June 3, 2019

Our Road to an Electric Vehicle (Part 2)

By: Rob Lowe

What about a 2019 Kia Niro EV?

Everything changed on one hand and came together on another, in late April 2019. My son, Peter is a Customer Experience Manager at our local Kia dealership (Brantford Kia.com) and one of his roles is to help both sales staff and potential customers understand the nuances of the many features that form a major part of a new car. One of the ways that he exposes these cars and features to the broader marketplace is through producing and uploading videos on their YouTube channel. His videos are often viewed by international prospects and he receives questions and comments from all around the world. This prompts him to seek out information that is often not readily available through the dealer channels. His natural interest in cars grew from a very young age and he has worked as a car reviewer for Canada’s largest newspaper company. All this leads to his ability to tell viewers more about the cars than almost anyone else.

The dealership has been able to piggyback on this interest and sell cars before they are officially offered ‘for sale’. Such was the case with the Kia Stinger, the Kia Telluride and the Kia Niro EV. Of the EV, they had seven orders with deposits before the car was officially available in Canada. To put that in perspective, during the month of April 2019, there were 40 Niro EV cars delivered in the whole United States. His dealership had 7 Niro EV orders by then!

One day during this time Peter called and asked if I could assist the dealership, since they needed to pick up a new car from the Toronto area car marshalling yard and drive it back to the dealership. I agreed. Then he called again to inform me that I would be driving back to the dealership, the first Niro EV to be sold in Canada (one of the seven). The joke was that given my experience with electric motorcycles, if I needed to fast charge it, I’d have the App to find a suitable charging station on route!    

We arrived at the yard and it had more than enough charge, so I proceeded to drive back. Something that only I could truly appreciate, was a warning on the dash display to ‘Turn On FuseSwitch’ before driving!! As the innovator of and with our company being the source for all RVing FuseSwitch™, Bypass and Fusemaster switches used in RV tow vehicle applications, I truly could appreciate it. Believe it or not, all Kia’s have a yellow FuseSwitch mounted right in the center of the dash fuse panel that turns off many features during transport to prevent excessive battery drain. We immediately had a bond! Turning it on and all was good.

Driving the Niro EV & Our Dilemma

What an experience to be surrounded by cars on local streets and major highways in the Toronto area driving an electric car that nobody there had ever driven. As I drove it, I began to appreciate the design and features of the car. If differs from a Tesla by having non-unique styling, a conventional dash panel, is front wheel drive and it is a subcompact SUV (often referred to as a Crossover) with a rear hatch. It immediately appealed, although I had no intention of buying one at that point. As an electric vehicle owner, I was curious to see if the range to my destination could be improved upon as I drove back to the dealership. The car’s computer calculates the expected range based on numerous inputs of information and continually updates and displays it as you drive. I found that by the time I arrived at the dealership, a trip of about 80 km (or 50 miles) that I had picked up 20 km (12 miles) of range from what had been predicted when I began my trip. The power of regenerative braking and energy efficiency made its mark on that trip.

Afterwards, I began to ponder whether this might be our next car. I researched online and checked out Peter’s online videos among others. Reports by electric vehicle journalists all gave it high marks, noting that it would be very hard to get one, given the limited numbers coming to North America this year. Everyone had an opinion, however all agreed that the good range and the ’easy to drive’ capability would make it a popular EV.

I thought that if we were going to take delivery of one, that we’d lease it, rather than cash in some investments at this time and knowing that as time progressed numerous improvements would be made, making a newer version available at the end of the lease even better. I called Peter to ask if the dealership would lease one and he responded ‘Yes’. The next morning, he called me and asked if I’d be interested in taking one of the Niro EV’s that a customer had pre-ordered and would not be taking? While they had one available now, it would likely be gone within one to two days. Coincidentally, the Federal Government had just instituted a $5,000 rebate on Electric Vehicles however with a Federal election in the Fall of 2019, there was already speculation about how long that incentive program would last. I decided to look at this opportunity carefully, calling my wife, who was out on an errand and asked if she could meet me at the dealership. We test drove the car, looking at the decision to take it closely. We asked ourselves numerous questions that would factor into out decision: How do we tow it? What to do with our perfectly good Buick Envision tow car?  Is now the time to jump into an electric car? Do we lease or buy? Who do we know that might buy our Buick and value it as a tow car? How will we do the long trips back from the south in the Fall without taking several days longer each way?  …and so on. Questions that all factor into a decision. We decided to leave a deposit, promising to confirm within a day. 

