlying practicality of this model are really hard to fault. Inside, silence is a constant, which also attests the quality of the materials and how they are put together.
The dashboard is new and built out of higher-quality materials than the thermal models. The EV version also gets a cool centre touch screen and OLED digital instruments. Space is aplenty everywhere, while the only downside I can see is the smaller boot because of the positioning of the batteries.
The price starts at a nudge under €34,000, which is not cheap. A 1.6 diesel ‘normal’ Soul is €11,000 less. However, the Soul EV gets the same seven-year warranty programme as any other Kia, a world first for an electric car. The batteries are supposed to hold up to 70% of its capabilities for eight more years after the warranty on them expires, which is surprisingly good news.
It’s not ‘if’ anymore with electric cars, it’s ‘when’. Kia was right to start investing on them this early in the game; the Soul is an interesting car and a worthy alternative to the Nissan Leaf or the BMW i3 for those who are looking for a good electric vehicle in which to run around everyday, while keeping a second car in the garage for bigger trips. Renting is also a sensible option if you don’t want to own two cars.
Automakers who don’t get on the EV train will be sorry a few years down the line. The future is one of zero emissions, not V8 powered supercars, no matter how much it pains me to write those words. The times, you know, they are a-changin’. Tell ‘em Bob:
Come gather ‘round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
By Guilherme Marques