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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,
Evidently the PHEV won't maintain the hybrid battery indefinitely. I just drove my 2019 PHEV Niro continuously for 350 miles, from sea level to 7k feet in elevation. The last 25 miles were up the Sherwin grade in CA - 3k feet uphill in just over over 25 miles. I cruise-controlled it most of the way, 75+. Two adults, bags, 2 mountain bikes, and a heavier than average hitch mounted bike rack. All cargo, including passengers, +/- 600 lbs. Mild winter weather, 55 deg. Fahrenheit.

I always chose EV and let the car switch modes as needed. Obviously the car quicly depleted the 26 miles of EV range, and switched to HEV. I assumed that the car would handle the route, albeit steep and high altitude toward the end, and handle maintaining the battery depletion/charging without my intervention. I was wrong. About 1/2 up the final steep grade the car seems labored and I noted the battery was completely depleted. Within a couple miles the car was really struggling and I alternated between occasional 5minute full stops and and driving the shoulder at about 20mph.

I've looked through the owner's manual and don't see anything suggesting that the car wouldn't handle this trip in stride. Waiting for a call back from the Kia dealer, but I'm open to suggestions from you all on what this car should be reasonably capable of. Why "shouldn't" it maintain the battery perfectly under these conditions? Would've using the HEV immediately (preserving the 26miles) helped? Go easy on me, please!
 

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With your load, speed, and grade and then not starting the grade with more in the battery I think it just ran out of battery assistance. The car gets great economy by using a small engine and putting anything leftover in the battery and then pulling it back when needed. If you had used sport mode for a while before hitting the grade it may have been able to build up additional charge sufficient to use all the way up the grade. Or take the grade at 55 and run the tach up with a manual downshift. I think this is an application where the engine alone did not have enough power. 7500ft will also see a reduction in engine power. Let's say a more powerful PHEV vehicle was used then it would probably be rated at 10mpg less. It's all a trade off. If a long stretch of power demand is anticipated then save the battery charge for that time and start out in HEV. It would be good to try repeating the drive but start at the long grade with a nearly full charge. I'll bet it would do fine.
 

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As mentioned, there are fringe use cases that any hybrid simply won't be able to maintain the battery enough to continue providing EV assist. Climbing a mountain pass at freeway speeds and a loaded car is one of them. The PHEV attempts to keep the battery at least 16%, but the continuous drain climbing the pass was simply too much for it. Shifting to Sport mode might have helped, or it might not have made a difference. As I said, this is a fringe scenario that isn't normally encountered.

Would switching to HEV or Sport mode in advance of the steep climb have made a difference? Absolutely. Even if you're using the factory navigation system, it really doesn't recognize that you have a significant climb coming. There is talk about a smarter nav for EVs that takes terrain into account, but I'm not certain any have actually made the market yet. And even those are for routing, not possibly switching operational modes based on expected elevation changes on the route ahead.

When I had my Niro, I always used HEV mode when I got on the freeway for a long distance drive. I preferred saving the EV power for the town driving at the destination. In your case, I might have switched to Sport mode in advance of the pass climb, to let the car charge the battery as much as possible in advance of the climb. But all that said, I've never driven on a pass with such a long and high climb. I have no idea what state of charge I would have had at the top. The highest passes I've climbed is Snoqualmie at 3000' (freeway speeds on I-90) and Chinook at 5400' (much slower speeds on a two lane road), both starting from my home near sea level.
 

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The problem is that the ICE only has only 104hp and 109 torques. That's not a lot for a car with a 3400lb curb weight to start with and by your description you were pushing around 2 tons. Physics is an unforgiving mistress. On long grade that little power is gonna have problems holding speed.

I love the Niro but at the end of the day it's a fairly large vehicle with a pretty small engine. For comparison, the Kia Sportage is comparable in size and it comes with a minimum of 180hp/175torques with an option for 240hp/260torques. The conventional CUV starts with 30% more power over a fully charged plug-in. In your case, with the battery flat, the base Sportage has ~75% more horsepower than the hybrid :oops:.

Hybrids are amazing examples of engineering. They help squeeze every last erg from a gallon of gasoline. However, there are compromises. Hybrids tend to have smaller, less powerful gas engines, both to increase efficiency and reduce weight. That's great under most conditions where the electric motor can pull from the battery to add more thrust. Unfortunately there will be corner cases like yours, where you've run out of juice in the battery and you're left with the relatively anemic ICE dragging a heavy vehicle up a long hill. That's not gonna go well.
 

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Simply put, you were asking too much from the vehicle. Every vehicle has its limits. If you want better performance in the mountains then you need to slow down and use sport mode while shifting to keep the gas engine in its power band so that the electric motor does not deplete the battery as quickly.


