Tips for Renting an E.V. for Your Summer Vacation


Are you curious about electric vehicles but not ready to buy one? Renting one can help you see what it’s like — and some car rental companies are offering discounts.

But having a smooth electric vehicle experience, especially if you rent for vacation, requires a fair amount of planning because fast-charging stations, while more available than they were four years ago, still aren’t ubiquitous, like gas stations.

For now, an E.V. may work best for a long weekend or a trip where you plan to stay in one place and take day excursions, rather than an epic coast-to-coast trek.

“A cross-country road trip?” said Damon Bell, senior research editor at Cars.com, an online automobile marketplace. “It can be done, but you’re making things a little trickier.”

Most E.V. owners install special electrical outlets at home that allow them to charge their cars overnight so they don’t have to worry much about finding public charging stations. But if you rent an E.V. for a trip, you’ll want to map out the location of stations along routes you expect to travel.

There are now about 70,000 public charging stations with 186,000 ports, or stalls — the E.V. equivalent of gas pumps — across the country, according to the federal government. But they’re not uniformly distributed. Fast chargers — which can juice up a battery in minutes, rather than hours — are generally concentrated on the East and West Coasts and in parts of Texas.

Greg Brannon, director of automotive engineering and industry relations at the automobile owners group AAA, said driving an E.V. on an extended road trip may increase the time you’ll be in the car by 20 to 30 percent. That’s because you’ll need to find chargers and wait till the battery is charged. In high-demand areas, you may have to wait in line for a fast-charging port to become available.

“E.V.s do not work very well on long road trips,” he said, particularly if you are renting a car other than a Tesla, which has the most expansive network of fast chargers. (Some non-Tesla cars, like Fords and Rivians, can use some Tesla Supercharger stations, but only with a special charging adapter that is not widely available. Major E.V. manufacturers, however, are rolling out cars compatible with Tesla stations starting with the 2025 model year, according to Consumer Reports.)

The median E.V. range is now about 270 miles per charge, although the range depends on the type of battery, road conditions, temperature and your driving style. Very hot or very cold weather can affect the range. And unlike gas cars, which typically get more miles per gallon in highway driving, E.V.s may have reduced range on freeways, Mr. Brannon said, because of the way the cars operate.

Planning out your route and identifying charging stations before you hit the road can tamp down “range anxiety,” the worry about depleting the battery. Various apps, including PlugShare, can help you find public charging stations.

If such complexities don’t deter you, now may be a good time to try an E.V., since some companies are offering deals to encourage rentals. The big rental companies have had some ups and downs with E.V.s. Hertz, for instance, said this year that it would reduce its fleet of electric cars because they lost value more quickly than projected and demand was lower than expected. Hertz said in an email that it provided resources to help educate new E.V. drivers and offered several models at rates comparable to gasoline-powered cars.

I rented an E.V. with my husband over the three-day Memorial Day weekend in the Boston area. At the city’s airport, one rental company (Budget) was offering a 50 percent discount to renters who switched their reservation from a conventional car to an E.V. In a statement, Budget said, “We find that E.V. rentals are most attractive to customers who have the ability to plan for charging throughout their journey.”

I had already reserved an E.V. online, so I didn’t qualify for the half-price deal, the customer representative said. Even so, my rate wasn’t bad for an airport rental on a busy holiday weekend — about $89 a day, including the myriad fees and cash back on an Amazon gift card, under a deal with Budget.

The first car we were offered, a Kia, lacked a basic charging cable. So we asked for another car and were given a Chevrolet Bolt, which had one. We planned to do at least some charging by plugging it into a traditional outlet at the home where we were staying. But as we quickly learned, such “Level 1” charging is painfully slow — you get just a few miles of range for an hour of charging.

We found an Electrify America charge station near a local mall that had four ports. Two were fast chargers (the others were slower but serviceable ports, where charging the car would have taken more than an hour). One fast charger was available when we showed up on a Friday afternoon. The car was charged to 83 percent in about 30 minutes at a cost of $6.72, including tax. (That was a nice change from a typical $50 tab to fill up my gas car.) We paid with a credit card. Some charging networks offer discounts if you create an account using their apps, and some locations cost more at peak times.

The visit went smoothly. Still, half an hour is different from filling up your gas tank in five minutes.

Driving the car was fun. E.V.s are quiet and peppy because their design allows them to accelerate quickly. One difference that took some getting used to was the car’s “regenerative” braking, a feature common in E.V.s and hybrid vehicles that feeds energy back to the battery when the car slows, boosting its range a bit.

In practice, this means the car quickly loses speed when you take your foot off the accelerator so you rarely have to use the brake pedal. (It’s also why E.V.s have less range with highway driving. There’s typically less braking.)

We liked the car enough to reserve one for a longer period, later in the summer, at an off-airport Budget location. Renting there — and paying in advance — worked out to about $31 per day for a late June/early July rental.

Here are some questions and answers about renting an E.V.:

Typically, rental companies provide you with the car charged at 70 percent or more and require that you bring it back at the same level. If you bring it back below that level, you may pay a fee. (Budget charges $35.)

Hotels increasingly offer free charging as a perk, but call ahead to confirm that the chargers are working. Airbnb says searches on its website for properties with chargers grew more than 80 percent from 2022 to 2023. The company recently announced a partnership with ChargePoint, a charging network, to offer hosts discounts to install E.V. chargers.

Most network mobile apps alert you when the car is almost charged so you can leave to, say, get a coffee or a quick meal and return when the car is ready. It pays to plan your stops at chargers that are close to restaurants or other services.

But don’t dawdle. If you fail to move the car once the battery is sufficiently charged, you may face “idle time” fees meant to deter users from hogging ports when other cars are waiting.



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