EV vs. ICE: Road trip showdown in the electric Kia EV6 and best-selling Kia Sportage Hybrid

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 9, 2022

Bay City — Electric vehicles are the future, if they can break Americans’ love affair with gas cars.

Case in point is mainstream automaker Kia, which has one of the most aggressive plans to bring EVs to market. The Korean manufacturer plans 14 electric vehicles by 2027 to parallel its internal-combustion engine lineup. Their first vehicle in this strategy is the silky-smooth EV6 SUV, which shows the challenges ahead for EV adoption.

In Gaylord, Payne tops up the Kia EV6 for the last run to Charlevoix where fast chargers are scarce.

The Detroit News tested a $57,410 EV6 GT-Line against a comparable $38,000 Sportage Hybrid SX-Prestige, Kia’s best-selling ICE SUV. The pair are two of the most acclaimed new SUVs for 2022, with both in contention for North American Utility of the Year.

Featuring the brand’s cutting-edge tech ‘n’ style, the siblings share a lot — market segment, length, interior room, all-wheel-drive, South Korean assembly — except their drivetrains. The EV6 is driven by twin electric motors on an 800-volt battery platform, while the Sportage is powered by a 1.6-liter gas engine mated to a front electric motor.

The Detroit News took them on parallel, 500-mile road trips from Oakland County to Charlevoix and back. True to its electric promise, the EV6 proved smooth and more exhilarating to drive. But in addition to the $20k cost premium over the Sportage, buyers need to adjust their driving expectations depending on infrastructure and weather conditions.

The 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid is a compact SUV with similar dimensions to the Kia EV6.

The 520-mile gas range Sportage Hybrid required one fuel stop, whereas the 276-mile-range EV6 made six stops, including an emergency stop when warming temperatures started to degrade battery range. Used locally (and after a $2,000 investment in home charging hardware), the EV cost significantly less than the ICE to charge at home. But on the road trip, the Kias’ fueling costs were similar even with gas hovering near $5 a gallon — challenging EV advocates’ claims that high gas prices mark a turning point for EV adoption.

Trip planning

A common knock on EVs is that they lack infrastructure, but electricity access is actually easier than gasoline. What is difficult is figuring how long it takes to charge.

The Kia EV6 GT-Line can be refueled from your home (unlike a gas car), but will take 68 hours on a 110-volt wall socket to fill, according to Kia. Better to equip your garage with a 240-volt charger to speed full charge in 7 hours, 10 minutes. That increased speed comes at a premium. I purchased a $700 Juice Box charger, then paid an electrician another $1,600 to safely connect it to my house via copper wire.

The KIa Sportage Hybrid fills up in Charlevoix for its one stop on the 500 mile round trip.

Thus equipped, the EV6 was at 100% charge when it left my Oakland County abode for the trip north. By contrast, the Sportage filled at a local gas station for its full gas range. Given gasoline’s 125,000 BTUs per gallon of energy, it only took three minutes to fill the Sportage.

Are we there yet?

Given the ICE’s superior range, Sportage didn’t need to stop on the 260-mile trip north, making the trip in four hours. This despite the fact that Sportage fell short of its claimed, EPA-estimated 38 mpg. Traveling at a consistent 80 mph on I-75, the Kia registered 29 mpg.

The EV6, on the other hand, required planning given the uncertainties of battery range in heat and at speed. The good news is Kia has one of the most advanced systems in the industry with an 800-volt platform (similar to six-figure sleds like GMC Hummer EV and Porsche Taycan) capable of faster charging times than 400-volt platforms found on, say, the Cadillac Lyriq or Tesla Model 3. I consulted the popular ABRP app (A Batter Route Planner) for the best roads. ABRP suggested that I make two stops — at an Electrify America charger in Bay City for 6 minutes to charge from 42% to 63% and then again in West Branch at a Green Lots charger for 15 minutes to charge from 27% to 74%.

Electrify American chargers are often out of order. Fortunately, there is more than one of them at a station to fill the Kia EV6.

I arrived at the Bay City charger to find the 350 kWh charger was out of order. After a few minutes of dithering, I moved to a 150 kWh charger, which got me to 80% charge in 17 minutes all told.

The Electrify America outage was a concern, but at least I was assured EA (the country’s largest, non-Tesla fast charging network) had other chargers available. Not so my next, Greenlots stop in West Branch — run by a subsidiary of Shell oil company. The ABRP app showed only one charger available. Would it be out of service? Would there be a line?

I gave the Greenlots charger a go, though finding it was difficult. I eventually located it in the back lot of a Ford dealership. Ten minutes later and I was on my way. However, if I drove straight to Charlevoix, ABRP told me I would have just 10% of charge left in a town without a fast charger.

