So, how did we end up driving around in a Cupra Born while over in the UK? Well - we were looking for an electric car to rent while we are in the UK as we were going to be travelling for a few days down to Bath and Frensham and while my mum is very kind in letting us drive her Fiat Panda, it just isn't electric. We started searching for electric cars to rent before leaving the US and the search returned hardly anything, we could hire a Tesla but on top of the cost of renting there was also a £500 delivery charge - from Portsmouth! Hmm, that's just too much. So we ended up hiring a small petrol car that was quite efficient. We could get a discount on it as it was from the airport and with Aer Lingus (the airline we use). No where near as much fun as an electric but, oh well, it will have to do - I suppose!
But, maybe not. Back to the Fully Charged Show and as we were walking around we saw a Cupra Born at one of the exhibitors booths. Having not seen one in real life before, we went over to take a look (especially as the interior lights were a pinkish, purple - they must have known I was on my way!) and the people exhibiting were an EV rental company, EZOO. They offered a one month EV rental and as we chatted with them about how it worked, it became apparent that this could actually be something for us, although we didn't need a whole month, but then I'm not going to say no! The chap we were talking to said that they needed a few weeks lead time - oh no. But then I asked if there was any possibility at all that we could get something for Tuesday (it was Friday at this point) for our trip on Wednesday? A pause for them to think about whether this was doable, and if it was what did they have available. Turns out it could be done, and we could have an ID3 or 4 or a Cupra Born - just like the one on show. Hmm, the Cupra Born please as these are not available in the US so it'll be fun (!) and interesting to drive something different. So the rental process was started and I have to say it was a tense wait as to whether or not they could get it all processed before the end of day on Friday. At, what felt like the final hour, we finally got confirmation that all had gone through okay and we were going to get a Cupra Born on Tuesday for a month. Yay!! This is so exciting - our first time driving an electric car in the UK for longer than a 30 minute test drive!
Tuesday arrived and at around 1pm the car was delivered. Ones side kick was out in a flash getting his quick over view of the car. Once he'd grasped the basics the key was handed over, photos taken and he's lost to the car for the next hour or so as he presses any and all buttons to figure it all out. Once he was fairly happy with everything, the car was put on charge ready for our drive down to Bath.
With a full charge the car reports about 220 miles of range. Their website claims 264 miles of range, but of course that depends on whether you are driving around town or on the motorway, or how the person before you drove! So we'll see how we get on. We have 243 miles to go to get to our destination so it's quite likely that we will need to stop and charge along the way, not a problem as I'm sure we'll need a bathroom break anyway.
Driving down, the following morning, the car was nice and smooth just like you'd expect from an electric car. It was comfy inside with plenty of space for all occupants. There is a suitable sized screen for navigation, music, podcasts, etc. The controls remind me of the BMW i3 with its backwards / forwards knob to well, go backwards or forwards, I'd later realise (when I drove) that the windscreen wipers would keep being activated as that is where the forwards and backwards is on the Tesla! The Cupra Born we have is the V1 so no additional tech stuff, no help with driving apart from adaptive cruise control, which I have to say works rather well. Actually, very well, there are no sudden lunges forwards and no panic breaking - are you reading this Tesla? When on navigation and cruise control, it anticipates speed changes and when approaching a reduce speed sign it slows accordingly, so it's actually going at the correct speed when it gets to the speed sign, rather than Tesla which breaks violently after you have passed the speed sign. (Ugh - a whole other issue!) Then when the speed sign increases it speeds up when it has passed the speed sign. It's definitely driving more like I would. The car is more basic than our Tesla but that's okay. Is it missing some features? Yes it is, and I guess that would be auto pilot for ones sidekick, and it does have an overly fussy layout on the central touch screen, which isn't very intuitive, but we are slowly working it out, although to begin with the temperature and volume were all over the place!!
On the motorway the car drives just fine, it has enough power to overtake although no one goes fast as it appears everyone is driving at the speed limit, give or take a few miles an hour here and there. Quite relaxing really. As we continue it becomes apparent that we will need to stop and charge. Let's see what the car can find...
I'll cover the details of how to charge in the UK in the next post but, for now, we have Apple CarPlay navigating and looking for places to recharge.
