Renting an EV

Well, the transition from gas-powered cars to EVs is under way.  Being as the burning of fossil fuels is the biggest source of global warming, the transition can’t happen fast enough. On my www.gardenatriums.com web site, under “Videos,” the right-hand column has our ten 60-seconds “Tips” videos. Tips video #9 focuses on e-cars.  And one of the suggestions was for viewers to actually try one, by borrowing one from a friend or renting one.  That way, instead of just hearing about them, for very little risk, you could actually experience one.  Then, I saw this article.  Comments afterwards.

 

                ●          ●          ●               

 

Renting an EV can be cheap yet inconvenient.

Here’s how to rent smart.

 

Electric cars are becoming more common at rental counters.

Here’s what to keep in mind before you hit the road.

 

By Chris Velazco

The Washington Post

July 28, 2023

 

Few things are as uniquely beautiful as a summer road trip, and many people start theirs at that least scenic of places: an airport car-rental kiosk.

Depending on where you land, you may be in for a surprise. It’s not uncommon now to see sporty electric cars available for around the same price — and sometimes even cheaper — than a traditional car like a Toyota Camry. And as companies like Hertz and Avis continue to flesh out their fleets with EVs, you may hear that electric cars are available immediately at rental counters — a tempting option when the alternative is waiting around for a regular one to free up.

Electric cars are better for the environment, and many are more fun to drive than traditional models. What’s more, a growing number of states are pushing to phase out gas-powered cars by 2035.

But is it worth renting one for your next long road trip?

To find out, I made my way to San Francisco International Airport, where I paid about $86 dollars a day for a 2023 Polestar 2 — about $10 a day more than something like a Mazda 3 — and cruised to a cottage about 140 miles away. Here is what you need to know before renting.

 

 

Do your research first

Between big touch-screen controls and occasionally confusing door handles, EVs can be a little quirky. If you’re lucky, your rental company has some resources to get you up to speed before you hit the road. But even those materials don’t cover every little nuance you may encounter.

Our advice: Learn more about the EV you are thinking of renting before showing up at the counter.

Had I done that, I would have known that the Polestar 2 has a charging port right where you would normally pump some gas. Because of that, I frequently found myself having to back into parking spots next to chargers.

I chose the Polestar because I always wanted to try one — smaller electric options like the Chevy Bolt cost even less per day, if you can deal with the smaller size. In hindsight though, I probably should have gone with a standard-range Tesla Model 3 for about $5 more per day. With an included adapter, the Model 3 can charge at all the same public stations I visited with the Polestar, plus Tesla’s thousands of Supercharger stations across the United States and Canada.

 

 

Be smart about insurance

Some credit cards come with nifty travel perks, such as complimentary damage or theft coverage for rental cars. These benefits can make renting cars even cheaper since they take the place of pricey add-ons, especially since Hertz and Avis charge more to cover electric cars than traditional ones. But here’s the rub: Not all of these card benefits cover EVs.

Many Chase cards, for instance, have a specific carve-out in their fine print for expensive or exotic vehicles, which includes electric cars — even not-very-fancy ones like the Chevy Bolt. Call your credit card company just to make sure.

 

 

Plan your route carefully

EVs such as Teslas and Polestars have built-in tools to find nearby charging stations, but if you are planning to take one on a lengthy road trip — or if you’ll be driving into fairly remote areas — it’s a good idea to identify charging stations along your route in advance.

Google Maps is pretty helpful here — if you search for charging stations along a route, it will give you a sense of how many charger units are available at each one, and it can identify which ones can charge your car at faster speeds.

Scouting out these charging locations in advance also gives you a chance to prep for the different companies you will encounter.

EVGoChargePoint and Electrify America all have their own apps and accounts you may have to work with on the road, and some companies offer discounts on charging if you (at least temporarily) sign up for small monthly subscriptions.

