Let me be clear, for this test I am not talking about sticking side skirts on my Sorento PHEV, drafting semis, or treating my go pedal like it's a delicate flower. I am just going to drive gently, accelerate smoothly, try to maximize regenerative braking, and choose a route that has a maximum speed limit of 45 mph (because I know faster than that is going to shorten the distance a full charge will take me). I live in a suburban area, but am fairly close to some two lane country roads that are just beautiful places to go for a drive.
I take these routes sometimes when I am going for a hike, trying to get around congestion on the main thoroughfares, or for a change of scenery. There are only small elevation changes on the route I have chosen (I am skirting the shins of the Cascade foothills), and the roads twist gently back and forth among fields and forests. It could be some people’s normal commute, but it is really more of a relaxing, Sunday drive in the countryside for me (only it's a Monday). I’ve picked a route that is a little less than 40 miles out and back and I drove just over a mile around my neighborhood before starting off. I think, because it is June and the weather is mild (with no need for air conditioning of any sort) and my speed won’t be that high, I can exceed 40 miles on a charge. Do you think it's possible to attain for this heavy, midsize SUV that is only EPA rated for 32 miles of battery only range? Let’s find out!
I reverse out of my driveway and glide down my quiet street, sticking to the 25-35 mph speed limits for about 3 miles, until I enter the unincorporated area of the county and the speed limit goes to 40 mph. At that point, there is nothing more than an occasional stoplight or 4 way stop, and lots and lots of trees, hills, trails, and fresh air.
I cruise at or just a couple miles below the speed limit, and there’s no traffic to speak of. The last 4 or 5 miles of the route has a 45 mph speed limit, and the largest hill I go up is a gradual half mile slope just a little ways before I end up at the county park that is my destination (a good place for a hike!). Overall, my route is close to 90% flat or gently undulating roads. I have my roof racks and stand-up paddle board mounts on my roof, but otherwise the vehicle is mostly empty, except for me. I think that this is the kind of driving someone would do on a weekend, or in the morning for a workout, perhaps a rural or suburban parent shuttling their kids to school, practice, and grocery getting. It is the opposite of freeway commuting, and perhaps a little less efficient than urban stop and go traffic (assuming people aren’t racing between stop lights).
At the end of my drive, I am completely impressed! I managed to eke out a hair under 41 miles of range from a full charge, without trying too hard. Sure, I didn’t drive too fast or accelerate with any more gusto than your typical Sunday (er Monday) driver. But the point is I didn’t have to. No one was honking at me, or zooming past me. I wasn’t in a hurry is all, I was taking my time and enjoying the quiet ride, fresh air, and beautiful scenery. Had I removed my roof racks and maybe driven in a place with more stop lights, I may have hit 42 or even 43 miles. I am very satisfied with these results though. I managed to achieve 3.66 miles per kWh, which at my electric rates (9 cents per kWh) means I paid a dollar to drive those 41 miles. That’s also the equivalent of one gallon of gas ($6.50 a gallon at the overpriced station down the street) getting me almost 267 miles in equivalent fuel cost. At times like these, that’s some serious savings.
Questions? Please leave any you may have, below.
Images provided by Justin Hart
Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 14 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.