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Considering going electric? Some travelers are renting EVs for 'test drives' while on vacation


Wed, Aug 9th 2023 09:40 am

By AAA of Western and Central New York

More and more drivers are interested in electric vehicles, and some are “taking one for a spin” as a rental car while on vacation. AAA’s rental car partner Hertz has been investing heavily in electric vehicles for its fleet with purchases from Tesla, Polestar and GM. The company now has tens of thousands of EVs for rent at more than 1,600 locations in 44 states. Hertz hopes to provide nearly 2 million EV rentals by the end of this year – about five times the number of EV rentals it did in 2022.

Inspired in part by record-breaking gas prices, consumers purchased more than 760,000 EVs in 2022, a 65% increase from 2021. Drivers regularly say that cost, range anxiety and availability of charging stations are some of the biggest concerns they have about giving up their traditional internal combustion vehicle for an EV.

A recent survey by Verra Mobility found:

√ 78% of Americans would consider renting an EV to get more familiar with the car before making a purchase.

A AAA survey released in 2020 found that driving an EV was the best way to alleviate concerns about them. Of the EV owners surveyed:

√ 77% said they were less or no longer concerned about range after buying an EV.

√ 96% said they would buy or lease another electric vehicle the next time they were in the market for a new car.

Many of those who are on the fence, or considering purchasing an electric vehicle, have been renting EVs to “kick the tires.” It may be “test driving” one for the weekend in town or requesting an EV for a trip.

“You want to drive an EV under different situations, so you understand how it handles,” said Mike Formanowicz, AAA Western and Central New York driver training manager. “Renting an EV while on vacation gives drivers the opportunity to feel how it accelerates in traffic or merging onto a highway. Drivers should get comfortable with the rental in a parking lot before proceeding into traffic.”

AAA Western and Central New York does offer EV driving lessons in select areas. For those who have range anxiety, the AAA mobile app and TripTik Travel Planner can identify EV charging sites along your route, while AAA digital tourbooks will show you which hotels have EV charging stations.

“EVs are becoming really popular with car rental companies,” said Brian Murray, AAA Western and Central New York director of travel. “The rental rate is a little bit lower, and you don’t have to pay for gas, so that’s a little bit of a savings.”

Things for First-Time EV Drivers to Consider

•Understand the Driving Range – The rental car agent should explain to you how far you can expect to go on a charge, and how that changes depending on how many passengers you have and how much luggage and gear you are taking with you. It’s very important for drivers to pay close attention to the charge they have, and to know how far they must go to find a place to recharge the vehicle.

As many areas have seen some extreme heat here recently, a reminder that running the AC at full blast decreases an EVs range.

•Finding and Booking a Charging Spot – Charging up an EV is very different than filling up a traditional vehicle. Researching charging locations and how to pay to charge a vehicle are important things to do before you rent. Some states and regions have many more charging opportunities than others. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are 142,342 charging ports at nearly 55,000 charging stations across the country. Along with showing gas stations and current gas prices, the AAA app can also help you find charging stations near you and along your route.

•Road Trips Take More Planning – If you’re renting the EV for a road trip at your destination, that requires a bit more planning. Charging stations are usually along the busiest routes – there are fewer charging options in areas off the beaten path. If your plans take you to remote locations, it’s important to make sure there are ample and available charging stations nearby. Make sure you’re covered for charging in case your route and your stops change along the way.

•Understand the technology on board the car – EVs are very different from internal combustion engines. The gauges will look very different, and the on-board electronics may seem unfamiliar to anyone who is new to EVs. Most EVs also come with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) like lane departure warnings, blind spot warnings, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. Acceleration and braking are also different with an electric engine. Knowing what the car can, and cannot do, is very important before hitting the road.

Don’t forget your AAA card while you’re traveling. Whether you’re driving something that uses gas or electricity, the membership offers peace of mind if you do have a breakdown along the road. Mobile charging for EVs for AAA members is now available in select cities across the U.S.

As upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA Western and Central New York provides more than 862,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.

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