I didn’t bother setting any accounts up in advance, and I wound up paying about $70 to charge over four days with about 400 miles of driving — about the same as I would expect to pay in California while driving something like a rented Mazda 3. I relied on the pay-as-you-go credit card readers attached to most chargers, which didn’t always work correctly. (More on that later.)

 

 

Don’t worry about charging to 100 percent

You will generally see the fastest charging speeds up until your EV hits 80 percent — after that, the process can slow considerably as the car tries to protect the long-term health of its battery. If your route runs through places where charging stations are pretty common, you may be able to save some time by just hitting the road once you hit that 80 percent mark.

The biggest exception to this rule is if you know you will be passing through areas where charging stations are scarce. You may want those extra miles as a buffer, and the additional time you spend at a charger sure beats waiting for roadside assistance.

 

 

Expect the unexpected

Even when you’re visiting a spot that appears to be flush with EV charging stations, don’t get too comfortable — some don’t work as well as others.

One night, I went to charge my Polestar at a ChargePoint station outside a Target in Stockton, Calif. — hardly a remote area. Not only did the system not charge the car, it got stuck in a weird loop where I couldn’t end the charging session, even though the charging station already thought the process was complete.

All the while, the charging cable was stuck in the Polestar, with no obvious way to disconnect. It took about 20 minutes of troubleshooting — and then a call to ChargePoint customer service — to reboot the station and get the charger unstuck.

Then, I tried a BP Pulse charger at a gas station I had successfully used before, except this time it refused to acknowledge any of my credit cards. (The same thing happened the last time I charged there, too, but it finally worked for reasons I still don’t understand.) Strike two.

Finally, I drove well out of my way to an Electrify America charging station in front of a Walmart, which was mercifully straightforward. In my experience, Electrify America stations have been the most reliable: They don’t require you to create accounts or install an app, and they’ve been the least fussy about credit cards.

 

 

Recharge your car before returning it

Be sure to allot extra time before you return your rental, too. As with traditional vehicles, many rental companies require you to “refuel” before you drop off your car — a process that takes longer when you’re charging a battery.

For Avis and Hertz, the magic number is 70 percent. Return your rental below that threshold, and you will have to pay a $35 surcharge. In some cases, you can pay upfront — I did this with our Polestar rental — and get that fee back if you return the car about that 70 percent.

It is not an automatic process, though. In my case, I was told to swing by the customer service desk to ask for the refund directly and snap a few pictures of the recharged car’s battery levels to prove my point. A long line that day, along with the fact that the customer service representative had never done this before, added about 20 minutes to the return process.

 

                ●          ●          ●               

 

I guess that, for every new technology, there’s a “shake-down” period.  I still remember the battles when offices were changing from manual to electric typewriters … then to computers.  Yet, no one seems anxious to go back to the old technology – turn in your computer for a manual typewriter.  Similarly, I haven’t seen any articles about people wanting to get rid of their e-car so they could go back to their gas car.  (It might have happened; I just haven’t personally heard of it happening.)

The article was focused on longer road trips.  However, over 90% of my driving is within range of my home, and I simply plug in when I pull into my garage each day.  I had a paid-up gas car that gives 37 mpg, so I use it for longer highway trips – maybe once or twice a month. And with the PV panels on my roof, I pay nothing per mile, and only about $220/year for my annual maintenance check-up.

Evidently, the vast majority of e-car owners do what I do.  And if everyone could change just their local driving to electric, our climate problems might end right there. (Remember how quickly positive environmental and weather changes happened when people cut driving at the start of the pandemic?)

However, unlike trying a different dessert, which involves very little investment, you have to experience what an e-car is like in order to make the change. I’m finding that people won’t make the change to be “eco-friendly” or even to save money.  (And e-cars do cost a lot less to operate.)  But if they enjoy their driving experience more, they might.  And my e-car is a lot more fun to drive!  Adding D’s comments …

 

“We think the benefits of this transition – for drivers and for Earth – are obvious, and true.  We have absolutely nothing to add.”

Comments are closed.