It’s never been easier to switch to an electric car. No, I don’t want to hear your excuses about range, performance, or charging infrastructure. Odds are good that today—right now—for a significant portion of Americans (especially those who own gas-powered hatchbacks), an electric car has never made more sense. The 2019 Kia Niro EV I recently drove proves that. Here’s why:
You don’t give up anything in performance
Unlike a lot of hybrids, which can feel slow, lifeless, and lethargic, electric cars like the Niro EV are shockingly (no pun intended) fun to drive. The Niro EV is powered by an electric motor good for 201 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque. When you nail the throttle—as I often did—it hunkers down on its rear haunches and launches forward near instantly. Unlike a hybrid backed by a CVT, the power in an electric car like the Niro is always readily available. The Niro handles well, too, with direct, responsive steering that’s a set of summer tires away from replicating a hot hatch.
Range anxiety is becoming a thing of the past
The latest batch of EVs, including the Niro, are capable of going farther on a full battery than ever before. The Kia is among the best in class, netting an EPA-estimated range of 239 miles. Yes, a standard Niro hybrid has longer legs, but the EV’s range (as well as similar range out of competitors like the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Hyundai Kona EV) make it easy for most urban Americans—who are coincidentally those least likely to have access to an at-home charger—to get through a week without charging.
Suburban and rural Americans probably have it even easier than their urban counterparts. Electric cars like the Niro have plenty of range for a typical weekly hour-and-a-half drive from a small town to the nearest Walmart for groceries and back again, and the increased likelihood of at-home charging capability gives suburbanites an advantage that most urban apartment dwellers don’t yet have.
Which brings me to my next point.
Charging is getting easier
I’m not gonna lie to you—it’s still far easier to charge a Tesla via the automaker’s Supercharger network than it is to plug in your Niro, Kona, Bolt, or even Leaf while on the road. Tesla’s network is far more expansive, but the charging infrastructure for the rest of us is rapidly catching up.
For example, Electrify America, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, is rapidly building a Level 2 and Level 3 fast charger network across the country. Its networks are also compatible with ChargePoint (and vice versa), which already has a growing network nationwide. Google Maps has also recently added a feature that lets you search for EV charging stations nearby, and it’ll also tell you how many charging spots are currently open.
Charging speeds are picking up, too. Although it’s obviously still faster to refuel a gas-powered car, a full charge from empty on the Niro EV (a rare scenario in an EV; most folks charge up as they go throughout their week) takes a little more than an hour on a Level 3 fast charger (or up to 9.5 hours on a Level 2 charger, the type you’d typically install at your house). Tesla’s chargers can recharge a battery in less than an hour, but traditional automakers are slowly but surely catching up.
Although electric cars aren’t yet the right choice for every car buyer in America, for a quickly growing minority, they’re finally starting to make a lot of sense.
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