Apple Maps brings up various charging stations and we opted for the GRIDSERVE one as ones sidekick thinks it might be huge. We navigated to the chargers and turned off the motorway into the service station to look for the chargers. They were obviously not many as we couldn't see them to begin with, then as we turned one corner and then another we spotted a couple over in the far corner. There were already three cars charging so we pulled into a space to wait. There was a Tesla waiting too (we think) so that puts us in a queue. Oh well, no worries, we are not in a rush. After a few minutes the Tesla left, I guess they didn't need to charge so the next available space was ours. We were waiting for around 10 minutes for a space to become free so that wasn't too bad. We pulled the car into the space, and charging began without a hitch. We decided to charge to near full as we wouldn't then need to charge again until we got to Frensham. We went to use the facilities and got something to eat before heading back to the car to wait for charging to finish. It took about an hour to fully charge and once complete, we unplugged and we were on our way. We didn't encounter any issues, did it take longer to fuel up then putting stinky petrol in a car? Yes it did, but I'd still rather do the extra waiting time to fill up with nice clean electricity.
We got to Bath, parked up and spent the next 24 hours walking everywhere, which was easy as we were based about a five minute walk out of the town centre. Bath is very busy with vehicles and it is getting rather stinky. They do have a clean air zone but that doesn't apply to cars so they are just polluting as much as ever. It's a shame as it would be so much nicer to walk around without all the stink. The worst part though was that our hotel room, albeit very nice (they had decided to upgrade us... which in hindsight was likely what made our stay worse) was on the ground floor and looked out to the street. There was no air conditioning so the only option was to open the window to cool the room, but in doing so you had people walking past or leaning against the window and the worst part, exhaust fumes coming in! So the choice was be too hot or inhale fumes - neither great and when we checked out the next morning and mentioned this to the hotel they weren't bothered. Oh well, The Yard Hotel is off our list of chosen hotels to stay at in Bath.
While in Bath we met up with a friend who was vacationing in the UK from San Diego, glad we found an independent country to meet up!! We went for lunch at the The Green Rocket a vegan restaurant that has the most delicious food. I had a salad with chickpeas and the other two had the Gnocchi.
The next part of our journey was to Frensham, we had more than enough charge and the hotel we were travelling to had said that they had charging available there. Perfect, we could park up and charge overnight. But, when we arrived, there were only two chargers and both were occupied. Oh well we weren't desperate so no worries at the moment. We went to check in and asked about the charging and if we could be notified when the cars had finished, the receptionist said that the cameras for the car park were in the room next to her and that she couldn't see them so the answer was no! We were later to find out that only one of the Pod-Point chargers worked anyway, that the app didn't recognise the unit at the hotel and, that Pod-Point customer service was absent. Oh well, we would find charging while out and about.
The following day we went on the most amazing 8km walk around the Frensham ponds and woodland areas, it was just beautiful, with magnificent views.
After our walk we headed out to grab some breakfast in Farnham and had a walk around the town. After that we headed over to Fleet to grab lunch at a vegetarian / vegan restaurant called The Greenhouse. Ones side kick had chosen the place so I was only a little apprehensive - have faith ElectraGirl!! It turned out that everything on the menu was vegan and oh my goodness it was delicious. I had the Buddha Bowl and my sidekick had the Gnocchi - I'm thinking he likes Gnocchi!
After lunch, knowing that the hotel charging was sketchy at best, we decided that we needed to find somewhere to charge. After some looking around we found that there were some chargers behind the Marks and Spencers in Fleet and when we arrived they were empty, brilliant. It was a fast charger so we plugged in and went for a walk about while the car was having a much needed energy boost. Once charged up we went back to the hotel and even though the chargers were available we didn't need to charge so left it. Those seem like too much trouble.
After another walk the next morning - the views still as amazing as the previous day, we went to Farnham to get some breakfast, relax for a few mins before setting off on our return journey to Harrogate. We'd had a lovely few days away that was made even more better as were driving electric.
