Let’s look at the facts first. The Kia Sorento PHEV weighs about 250 - 300 pounds more than the Rav 4 Prime. But more importantly, it is 8 inches longer and 2 inches wider (and essentially the same height). The Sorento PHEV has less distance between its underbelly and the ground, at 6.9 inches of ground clearance, to Toyota’s 8.4 inches. That ground clearance may be equally as important to the overall efficiency as the other measurements I listed. Taken together, these may explain a slight Kia advantage, but it may also be due in part to other factors like the efficiency of the respective electric motors, the types of tires each uses, aerodynamics, etc. These are all possible factors that one could study with the right tools (tools which I lack). So I am going to somewhat crudely compare the EPA rated ranges and estimated usable battery capacities of each, as well as some real world user reported data, to narrow in on what I think the difference in electric powered efficiency is, however small it may be.
The Rav 4 Prime is rated in the US by the EPA for 42 miles of battery only range. I recently surveyed several Rav 4 Prime drivers on social media too for some context, and they reported ranges of between 32 and 77 miles on a full charge. The 77 mile claim came with the clarification that it was mostly downhill, on back roads and in warm temps so it is certainly a fringe case. The Rav 4 Prime has an 18.1 kWh battery, of which perhaps 14.5 kWh is usable (or a little more, depending; I saw some one claim of 14.9 kWh). The Sorento has a 13.8 kWh battery, of which 11.8 kWh is estimated to be usable.
Let’s plug in some real world figures for each, too. I have driven my Kia Sorento PHEV about 9,000 miles so far, and my lifetime miles per kWh figure is about 3.2. That means I am averaging around 38 miles of range per full charge, over time. The longest I have driven on a single charge was about 43 miles, or about 34% more than the EPA rated range and the shortest range I have gotten in less than ideal conditions is about 29 miles (happened once in cold, wet weather, with snow tires mounted, a completely full car, roof racks on and mostly highway driving), or about 10% less than the stated range. I also surveyed other Sorento PHEV drivers on social media to see what their best range on a full charge was. 49 miles was the highest and would be about 53% more than the EPA rated range. That was on a trip done on backroads at 40-50 mph, on flat ground, with no need for air conditioning (not quite as ideal as the 77 mile scenario the one Rav 4 Prime driver had, but still quite good). I mention all these user reported figures because I think it matters that people know it is possible to significantly exceed the range and efficiency figures the EPA provides, or to do worse (as a few people called out for both models), depending on how you drive it and what the conditions are. If we stick to the EPA ranges and full battery sizes as in the third paragraph, the two PHEVs have miles per kWh figures within a tenth of a mile, or two, of each other (2.8 - 2.9 miles per kWh for the Rav 4 Prime and 2.7 for the Sorento PHEV). Given that the Kia is about 4% longer, 3% wider, and 6% heavier though, the Kia seems as if it could be a little more efficient, on paper, since they have nearly the same range per kWh. Of course it does all come down to how one drives, and in what conditions. Also of concern: how easy is it to achieve the best efficiency? The Toyota is geared toward more straight line power, and it has the larger battery and more powerful electric drive motor so it may be harder (or easier) to keep it in the most efficient range.
I realize I am, at best, splitting hairs. But what do you think? Does the Kia impress you as much or more than the Toyota? Please leave your comments and questions below.
Images courtesy of Toyota and Justin Hart.
Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Twitter for daily KIA EV news coverage.