I say this with enthusiasm because, while we bought the Sorento PHEV back in September of last year and I did do one other road trip, just a few short weeks after we bought it someone smashed out a rear passenger window and we spent five months waiting for a replacement. But now, with our window replaced, we’re finally ready to hit the open road and see just what this electrified 3 row SUV is capable of.
Besides all of the beautiful scenery, fresh air and intoxicating brews, I am looking forward to seeing just what kind of fuel efficiency I can expect from a long road trip, loaded up with gear and people, in our new PHEV SUV.
Day 1: We pack up our gear, making sure to bring the charging cable and a heavy duty 10 gauge extension cord to make use of opportunity charging along our route. A full tank of gas and full charge shows a range of 432 miles, slightly below the advertised range, which is most likely due to not completely filling the tank past the cut-off point, and the efficiency results of my most recent drives. We have a timeshare condo just outside of Bend, Oregon that happens to have free EV charging on-site and we intend to take advantage of it while we are there. We also plan on stopping in to visit some family en route and charge up once or twice during the drive, but otherwise will drive mostly in hybrid mode getting to and from our destination. It is springtime in the Pacific Northwest and the weather is either stunningly beautiful or dreary, cold and wet. Lucky for us, the trip starts with mostly sunny skies and temperatures close to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It doesn’t get much better than this.
The first leg of our journey isn’t that far. We are driving only about 61 miles to my brother’s house in Olympia, Washington where we’ll spend the night, get a charge, and enjoy the company of wonderful people whose company we cherish. We load up about 700 pounds of humans and stuff and though I don’t anticipate needing them, I have installed our cross bars on the roof rails. I am curious if the unladen cross bars will have much impact on fuel economy for this trip, but I don’t expect them to because on my previous car, a Chevy Volt, only when the bulky cargo box was also installed did I see a roughly 20% decrease in efficiency. There was no significant difference otherwise.
We depart late in the morning and do about a dozen miles of driving on urban streets, almost entirely in EV mode, before we hit the crowded freeway traffic we are well accustomed to. The volume of vehicles on Interstate 5 south and the pace of traffic mean that our average speed is about 45 mph. We frequently can get to the speed limit and above, but there are long stretches, for miles at a time, where we can not go faster than 30 mph and several stretches where we come to a complete stop. The upside of this slower than preferred driving experience is that we get outstanding fuel efficiency, considering the size, weight and aerodynamic efficiency of our midsize SUV.
The interstate undulates up and down hills for the rest of the journey to my brother’s house and we switch back to EV mode from HEV mode whenever the traffic slows us to less than 50 mph (which is the case through most of the Fife and Tacoma area). In spots, we are able to coast and break down long hills, regaining at times a percent or two of battery charge on a single hill. Once we pass Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Tacoma, we switch back to EV mode for the duration of the trip because we have enough battery range to make it the rest of the way. At our destination, the Drive Info screen shows that we got 62.1 mpg on our trip to my brother’s house with about 7 miles of range left on the battery. I waited just a little too long to switch and the gas engine boosted our drive up the last steep hill coming into the Olympia area out of the Nisqually basin. Feeling very proud of our results, achieved with no other effort than trying to drive smoothly (i.e. not accelerating hard or breaking too fast, which we mostly managed to do), we head out to a local watering hole for a refreshing reward. Our next day of driving will take us the remainder of the 300+ miles to the Bend area. Cheers and let us know your thoughts on this first leg of the journey, below.
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.