Step One For A Project Car: A Good Daily Driver

Photo: Mike

The pitch of electrification is frequently about environmentalism and efficiency, saving the planet by cutting our dependence on oil. A less-discussed aspect of electrification that I see in this week’s story is one of freedom: freedom to stop worrying about commuting in a project or spending your garage hours working on your daily. This week’s Jalopnik reader, Mike, has discovered that he can do both — commute and have the time to fuss around the workshop — with one car.


Welcome to EV Ownership Stories! Every week, we’ll be posting an interview with an owner of an electric vehicle. We’re here to show that people have been living with EVs for longer than you’d think, in stranger places than you’d imagine. If you’d like to be featured, instructions are at the bottom of the article.

Mike is a Jalop to his core. He’s had modified Subarus, an International Scout, a ’56 Lincoln, and he currently has an old Tacoma (regular cab, manual transmission, be still my heart!) he’s turning into a drift truck. He shares the passion we all have for turning wrenches. His daily driver, however, is a 2016 Kia Soul EV, an oft-forgotten electric offering from the Korean manufacturer that wasn’t even sold across the entire United States until several years after its launch. As a car, Mike summarizes it like so:

As a car lover it’s boring as hell. I think of it as a transportation appliance. Like a dishwasher taking you to work. Ironic for a car called a Soul, since it has none.

Having driven a gas-powered Soul, I can say that soullessness is a trait the ICE version also shares. Why would someone so enthusiastic for cars end up with an appliance like this for a daily? And why end up with the relatively obscure Kia EV?

For Mike, the answer is twofold. He lives in Maine, which has only one electricity provider, and it was charging him heavily for “delivery fees.” (That’s something I had never heard of, although as a Texan, I’m clearly in no position to critique another state’s power grid.) Additionally, his water was heated by a fuel oil system, which was extremely expensive and inefficient. As a result, he made the decision to decouple from both the state grid and the oil heater, instead fully powering his home with a solar array on his roof.


With complete independence from the power grid, at a significant cost savings, Mike installed a Level 2 charger in his garage. He used the rebates from his solar array to purchase the used Soul after cross-shopping with an i3 (“[too] expensive and would likely be a nightmare to have serviced”), a Leaf (“ugly and had less hatch space [than the Kia]”), and a Volt (“didn’t want the extra complexity of any gas junk to deal with”). The Bolt that the Chevy showroom had in stock was broken on the sales floor as well, leaving Mike with a bad taste. Tesla was immediately out of the question, as the lack of right to repair and difficulty getting parts through the dealer network made him uncomfortable with the idea of owning one to daily.

The Kia fit his needs perfectly. It had a normal interior interface with enough range for a daily drive, at a price that he could pay for with the credits and rebates from his solar install. The Kia has a typical Soul interface and form, saving him from having a screen heavy, EV-flavored interior or strange exterior in his daily, which wasn’t his preference. It gets 90-odd miles of range in the summer and more than 60 miles in the winter. Its only maintenance job in over two years of ownership has been a cabin air filter. It’s a champ for commutes and groceries. With the solar array and level 2 charger in his garage, it’s completely free for him to charge up. It takes less than four hours for a full battery from completely drained.


That brings us to the second part of Mike’s reasoning for the Soul EV. “It gives us financial freedom, less worry and simply works. [...] We have other cars for Jalopnik style fun.” The maintenance and cost-free operation of a regular four-wheeled appliance lets Mike have the time for the fun cars we all love. He’s left behind the anxiety that when he turns the key to get to work, something new will have gone wrong.

Photo: Mike

And it’s cute, too, as the Halloween costume Mike made for it clearly demonstrates! Appliances at least can be adorable.

The best start to any car project is a solid daily driver, in my opinion, and Mike has figured out how to do that with as little cost and few worries as humanly possible. Thanks for sharing your story, Mike, and I can’t wait to see your drift truck! We’d love to hear from more readers about their EVs, modern or classic, factory or otherwise.


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How was buying it?

How long have you had it?

How has it lived up to your expectations?

A photo of your car

If you want to be interviewed, please let us know an email with an re: EV Ownership Stories to tscott at jalopnik dot com!

Collectrix of Vintage Hondas and High Priestess of the Church of Slam It On Wats. Freelancer at Jalopnik. she/her


Rail of rust dust

Ok I'm sold on ev ownership.  But I need more details on his solar setup. How many kw's?  What's his storage setup, powerwall?  Whatever generac calls their battery?  Homemade lead acid setup?  Because if he completely cut ties to the grid he needs something.  What was his total cost of the solar and backup system? What was his annual electric bill?