Kia e-Niro owner’s story: what I’ve learnt from a year with an EV

Are the benefits outweighed by the cons of switching to an electric vehicle?

One year ago, I made the decision to swap my BMW X5 M daily driver and my 12-month-old Ford Puma for a Kia e-Niro3 64kWh and a Renault Zoe R135 50kWh batteries.

The Hyundai Kona Electric was the first EV with a significant range when it first appeared in 2018. I drove it 350 miles from my home in Oxfordshire to Edinburgh to get the facts and write Autocar. This was not a one-off trip, but something I did several times per year to visit my family.

It worked for me because I am a tech-nut. But I will not accept that it doesn’t. If EVs are going to replace conventional cars, they must be the same price and offer the same convenience.

The trip was a success. I am certain that the current generation of affordable EVs can handle the range. However, the rapid charging network that covers long distances is inadequate.

The trip was repeated in the e-Niro test vehicle the next year. It was easier partly because I had mastered the art of anticipating infrastructure issues.

Since then, I have moved to West Lothian to make a longer trip to Essex. Six of the 800-mile round trips were done in the eNiro. Another was to Uttoxeter headquarters of JCB to document the fascinating hydrogen story. It was 261 miles each.

I love driving the Kia. It has so many important details that it is one of my favorite packages.

During the pandemic, when I am limited to local mileage, I charge my phone on a wall charger about once every 10 days. This is a huge plus as I find it tedious to stop at filling stations.

The range estimates of the e-Niro are accurate and the information screen updates when you use more energy like when the heating is turned on. The range showed 255 miles on a full charger, dropping to 219 with the heating on, just a few minutes prior to I started to write this.

Heating the steering wheel and seats doesn’t seem like it makes a big difference. Does the difference in heating on and heating off make it bad? It’s not. EVs are much more efficient than conventional cars and use less energy.

The e-Niro includes the “UVO” smartphone app, which works a treat. It gives information about the car’s battery state, but its main benefit is remote locking/pre-conditioning the cabin temperature, regardless of whether it’s plugged into.

I have included heated seats and steering wheels in the settings to speed up the interior’s heating. The car communicates with the internet via Bluetooth and not Bluetooth so it doesn’t have to be visible or close by.

It’s also important to remember that EV charging is only for electric vehicles, whereas it is not required for petrol or diesel cars.

Gridserve chargers can’t always be trusted 100% so it’s best to plan charging stops with enough range to reach another alternative. An EV is not the same as a petrol-diesel vehicle.

You may not find enough charging at your destination, or fast enough, but there are many tools such as Zap Map and the eNiro’s own nav system that keeps you updated with information about upcoming charges.

Google Maps via Carplay is my preferred navigation tool, but I can keep the Niro system running in the background if that’s what I need.

After a year of EV-only transportation, I believe the ideal range for an EV to travel is about 320 miles. A lot more is not really needed considering the price of batteries.

Why 300 miles? Although the e-Niro’s quoted range is 280 miles, I estimate 250. If you are working in winter conditions, add 220 for the buffer to find a charger that works. It would be a good idea to keep an extra 40 miles in your back pocket.

It’s important to remember that a rapid charger will only give you 80% of the charge at high speed, so if you’re on a trip over 400 miles using trunk routes such as the M6, it won’t be possible to charge your vehicle at a speed that’s feasible for a road trip. It takes between 45 and 50 minutes depending on how much battery life you have.

The power at a particular site can also affect the reliability of Gridserve chargers.

After stopping at Tebay, everyone’s favorite, on the M6 shortly after the chargers were upgraded, one of them reported that there wasn’t enough power coming into the device to charge it.

Soon after lockdown, the place was still heaving. Probably because the services were sucking huge amounts of power from its supply.

Giving EV refuelling some thought is that you can also think about how much energy you are using, which in turn saves you money.

EVs are much cheaper to operate than traditional cars, and they come with no road tax, low insurance, and home charging that is even more affordable.

At 15p/kWh, I get a steady 3.7 mile/kWh from my e-Niro. 250 miles per home charge is around PS10. Even with the possibility of rising energy prices, this is still a huge win compared to paying over PS100 per month for diesel in an X5.

It has been great fun to own an EV. It’s fun to drive and it has been reliable 100% of the time.

For daily use, the pros outweigh the cons. These cars are currently on PCP, so any EV-related residual risk risks are the finance company’s, and not mine). I’ll happily swap them for a shorter range, cheaper EV. It’s rarely used for long distances.

Although EVs remain expensive, I believe they will be more affordable if I select the right vehicle. I cannot wait to see what’s available when that time comes.