We knew that at some point on the way back we would need to top-up charge but that would be closer to our destination. The drive back was busy, with it being a bank holiday weekend and a couple of times we were stuck in slow moving traffic. The one great thing about electric cars is that if you aren't moving or moving slowly you are only using a tiny amount of electricity. As the journey progressed and we were getting close to 20% remaining, it was time to locate charging. We looked up on the map and there was some fast charging at the next service station so we pulled off and went in search of the chargers, only to find that they were bagged with a note that said "Insufficient power available", so no charging there then. Okay, on to the next one, we found six Shell chargers next but when we followed the navigation we couldn't find them and it turned out they were on the university campus, but when we did eventually locate them, yes there were six and they were all available but they were only level 2, so no good for us. Okay, what is next? Back to the map and not too far away were some GRIDSERVE chargers at the next service station. So off we go again, all this driving here and there to locate chargers was using up our valuable supply, so fingers crossed the next ones would be available and working. Turning in to the car park and managing to go the wrong way round... far too complicated to navigate the one way system, we located the chargers. Ugh - all were in use, but luckily, after talking to the owners who were waiting in the cars, one of the cars was leaving in two minutes - Phew. Parked up and waiting, it was soon our turn, and we pulled into the space, plugged in and the car was happy sucking in as much electricity as it could while we went to use the facilities and grab some food. We sat in the car to eat and wait for a decent enough charge to get us back home. When we had enough we continued on our journey and arrived back home with plenty to spare.
This is our first time using the charging network in the UK and we are getting the hang of it. We've only ever used the Tesla Supercharging network in the US and they seem to be everywhere. We now know that GRIDSERVE is where you need to go for CCS / Chademo charging and that the Shell Recharge and Pod-Point are only Level 2 charging. We still have someway to go to get more charging in the UK, but it's on its way. What has been good to see is so many electric cars on the roads here in the UK. I like that we are now seeing cars charging up at service stations, and while I don't mind waiting a few minutes for a charger to become available I do think we need to get moving on installing more chargers rather quickly.
Here is one's sidekick initial thoughts of the Cupra Born itself...
I fully expect a learning curve when getting familiar with a new car but I did find myself wondering, have I been living in a bubble? This thing is so different to what I’m familiar with. The Volkswagen ID range has been criticised for having a lot of software problems and yes, within 15 minutes, the navigation and radio had crashed, gone away, poof! But, the in-car entertainment is just frippery, it’s certainly not at the heart of the machine.
There are two types of car; electric and not-electric. The Cupra Born is in the group that I’d call ‘Not-Electric’. Why? Well, it’s trying to be an electric car for gas-car people. I suspect that it’s just that the marketing department is frightened by change - they need to put on their big-girl knickers because they’re in for a shock! I’ve heard this rhetoric before ‘people won’t know how to adjust’ they say yet, the best selling car in 2023 so far is unapologetically ‘electric’ and people are loving it. What does that mean though, electric? Well, one-pedal driving, big regen, no creep, no brake blending, no keys, etc. In short, the electric car leans into its virtues whilst the not-electric car tries to hide them and even mimic an old school piston car; warts and all. I mean, creep? A car that moves without being asked to, dangerous much?
So, we’re not off to a great start and, really, how do you adjust the door mirrors?
But, and here’s the important part that I hope you get to before quitting, it’s just software, it can all be fixed. The cabin temperature display can be moved to be near the actually up/down buttons, the drive profile can be dug out from under the layers of menus and, the regen braking and one-pedal driving can all be enabled once the Germans remember that they’re new at this and others have already shown us the way… So, get over yourselves, it’s all just software because…
On the road, the car is great, it’s electric; smooth, well planted, quiet and always ready to leap forwards with a rush of torque from behind that brings a smile to your face - yes, I will merge just here, thank you. The control haptics are first class, well, except the buttons on the steering wheel that I keep touching when I turn but, it’s all German flare, even the cup holders feel like they’re hewn from granite.
Inside the car is roomy, flat-floored and has plenty of space in the back though no under-boot to speak off - UK cars carry their own charge cable (I know America, you have it right) and there’s nowhere that I could find to keep it. I might be missing something.
Let’s put some miles on it...
So onto the rest of the month with the car - lets see what happens. Check out the next installment coming soon...