Electric Vehicles Join Rental Car Fleets

What is the worst part about renting a car? Forgetting to put gas in before you hand it back, of course. That’s a recipe for a high charge on your rental bill. What if filling the vehicle before you brought it back was no longer needed? And what if renting a car could help the environment? Some rental car companies have embraced the EV future the automotive industry has been shifting toward. Here’s what’s happening.

Hertz’s Tesla Order

On October 25th, 2021, Hertz announced they had struck a deal with major EV producer Tesla for 100,000 units before the end of 2022. EVs, including Tesla’s Model 3, will be available for rent throughout the United States and Europe. This is the largest purchase of EV vehicles specifically for rental purposes, according to Hertz.

There has been some debate about whether a contract was signed because of a few Tweets by Tesla founder Elon Musk, but this article over at Inside EVs adds some perspective.

Do You Have to Recharge an EV Rental upon Return?

Always read your agreement carefully. According to Hertz’s rental agreement at time of writing, for example, “Hertz will endeavour to provide our electric vehicle with 80% charge (350km range) and ask that you return it with no less than 20% charge (80km range).”

So, at least with Hertz, unless your battery has less than 20% charge, it looks like you can actually forego recharging your vehicle when you return it. A bonus compared to a gas-powered vehicle!

Other Companies and Rental EVs

Enterprise offers Teslas, Polestar 2s, and electric Porsches as part of their electric vehicle fleet. However, the company only has a few hundred vehicles. Small compared to Hertz’s deal with Tesla.

Demand for EVs in the rental space previously has not been high enough to justify a bulk purchase of EVs like Hertz. This is likely because in the United States, electric vehicles make up only about 7% of vehicles owned. Although some owners of gas-powered vehicles may want to rent an EV to try it out before purchasing an EV themselves, this is likely a tiny slice of the rental market.

All of this suggests that the rental car industry will need to overcome some serious hurdles to see widespread adoption of EVs.

Limiting Carbon Emissions

Adding electric vehicles to their fleet will allow Hertz to cut down the carbon emissions and help reduce climate change. Hertz, having just emerged from bankruptcy in the spring of 2021, is rebranding as the green choice for rental car companies. The Tesla deal may ensure they own the largest number of EVs in any rental car fleet. Avis-Budget and Enterprise Holdings will probably follow suit.

Renting EVs in Canada

At time of writing, the only EV available through Hertz is the Volvo XC40 “or Similar” midsize electric. Hertz’s press release doesn’t specify when they’ll make Teslas available for rent in Canada. Given that our population is about one-tenth that of the US, it may take some time before we see any major investment in EVs by rental companies. But for any Canadians travelling to the US, the Hertz-Tesla deal will give travelers the choice to rent the same type of environmentally conscious vehicle that they own. As rental car companies adopt EVs in their fleet, EVs will become more mainstream and hopefully also more available in Canada.