I made one last stop in Gaylord — at another EA  charger — to ensure I had enough juice when I got to Charlevoix to do daily errands. All told, my trip north in the EV6 took six hours compared to the Sportage’s four. Of course, if EV trips to my family’s Charlevoix house became a habit, a garage charger there would be the best solution — but at a cost of another $2,000-plus.

How they drive

The EV6 wows with its smooth operation. No gear swaps, no buzzy four-banger engine. Just instant, smooth toque when you nail the accelerator pedal. EV6 also boasts cool features like single-pedal driving thanks to its twin electric motors. The electric’s 4,661 pounds is noticeable compare to the Sportage’s 3,896 pounds — a consequence of the big, 77.4 kWh battery that also inflates the EV’s sticker price.

Powertrain aside, the Kia siblings are very similar. They are instantly recognizable: the EV6 with its slanted, Porsche-like nose and the Sportage with boomerang-shaped LED running lights. Their sci-fi styling is complemented by cutting-edge interior electronics.

Both SUVs sport curved, 24-inch digital displays you would expect to find in a Mercedes, not a mainstream brand. EV6 carries the lux theme further with a floating island console like a Caddy Lyriq. Both Kias showcase configurable screens, rotary shifters and state-of-the-art driver assist programs.

I drove the EV6 and Sportage hands-free for significant portions of my I-75 trip. And when I arrived, I stepped out and self-parked both using buttons on the key fob. Remarkable.

The return home

Ahead of my trip back in the Sportage after an active weekend, I quickly topped up in Charlevoix. The 432 miles (the computer adjusted its range estimate for the lower mpg number) would get me back with room to spare.

As for my EV6 weekend journey, I recharged at the most convenient 240-volt charger overnight so that I would have enough charge for side trips to Petoskey and other coastal attractions. Located at a Ford dealer two miles out of town, the charger necessitated that I load a bicycle in the EV6’s roomy hatchback so I could return to the car the next morning and pick it up, fully-charged.

At the end of the weekend, I decided on a one-stop strategy back to Oakland County — recharging at Gaylord’s 350-volt Electrify America charger. It’s worth noting that the cost of filling the Sportage – even at $4.59 a gallon for regular gas — was roughly the same as the EV6 at 43 cents per kW. The Sportage cost 14 cents per mile, the EV6, 15 cents.

I arrived at Gaylord with 61% of battery and charged to 100% in 33 minutes. That was enough for 254 miles of range (like the Sportage, the car adjusted to real-life range) — with 40 miles of cushion for the 214-mile trip home.

Or so I thought.

Running low on battery range, Payne ditched his one-stop charge strategy and made a second stop to top up on electrons in Bay City in the Kia EV6.

As I drove south on I-75, the outside temperature warmed from 76 to 85 degrees and the battery began to guzzle electrons. Speed and weather are the biggest variables in battery range, and — even as I slowed from 80 to 70 mph — it became apparent I would not make it home.

I pulled off the interstate for a quick, 10-minute top-up of electrons to 203 miles (80% of battery capacity). I arrived home after five hours, compared to four in the Sportage.


The twin Kia experiment indicates the superiority of gas cars over the EV counterparts on road trips. Sportage is not just quicker to its destination than its EV6 peer, but more affordable. Even with the federal $7,500 EV tax credit, my EV6 tester would cost about $10,500 more than the Sportage.

Many folks who can afford $57k SUVs, will have a second car (a Sportage Hybrid?) in their garage for long trips — using the EV locally. In that case, the cost of EV6 fueling is considerably less — $1.64 per gallon (at Michigan’s average 17 cents per kWh hour electricity cost) compared to this summer’s $4.59 a gallon. Or 5 cents per mile versus 15.

Though it would take awhile to make up the EV6’s sticker premium plus installation cost of a 240-volt home charger.

Model specs:

2022 Kia EV6

Vehicle type: Battery-powered, rear and all-wheel-drive, five-passenger SUV

Price: $57,410, AWD, GT-Line as tested

Powerplant: 77.4 kWh lithium-ion battery with dual electric-motors

Power: 320 horsepower, 446 pound-feet torque

Transmission: Single-speed direct drive

Performance: 0-60 mph, 5.1 seconds (mftr, AWD); towing, 2,300 pounds

Weight: 4,661 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 117 MPGe; range, 274 miles

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid

Vehicle type: Front engine, all-wheel-drive, four-door, five-passenger, compact SUV

Price: $38,000 Hybrid SX-Prestige AWD as tested

Powerplant: 1.6-liter turbocharged, inline four mated to single front electric motor and 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack

Power: 227 horsepower, 258 pound-feet torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, (8.0 sec., Car and Driver est.); towing, 2,000 pounds

Weight: 3,896 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA est. 38 city/38 highway/38 combined; range, 521 miles (29 mpg and 432 mile range as tested)

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

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