I too have depleted the battery before. Cruise control set to 95 mph(speed limit was 85) with a head wind. Going up a slight hill I noticed the speed dropping with the gas engine at full tilt boogie. The battery was pretty much drained. I slowed down to 80 mph and the battery was able to slowly recharge a bit so the car didn’t slow down anymore on small hills.

Is there a setting where you can drive the PHEV car that will try to save the battery charge? If there is then drive it in this setting, until you get to the base of the mountains.


I’ve driven through the mountains in Colorado many times in a 2002 Hyundai Accent that only had 106 hp. But, it had a manual transmission, and it weighed about 1k pounds less. It would still struggle at times, even at full throttle. Every car has limitations.
 

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Hi all,
Evidently the PHEV won't maintain the hybrid battery indefinitely. I just drove my 2019 PHEV Niro continuously for 350 miles, from sea level to 7k feet in elevation. The last 25 miles were up the Sherwin grade in CA - 3k feet uphill in just over over 25 miles. I cruise-controlled it most of the way, 75+. Two adults, bags, 2 mountain bikes, and a heavier than average hitch mounted bike rack. All cargo, including passengers, +/- 600 lbs. Mild winter weather, 55 deg. Fahrenheit.
It's all about E=mv2
The air resistance goes up exponentially with speed! Ask any motorcyclist who rides without a windshield. 40 mph is nothing. 50 mph is a good breeze. 60 mph is a strong blast and 70 mph is trying to push the rider off the seat.
60x60 = 3600
75x75 = 5625
You said you cruised at 75+ so your aerodynamic drag was at least 56% higher than if you'd tried to make your accent at 60 mph so you're continuously using up more energy from the battery. The fact that you then had to crawl along at 20 mph, or sit at the side of the road trying to charge the battery with the engine, obviously reduced your speed anyway so it's probably more advantageous to just slow down in the first place.
After monitoring "Instantaneous Fuel Economy" for years on all manner of vehicles, it appears that we really start hitting the "aerodynamic brick wall" as we approach 70 mph.
Meanwhile, the percentage of time reduction to reach our destination becomes smaller and smaller as speeds climb. A sustained 75mph versus 60 mph is only a 25% reduction in time of travel. Often that "supposed time saving" is lost anyway dependent upon how traffic lights stack up against us during the journey.
It only takes around 20 horsepower to move you down the road at a constant 60 mph. Yet a car with 200 horsepower only has a top speed capability of around 120 mph, i.e. ten times the power required to go twice as fast.
 

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When I had my Niro, I always used HEV mode when I got on the freeway for a long distance drive. I preferred saving the EV power for the town driving at the destination. In your case, I might have switched to Sport mode in advance of the pass climb, to let the car charge the battery as much as possible in advance of the climb
This!!! I Use EV until I get on the freeway, then switch to HEV. Put it in Sport mode to recharge the battery (if needed) prior to hitting long, uphill sections so you have power for the climb. Even if there are no long uphills on a particular road trip, I like having a pretty full battery for when I arrive at the destination, so I can us EV mode around town/city/campground etc.
 

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I might be wrong, but ANY car can drive faster than 20 mph up hills. Even 40 hp VW bugs can go faster than that.

If what you stated is true, you've got problems with your vehicle. Way more than a low charged battery.
 

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This!!! I Use EV until I get on the freeway, then switch to HEV. Put it in Sport mode to recharge the battery (if needed) prior to hitting long, uphill sections so you have power for the climb. Even if there are no long uphills on a particular road trip, I like having a pretty full battery for when I arrive at the destination, so I can us EV mode around town/city/campground etc.
i do this too. i tried comparing regular HEV to sport mode and it looked to me like the additional battery charge offset the lesser mpg.
 

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I might be wrong, but ANY car can drive faster than 20 mph up hills. Even 40 hp VW bugs can go faster than that.

If what you stated is true, you've got problems with your vehicle. Way more than a low charged battery.
The PHEV charges the battery most aggressively at 20 - 25mph and will add 2 miles or more of charge for every mile driven at the low speed. I think the OP was aiming to recharge quickly. Also if the battery is severely depleted to the point of damage the car may have put itself in this limp mode to charge the battery. I have not had the guts to run mine low to failure to see how the car will react to protect itself. However I have done fast charging at 25 mph and it works very well. Residential 25mph streets with cruise on and sport mode. Percent charge rises pretty fast.
 

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The PHEV won't allow the battery to be discharged to the point that it harms the battery or affects performance. The battery management system will protect the battery from any discharging or any charging that would harm it.