At one point, I thought that it was not the right time. I returned to the dealership and talked with our salesman, to convey my thinking. He understood the issue, however he also suggested that given the volume of these cars that their dealership had already sold, the chances of getting another in a reasonable time frame was low, and there was real concern that the rebate would disappear after the Fall election. A lot of our decision hinged on trading in a fine tow car that was not being valued as such. We agreed that we could try to sell our car for a day or two and agreed on the pricing to buy, to lease, with and without the trade-in. I had already located an almost new Tow Dolly that would be fine, tentatively committing to buying it, then in a short time we crossed the objections off the list one by one. When the possible buyers for our trade-in decided not to proceed, we then knew how we would structure the acquisition. The next day we firmed up the deal and asked for a few days to remove the tow braking system and get the trade-in ready to deliver to the dealership. We also needed the time to firm up the Tow Dolly purchase and get it home. We located a storage space for it during that time as well. Everything ‘fell’ into place as if we had been planning this transition over a much longer timeframe.

Taking Delivery, Getting Acquainted and Charging

Delivery went well and after our salesman guided us through the legal documents, Peter gave us his tour through the car’s features and systems. My wife drove our new Niro home and loved it! We both were overwhelmed with many of its features and systems and knew that there was a learning curve ahead of us. Within a week we were able to comfortably drive it, although we had only scratched the surface on the many neat things it could do.

While it came with a portable Level 1 (120V) charger which could take a completely dead battery back to full charge in 59 hours, (which would practically never occur) that can be used anywhere, the Niro EV also comes with a Level 2 (230V, 16 amp) higher capacity battery charger. We decided to upgrade it further for a 40 Amp version that plugged into a receptacle similar to that for an electric stove or the traditional 50 Amp RV receptacle.  It allows much faster charging (approximately 9 hours from dead to 100%) and gives the option of taking the charger with us to plug it into a RV park’s 50 Amp power pedestal. The decision to take it and its 7.6M (25 feet) of 50 Amp power cord with us would have to be balanced against the need to quick charge while RVing versus using the included Class 1 charger and a typical overnight charge while on a RV trip. Another consideration is that the plug on the charger goes into the socket upside down from the way a RV cord plugs in, so that the cord flows upwards from the plug receptacle rather than flowing down as it would with a RV power cord. That may make it hard to use at some RV pedestals. There is always the option of using quick DC chargers that are becoming ever more popular and are frequently located along major travel routes. We already learned that it is common to charge to about 80% on a trip since that amount of charge goes relatively quickly; it is the last 20% that takes a long time to complete.


Regenerative Braking

One of the features that we both really appreciate is the regenerative braking that allows low, medium, or high slowing of the vehicle as it recaptures braking energy to recharge the battery. The amount of regeneration can be pre-set using the various vehicle profiles included, however with the steering wheel mounted paddles, the amount of regeneration can be instantly increased or decreased. Using this feature, reminds us of a RV’s exhaust or Jake brake, except that in this case, the energy is restored to the EVs batteries, extending the overall range. Just as on a RV, the brake lights come when the regenerative braking is used. Most of the time you can drive the Niro EV using just the accelerator pedal (known as one pedal driving). Rarely is there a need to touch the brake! Another benefit is that the interior of the car can be preheated or cooled with the air conditioning while still plugged in, using a Smartphone App, before your trip so that when you enter the car, it is as warm or cool as you desire and your range is not compromised. Another benefit of an electric vehicle is that that there is no engine warm up time; it is ready to be instantly driven away!


Overall, the Niro EV has already impressed us with its quality, features, size, energy efficiency and ride and handling. We look forward to learning to use more of its features. Best of all, we can take this economical vehicle with us on our RV travels, if we choose to do so.  I will continue to describe that process of preparing to tow it in another blog posting.    


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