Ever since mass-market electric cars appeared on the roads for the first time in late 2010, anyone looking to buy an electric car with a list price of less than $40,000 has had to be content with a real-world range per charge of just under 100 miles. From the early Nissan LEAF through to the Volkswagen e-Golf, Ford Focus EV and BMW i3, each car has offered customers an achievable range somewhere between 80 and 95 miles, with EPA rated ranges to match.
But last year, armed with a higher-capacity next-generation battery pack, Nissan edged the range of its 2016 Nissan LEAF over the magic 100-mile mark for the first time, offering customers of the high end Nissan LEAF SV and Nissan LEAF SL (Nissan Acenta and Tekna in Europe) the chance to pick a 30 kilowatt-hour battery pack offering an EPA-approved 107 miles of range per charge.
Since the announcement of the longer-range 2016 Nissan LEAF, we’ve seen a number of other automakers jump on the bandwagon, promising increased-capacity battery packs that bring their own electric cars in line with the LEAF in terms of range. So far, Ford, BMW and Volkswagen have all hinted that such packs are on the way for either 2016 or 2017 model-year cars.
Now we can add South Korean automaker Kia to that list, with the rumor from UK motoring site Autocar that a larger-capacity battery pack is on the way for the 2017 Kia Soul EV.
The all-electric five-seat compact utility vehicle, which originally went on sale in the U.S. as little more than a limited-production compliance car in markets like California, the Pacific Northwest and Northeastern states in order to comply with zero emission vehicle mandates, became an instant hit with customers due to its practical cabin layout, high seating position, CHAdeMo DC quick charge capability and 93 miles of EPA-approved range.
That range, one of the larger ranges of any mid-priced electric car on sale, was down to a lithium-ion battery pack rated at 27 kilowatt-hours rather than the 24 kilowatt-hours (give or take a few hundred watt-hours) offered on cars like the 2011-2015 Nissan LEAF, Volkswagen e-Golf and Ford Focus EV. Despite being a limited-availability compliance car, that extra range made it a success in areas where it was sold — and encouraged Kia to expand availability elsewhere.
Which is why we’re pleased to hear that a longer-range battery pack is likely on the way for the 2017 model year car, which we assume will be in dealers some time in the next six months or so. Along with that extra range, Autocar says the Kia Soul EV — along with its gasoline-powered sibling the Kia Soul — will be getting a mild mid-cycle update in terms of features and body styling. In addition to new headlights and taillights, the spyshots suggest a few tweaks to the bonnet, as well as what Autocar’s spy photographer says is a heavily disguised — and thus likely significantly different — interior.
At the moment, the rumor about a longer-range pack on the Kia Soul EV is just that — a rumor. But given the fact Kia uses LG Chem as its battery partner and LG Chem has been working hard on a longer-range battery pack for use in longer-range cars like the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, we’re guessing it’s a fairly good bet that some form of range extension is on its way.
How far will the rumored longer-range Kia Soul EV be able to travel over the existing model year car? That’s something we’re not sure of yet, but we think a range of at least 115 miles per charge should be possible if the Kia Soul EV’s battery pack is given a similar proportional capacity upgrade to the 2016 Nissan LEAF and 2017 Ford Focus EV.
Would you consider a longer-range Kia Soul EV? And how much would you pay for it if it were made?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.