New Yorkers don’t tend to raise an eyebrow at people clipping their toenails on the subway or the many other oddities of city life. But bring your espresso machine and a toaster to a public park and plug them into the side of your SUV, and people start to look at you funny.
But I didn’t do this for attention. I did it for science.
Specifically, I did it to test out one of the most intriguing features offered on any new car today. You see, the 2022 Kia EV6, the Korean brand’s newest electric SUV, doesn’t simply use its massive battery pack to propel itself down the road. Owners can tap into the SUV’s electricity reserves and use it like a giant, portable power source.
The idea is you can drive your Kia to wherever, hook an included adapter up to the charge port and plug in whatever appliance your heart desires without adhering to the limitations of regular 12-volt car outlets. The EV6 can provide 1,900 watts of juice, so minifridges, TVs, pressure cookers, microwaves, and even other electric cars are all fair game.
Kia showed off the capability in a Super Bowl ad featuring an adorable robot dog that desperately needs a charge. When Kia loaned me an EV6 last month, I tested out the feature to understand how it works — and see whether it’s of any use in the real world.
To tackle the first question first: It really couldn’t be more straightforward. Using the adapter was as easy as plugging it in, sticking my toaster’s plug into its socket, and letting the electrons flow by pressing a button on its face. You can clamp down a protective piece to shield the outlet from the elements, or you can just let that bit hang as I did.
It was the same deal with the Nespresso machine I brought along. I plugged it in, let it warm up, and commenced brewing. When it came time to pack up, I panicked a bit when I couldn’t figure out how to unlatch the adapter from the charging port. Then I learned through a reluctant browse of the instruction manual that I needed to unlock the vehicle first. This makes sense, as owners might like to leave something plugged in and walk away for a bit.
And don’t worry that you’ll get caught up toasting toast and brewing bean juice and be left with no energy for the drive home. Toggle a setting in the car’s touchscreen, and the EV6 will automatically shut off the power when its battery level drops below a certain point.
I enjoyed my warm espresso and avocado toast in the great outdoors — in the company of a hedgehog, no less. And as I munched away the prospect of ever becoming a homeowner, I considered what, if anything, this unique capability was actually good for. Clearly the EV6’s power-sharing ability was built with more in mind than contrived tests in a Manhattan parking lot.
Electric and hybrid Ford F-150 pickups offer a similar feature, but clearly that’s meant for truck stuff, like tailgating and power tools. The R1T, a pickup truck from the EV startup Rivian, offers not only outlets but an entire kitchen setup that impressively slides out from a compartment behind the rear seats. That’s intended for camping and other outdoorsy adventures.
It’s less obvious how one would use this capability in the EV6 (or the Ioniq 5 from its sister brand, Hyundai, which has the same feature). Press photos from Hyundai show people using their cars to power a mobile office, which may be welcome in today’s work-from-anywhere world but isn’t exactly exciting.
When I initially set out to cook using the EV6, I had grand plans for an elaborate feast, prepared from scratch far away from the conveniences of an apartment kitchen. Then I thought about all the mess, all the lugging appliances and ingredients to and fro, and reconsidered. That is to say, there may be some inherent limitations in the activities people are interested in doing on the go.
Still, I have no doubt that individuals and businesses will find interesting and practical ways to use the EV6.
Street vendors and other mobile businesses that use gasoline generators to keep their lights on would probably welcome a quieter and less smelly alternative. In a power outage, the EV6 could charge a laptop or help keep food cold. Families could use it to put on an open-air movie night or glamp up a car camping trip.
Having hot espresso available at the press of a button out in the woods? That might offend the camping purists, but it sounds pretty nice to me.