If you plan to rent a car during the holiday season, there’s a very good chance you will be offered an electric vehicle (EV). Or more to the point, that might be all the choice you have.
Thousands of travelers could find themselves behind the wheel of a rented EV for the first time over the Thanksgiving break — whether they chose to rent one or not.
Companies like Hertz and Avis have boosted their EV lineups and are offering them at substantial discounts over traditional gasoline or hybrid models. At Hertz, for example, customers can book Tesla Model 3s and Ys and also Polestar 2 electric vehicles.
Even if you bypassed the EV offerings for a standard sedan or SUV when booking your reservation, you might get to the rental counter and find out all they have left are EVs.
On the positive side, renting an EV can be a great way to try before you buy, especially for those who have been sitting on the fence for the last year or so. But if you’re not prepared, your trip could turn into an unexpectedly stressful experience. Here’s what you need to know:
Get familiar with your EV before leaving the rental lot. Ask questions as rental agents don’t often provide enough instruction. Be aware that most EVs don’t require a key fob, or a key, for instance. Instead, they’re activated by a “key” that looks like a credit card and something that can be stored in the center console. It’s easy to forget. If you leave it in the car, someone could get in and drive away.
There’s often no start/stop button in a Tesla and many other EVs. Just shift into drive and go. In addition, with most EVs, merely walking up to the car unlocks it and switches on your electric motor ready for you to engage drive. When you arrive, more often than not you can just put it in park and walk away.
Even figuring out how to open the doors on an EV can be tricky sometimes.
Also, it’s crucial to know your car’s driving range and consider the potential impact of weather where you’re going. EV drivers are often surprised to find out how much their battery range is compromised (adversely affected) by cold temperatures. Extremely hot temperatures can affect range too.
A good idea is to download the major charging network apps on your phone and set up billing ahead of time. While you can use a credit card at many networks, the touchscreens and card readers can be glitchy. It’s a lot easier to initiate charging from your phone. You can always delete the apps after your trip is over.
Some hotels have chargers but call ahead to verify. Be aware that they’re typically the slowest Level 2 chargers, and if another guest is plugged in overnight, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
For first-time EV users, as you see from the points mentioned above, the learning curve can be steep and a little frustrating, especially if you’re being forced into driving an EV when you were expecting a gasoline-powered rental. So we humbly recommend that you do some homework in advance, just to make sure your transition is smoother—just in case.