A Terrible EV Rental Experience Shows Us The Value Of Education

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In a recent social media post, Sergio Rodriguez (a big EV fan and the owner of an F-150 Lightning) shared a truly sad story. A woman named Kendra rented an EV from Hertz, but was sent out the door with no education on how to effectively use it.

Things couldn’t have gone much worse for her. She had flown in from Rhode Island to California, and after leaving Hertz with no tips on how to charge, she eventually had a low battery. She stopped at another charging station, spent an hour and a half trying there, and gave up. Eventually, she got to a ChargePoint station, but had no idea how to activate the charger. She then sat there for another hour and a half waiting for help with the accessory system on. This depleted the vehicle’s 12-volt battery, so once she got that all figured out, the vehicle couldn’t be charged. By the time AAA arrived, they couldn’t help her activate the system and didn’t know what was wrong. AAA also didn’t know how to jump an EV.

“Yes, first day, and I hate it so far!” she said when asked if this was her first EV experience. 

By the time Sergio showed up, her car was dead and her phone had 3% battery left. Sergio was able to quickly jump-start the EV’s 12v battery using his Lightning and a jumper box of some kind. Then, with the vehicle’s computer working, he was able to initiate a charge and get her vehicle ready to go again.

But, most importantly, he helped her learn the ropes of EV charging, so future charging station visits will go well.

Sadly, Sergio himself has had issues trying to rent from Enterprise. While getting a repair done on his Mach-E, he was given a Tesla rental, and when he arrived at the Enterprise location, he saw that it was charging using a mobile charger on the lot. He asked if they could let him take the mobile charger, but they said it wasn’t allowed for fear of theft.

When he asked them about whether Enterprise or him would have to pay for Supercharging, he says they said, “We really don’t like them, and would rather not have them.”

So, in other words, this isn’t a problem limited to Hertz or this particular Hertz branch and it’s not something solved by “Just rent out Teslas.” There are people renting EVs from a number of rental companies and not getting any kind of information on how to use them, how to take trips in them, or otherwise how to not get into trouble. The corporate offices might think things are OK, but at the local level, nobody wants to help and they would rather just rent cars like they always have.

The Biggest Problem: Many First-Time Experiences Are Rentals

When someone rents a gas-powered car, it’s almost never their first time driving a gas-powered car. We all know how to buy gasoline. It’s normal to return the vehicle with the amount of gas we picked it up with, and we’re expected to either buy the fuel ourselves or pay a high cost to bring it back up to where it was. 

But, for EVs, there are many people who have never charged one. Getting in and driving off is easy enough, but once the state of charge starts looking low, people could already be in heaps of trouble. Taking the “I’ll drive until it’s low and find a station” approach with an EV probably means getting stranded in many places now. Even in town and in places with lots of EV charging, knowing where to go and how to get the charge started up can be complicated and differ from station to station.

Somebody who has no idea about all of that could easily get into the same situation as Kendra.

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Solving This Problem

If renting out Teslas, this is a relatively easy problem to solve.

First off, let people take the mobile charger along (and be sure to include one!). Many people coming in from out of town are staying somewhere that has an accessible plug, especially at Airbnb rentals with a garage. Letting people pick up a few miles while they sleep makes things a lot easier.

Second, the built-in trip planning software makes life a LOT easier, and the plug-and-charge experience at Superchargers means that people can just plug in and let it charge up. It should only take a few minutes to show somebody how to use the trip planner and to explain how a rental company handles billing for Supercharger sessions. These things have to be explained, but if they aren’t explained, people could still get into trouble.

But, for other vehicles, things can be more complicated. So, the people renting the EVs out at the local branch need to know how to use them first. You can’t teach something you don’t know! For vehicles with a reliable and accurate trip planning app in the dash and some plug-and-charge capabilities, people need to learn how to use it. For vehicles with either bad software or no software, people need to be told to put something better like Chargeway and/or A Better Routeplanner on their phones.

Another thing nobody should leave without installing is Plugshare. Why? Because knowing where the stations are is half the battle. A few minutes setting up the person’s phone to reflect the car’s plugs is needed, too.

Finally, a quick pointer on how to charge up at different stations is in order. Everyone should probably walk away with a list of apps to install, including the most popular providers like EVgo, ChargePoint, Electrify America, and any local/regional providers likely to be encountered.

But, on the way out the door, there should be some literature with QR codes for these apps, some quick pointers in case they forget, and a phone number they can call if they get into trouble. Some people might refuse to learn about the EV because they’re embarrassed to admit they don’t know how to operate a car, but the literature might prove valuable later once they get in over their heads or have a few minutes to privately admit that they need to learn.

But, one thing that should NEVER happen is the customer driving away with no help whatsoever. 

Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.


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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1984 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba