Winter. Some love it. Some hate it. And if you’re an electric car driver – as I’ve discovered – you’re probably in the latter camp. Let me explain.
I’ve been running ‘my’ Cupra Born since June (remember when it was warm and sunny?), and have comfortably been managing around 190-210 miles range from a full charge in that time from this EV’s 58kWh battery. Some way off the predicted range of up to 260 miles, but given I don’t tend to drive with efficiency in mind, it’s a figure I’ve been pretty happy with.
But the recent cold snap brought a significant dent to that range that I’ve become reliably accustomed to, as it’s worth noting that while other EVs have predicted ranges that jump around like an excitable puppy, the Born’s is pretty much always bang-on.
This cold weather – we saw as low as -7 degrees here in rural North Yorkshire, and it didn’t get above freezing for five days – took an immediate 30-plus miles off the predicted range, meaning it’s been doing between 160 and 190 miles from a charge. That might not sound much different, but on a longer journey, it can make a big impact when it comes to charging.
I should point out that this most certainly isn’t an issue exclusive to this Cupra Born, as all EVs suffer a drop off in range, caused by the slowing down of reactions within battery cells due to the cold, and restricting range as a result.
A recent 650-mile round trip to attend our Christmas party (from near Scarborough to Portsmouth and back) really highlighted this. Setting off in summer, I could get away with charging just once on the way down, then at the destination, before another full charge on the way home. But because of the restricted battery performance, it added another charge to both sides of the journey.
Charging means time not moving, too, which is nothing but a pain when you need or want to be somewhere. While Cupra claims the Born can charge at up to 120kW, meaning a five to 80 per cent charge can take just 35 minutes, EV chargers also seem to perform much slower in the cold. In fact, every almost-full charge took nearly an hour. This added a couple of hours onto both the journey going and coming back, which was aggravating.
As an increasing number of EVs are registered, there are more driving around and therefore needing to charge, and I’m finding more and more that the infrastructure just isn’t good enough if you’re doing longer trips and reliant on these quicker chargers. Again, this isn’t a fault of the Born at all, but broken chargers just aren’t acceptable in 2022, and neither is having a single charger at a main service station on the M1. It leads to nothing but queuing and annoyance and makes a long journey in an electric car deeply unpleasant.
Charging also isn’t cheap as it used to be, with soaring energy rates. I calculated that the chargers cost £120 using public points, and that’s not including the virtual full overnight home charge the car needed when I got home. In total, I reckon it cost about £135 for 650 miles – certainly more than what it would have cost in an efficient petrol or diesel car, which I’d take next time if given the option of an EV.
But that’s enough ranting, as the cold weather has also exposed something rather good – and surprising – about the Born, which is just how impressive it is in the snow and ice. This Cupra is rear-wheel-drive, and not on winter tyres, and I always had it in my head how useless rear-driven cars are in poor weather.
No such problem here. We live in a valley in a small, rural village, meaning there’s a hill whichever way you want to get out, and the Born didn’t struggle at all on snowy and icy roads that hadn’t been gritted. The traction control does a remarkable job of avoiding spinning and sliding, propelling you forward almost without fuss. One night, when the snow was setting in, there were several abandoned and stuck cars – including a small SUV – up a steep hill, and the Born sailed past them all. I was astounded.
There’s only a month left now before Cupra comes and collects the Born, and while some winter journeys like these have not been enjoyable, the majority of the time I’ve not stopped singing this EV’s praises. Hopefully that continues until the keys are prised from my hands in the New Year.