Payne: Kia’s Niro electric SUV shrugs off the cold

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 21, 2019

The 2019 Kia Niro EV has a range of 239 miles and can be recharged on a 100 kWh fast-charger 9though they are rare in the Midwest).

The 2019 Kia Niro EV has a range of 239 miles and can be recharged on a 100 kWh fast-charger 9though they are rare in the Midwest). (Photo: Henry Payne, The Detroit News)

And now for something completely different. The battery-powered Kia Niro that suffers no range loss in cold weather.

This has been the winter of my battery discontent. I enjoy electric vehicles, from the Chevy Volt to the Hyundai Kona to my Tesla Model 3. They are all mass-market targeted with attractive designs, good cabin room and — in the case of the Kona and Niro (and the Volt’s sister Bolt EV) — utilitarian hatchbacks. They push the class envelope on acceleration, interior design and technology.

But they also push my patience with serious battery degradation when the weather gets frosty outside. Which is often in Michigan.

When the mercury drops below 40 degrees, battery range drops with it. At 30 degrees, range suffers by 25 percent. Under 20 degrees (including the sub-zero polar vortex this winter), range drops a dramatic 50 percent.

Not the Niro EV.

The little Kia arrived in my driveway this March in 31-degree weather with 163 miles of range left (fully charged the Niro promises a Chevy Bolt-like 239 miles). I jumped in for an afternoon’s adventure … but not too much of an adventure, mindful that I likely had just 115 miles of actual range.

The game was on. I logged 77 miles that day while losing just 70 miles off the battery, an unprecedented feat. And I wasn’t babying the Niro, either.

My journey took me across 70 mph interstates (hitting 80 mph at times, and a steady state of 75) as well as Detroit city traffic. Oakland County twisties. Meijer parking lots. I flogged the Kia in Eco, Normal and Sport modes just like every other EV I’ve driven.

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