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Replacing our EV with a Plug-in Hybrid

Donna and I leased an all-electic vehicle in 2014, the Kia Soul EV. We loved that car. It was larger that most of the EVs (great for toting tennis players and large objects from Home Depot). The best part about it was the "fuel" was free. That's right. A few years prior, we had solar panels installed. We had enough panels installed to take care of our projected household needs, and a few extra panels in case we ever got an electric car, which we did. The panels take care of all our needs, so we never pay anything to SDG&E, and charging the car is free. We had a 240V charging unit installed in the garage, which is the same as a Level 2 charger.

The initial range on the Soul EV was 93 miles. That's enough to do a lot of driving around town with miles to spare. We even made it from San Diego to Julian, recharged in Santa Isabel, and made it home with miles to spare. Unfortunately, as the years went buy, the maximum range degraded down to 60 miles or less. Still enough to get around town, but not enough to attempt any long road trips. Can you imagine stopping every 50 miles or so to charge the car for 20 to 30 minutes (and that's only if you can find a fast charging station)? Not! If the Soul had a range of 250 miles or so, like the Bolt or Tesla, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

So, when the lease was about to end, we started looking for a plug-in hybrid that could give us some all electric miles in town, and still allow us to manage long road trips. Nothing seemed to fit our needs in late 2017. They were either sedans with little storage capacity, or too small to meet Donna's comfort/safety size requirement. Fortunately, Kia introduced the Niro Plug-in Hybrid late last year. It met all our size requirements and had a decent EV range of 26 miles. They didn't start arriving into California until the first few weeks of 2018. We snapped up the first one that had the color and features that we wanted. Had to drive to El Centro to get it, but it was worth it. We leased again; the technology is changing to quickly at this point to consider buying.

Niro plugged in to home charger

It's working out well. Having a plug-in rather than a regular hybrid is critical to our strategy. We can charge up the battery for free, and drive around town in all-electric mode, barely using a drop of gas. As long as we don't use the heater (not a big deal in San Diego) or tromp on the accelerator, the gas engine is dormant until the battery is almost drained. And if we go on a long trip, we still get great gas mileage due to the combination of gas and electric fuel sources.

So, this is a good solution for now. It's not ideal, because we will still use some of the Earth's petroleum resources, but at least we can do our best to maximize the fuel we get directly from the Sun. Can't wait to see what is available in automotive technology three years from now, when our lease runs out.

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