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The 2023 Kia Soul EV: An In-Depth Look at Kia‘s First Electric SUV for the US Market

The electric vehicle market is experiencing explosive growth, with sales in the US nearly doubling in 2021 to over 600,000 units and dozens of new models hitting the roads. One of the latest entrants is the 2023 Kia Soul EV, an all-electric version of the popular compact SUV. As Kia‘s first dedicated EV for the American market, the Soul EV represents a major milestone in the Korean automaker‘s electrification journey.

I‘ve been closely following the development of the Soul EV and recently had a chance to examine it up close at a Kia media event. As a digital technology expert, I was particularly interested in the electric drivetrain, battery pack, charging capabilities, and interior tech. Here are my detailed insights and analysis of this intriguing new electric crossover.

Under the Hood: A Closer Look at the Soul EV‘s Electric Powertrain

The 2023 Soul EV is powered by a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor mounted on the front axle. This highly efficient AC motor generates an impressive 201 horsepower (150 kW) and 291 pound-feet (395 Nm) of torque, a substantial increase over the 109 hp and 210 lb-ft in the previous generation Soul EV sold in Europe. The single-speed transmission provides smooth and seamless acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in around 7 seconds.

Specification 2023 Kia Soul EV
Motor Type Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
Power Output 201 hp (150 kW)
Torque Output 291 lb-ft (395 Nm)
Transmission Single-speed
0-60 mph Acceleration 7.2 seconds
Top Speed 104 mph (167 km/h)

The motor is energized by a state-of-the-art liquid-cooled lithium-ion polymer (LiPo) battery pack with a usable capacity of 64 kWh (180 Ah). Developed in-house by Kia, this high-density battery utilizes nickel-rich NCM811 cathode chemistry to achieve an impressive energy density of 250 Wh/kg.

The battery pack is neatly integrated into the vehicle floor, providing a low center of gravity for better handling and maximizing interior space. The pack is also designed for durability, with a battery heating system for cold weather operation and an advanced thermal management system to maintain optimal cell temperatures. Kia warranties the battery for 10 years or 100,000 miles against defects and guarantees a minimum 70% of original capacity over that period.

Battery Specification Detail
Battery Type Lithium-ion Polymer
Cathode Chemistry Nickel-Cobalt-Manganese (NCM) 811
Pack Capacity 64 kWh
Nominal Voltage 356V
Energy Density 250 Wh/kg
Range (EPA est.) 243 miles (391 km)
DC Fast Charge (10-80%) 54 min at 50 kW
78 min at 100 kW
Level 2 Charge (10-100%) 9 hrs 35 min at 6.6 kW
Battery Warranty 10 years / 100,000 miles

When it comes time to recharge, the Soul EV offers multiple options. Using a 50 kW DC fast charger, the battery can go from 10% to 80% capacity in just 54 minutes. Stepping up to a 100 kW charger cuts that time to 78 minutes. For Level 2 240V charging at home or public stations, expect a full recharge from 10% to take around 9 hours with the 6.6 kW on-board charger.

The Soul EV also supports vehicle-to-load (V2L) reverse charging, allowing you to power electronics and appliances directly from the car‘s battery at up to 1.9 kW using a special adapter. This could come in handy for camping trips, tailgating, power outages, worksites, and more.

Trim Levels, Pricing, and Equipment

Kia will offer the 2023 Soul EV in two trim levels: the well-equipped base EX and the feature-packed Designer Collection.

The EX starts at $33,145 after applying the $7,500 federal tax credit, making it one of the most affordable long-range electric SUVs on the market. For that price, you get an impressive array of standard features including:

  • 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
  • Wireless phone charging
  • Heated front seats
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control
  • LED projector headlights
  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Forward collision avoidance, blind-spot monitoring, lane keep assist
  • Rear cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control with stop-and-go
  • Remote keyless entry with walk-away auto lock
  • 7-inch digital instrument cluster
  • 6-speaker audio system

Stepping up to the Designer Collection ($37,545 after tax credit) adds several desirable upgrades:

  • Power sunroof
  • Leatherette-trimmed seats
  • Heated steering wheel
  • 10-way power driver‘s seat with lumbar
  • Ventilated front seats
  • Speaker mood lighting
  • Rear center armrest
  • Head-up display
  • SiriusXM satellite radio
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Wireless phone charger

Compared to rivals like the Chevy Bolt EUV, Volkswagen ID.4, Hyundai Kona Electric, and Nissan Ariya, the Soul EV offers competitive pricing and a generous list of standard tech and safety features. For example, the ID.4 and Ariya both start over $40,000 while the Bolt EUV offers less range at 247 miles. The Tesla Model Y is roomier and sportier but costs nearly $20,000 more to start.

Infotainment and Connectivity

At the heart of the Soul EV‘s dashboard is the standard 10.25-inch high-resolution touchscreen, one of the largest in the class. The widescreen display provides crisp, colorful graphics and split-screen functionality for multitasking. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard for easy smartphone integration, while built-in Bluetooth allows for hands-free calls and audio streaming.

Kia‘s UVO link connected car system offers an array of remote features through the smartphone app, smartwatch app, or in-car SIM card:

  • Check vehicle status and charging progress
  • Schedule charging times to take advantage of lower electricity rates
  • Remotely start or stop charging
  • Activate climate preconditioning before entering the vehicle
  • Find charging stations and send the location to your car‘s navigation system
  • Use Alexa or Google voice assistants to control functions remotely

Other notable tech features include available wireless phone charging, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster, a head-up display, and a 10-speaker Harman/Kardon premium audio system. There are also two front USB ports, a 12V power outlet, and an available 110V household-style AC power outlet.

Battery Technology and Second-Life Applications

Kia has invested heavily in battery R&D over the past decade and has developed its own proprietary lithium-ion cell chemistries in partnership with SK Innovation. The Soul EV‘s pouch-style cells use a nickel-rich NCM811 cathode material, which provides high energy density and long lifespan but is also more expensive than conventional cells.

To offset those costs and improve sustainability, Kia is exploring ways to reuse and recycle EV batteries once they reach the end of their useful life in vehicles. Even after degrading to 70-80% of their original capacity, these "second-life" batteries still have value for stationary energy storage applications.

Kia has partnered with energy companies and utilities on pilot projects using retired Soul EV battery packs for backup power, renewable energy integration, and EV fast charging support. The company is also researching new battery chemistries like solid-state electrolytes to improve energy density, safety, and cost for future EVs.

Market Outlook and Conclusion

The 2023 Kia Soul EV arrives at an opportune time, as demand for affordable long-range electric vehicles is growing rapidly. In Q4 2022, EVs accounted for 6.1% of new light-duty vehicle sales in the US, up from 3.2% a year earlier, according to Cox Automotive. The market share is projected to exceed 10% in 2023 as new models like the Soul EV hit the streets and charging infrastructure expands.

Kia is well-positioned to capitalize on this growth, with plans to launch 11 new EV models globally by 2026 and build a dedicated EV factory in America. The Soul EV will help bring the brand‘s fun and funky design to a wider audience while showcasing its impressive EV technology.

With its spacious and tech-filled interior, ample driving range, and attractive pricing, the 2023 Soul EV has the potential to be a popular choice among eco-conscious consumers and first-time EV buyers. Its crossover body style and practical features make it a great fit for small families and urban commuters alike.

As more people experience the benefits of driving electric – the instant torque, low operating costs, reduced emissions, and cutting-edge tech – vehicles like the Kia Soul EV will play a key role in accelerating the transition to a cleaner transportation future. With its unique blend of style, substance, and value, the Soul EV proves you don‘t have to sacrifice personality or practicality to go electric.