In the mountains around our area I haven't ever experienced the phenomena the poster described. The car always had enough power to ascend steep hills. I would have thought the NIRO mechanical engine (ICE) would have been powerful enough to handle this situation on its own. I wonder if the car may not have been experiencing some sort of mechanical issue as Griswald implied. 3000 ft over 25 miles is really only a 2.27% grade.

We have a 2019 NIRO PHEV with 35,000 miles on it.
 

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I wonder if the car may not have been experiencing some sort of mechanical issue as Griswald implied. 3000 ft over 25 miles is really only a 2.27% grade.

We have a 2019 NIRO PHEV with 35,000 miles on it.
The OP said the last part of the climb was steep and that is unfortunate, because the battery was almost depleted at that point.
I don't think there is a problem with the car. It was simply overloaded and the expectations were too great.
Based on the good info given in several posts, I think the next trip in the same mountain range will be satisfactory.
 

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The PHEV won't allow the battery to be discharged to the point that it harms the battery or affects performance. The battery management system will protect the battery from any discharging or any charging that would harm it.
I have a 2018 Niro HEV and mine works in the same way. The car will not allow the battery to get so low that it stays damaged.
 

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The OP said the last part of the climb was steep and that is unfortunate, because the battery was almost depleted at that point.
I don't think there is a problem with the car. It was simply overloaded and the expectations were too great.
Based on the good info given in several posts, I think the next trip in the same mountain range will be satisfactory.
There is no way the NTSB would allow a car on the roads that can't go more than 25 mph on a hill just because the battery is discharged...that car is broken.
 

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I guarantee if the OP takes the car to Kia and tells them the story, they will say there is nothing wrong with the car.
No lights or codes...no issue to check.
As I said in earlier post: armed with the good info that has been provided in this thread, the same situation will not happen again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks for the great replies.
To clarify a bit, the battery was very low as I started the hill and quickly depleted to “0” (or no bars). The car started acting very, very sluggishly and a warning popped up and quickly disappeared (didn’t catch it). I pulled over for a rest, and then “intentionally” drove the shoulder very slowly. I called Kia the next day and explained the issue but received no reply or instruction. (Not impressed with the lack of information in the manual or with the lack of Kia follow up). On the way home, albeit 7k feet of decent over 350 miles and starting with a full battery, the car handled the hills well.
I now know (confirmed by experience and insight from all here), that the NIRO PHEV can’t make such a long-distance, high-altitude drive (with a load) without the driver actively preserving battery power (i.e., conservative driving). A fair tradeoff for incredible mileage.
I watched the battery charge and power-flow closely while I tested the various suggestions for preserving battery power. Although it’s a bummer and probably a little dangerous to watch the dash so closely, I found the best results were
  • Start long trips in HEV to maintain that full battery charge as long as possible
  • Keep the speed down – With my full load 70 worked well.
  • Watch the power-flow and try to keep the eco range below the midway mark. Sport mode if you get bored.
  • If needed to boost over a hill or keep up with traffic, use sport mode and downshift.
Still, lots to learn about how to use Sport Mode. I’ve seen very little information from Kia on best practices on preserving battery on long trips like this. User manual isn’t helpful on this unless I’ve overlooked that section. If anyone has links to good authoritative info on this issue, please share.
 

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Thanks for the great replies.
To clarify a bit, the battery was very low as I started the hill and quickly depleted to “0” (or no bars). The car started acting very, very sluggishly and a warning popped up and quickly disappeared (didn’t catch it). I pulled over for a rest, and then “intentionally” drove the shoulder very slowly. I called Kia the next day and explained the issue but received no reply or instruction. (Not impressed with the lack of information in the manual or with the lack of Kia follow up). On the way home, albeit 7k feet of decent over 350 miles and starting with a full battery, the car handled the hills well.
I now know (confirmed by experience and insight from all here), that the NIRO PHEV can’t make such a long-distance, high-altitude drive (with a load) without the driver actively preserving battery power (i.e., conservative driving). A fair tradeoff for incredible mileage.
I watched the battery charge and power-flow closely while I tested the various suggestions for preserving battery power. Although it’s a bummer and probably a little dangerous to watch the dash so closely, I found the best results were
  • Start long trips in HEV to maintain that full battery charge as long as possible
  • Keep the speed down – With my full load 70 worked well.
  • Watch the power-flow and try to keep the eco range below the midway mark. Sport mode if you get bored.
  • If needed to boost over a hill or keep up with traffic, use sport mode and downshift.
Still, lots to learn about how to use Sport Mode. I’ve seen very little information from Kia on best practices on preserving battery on long trips like this. User manual isn’t helpful on this unless I’ve overlooked that section. If anyone has links to good authoritative info on this issue, please share.
Yup, you have it under control.
Don't expect much info if any from Kia. This forum involves real people's experience and that is priceless.
 
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