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Would I Rent An EV again? Larry Nutson Goes EV-Motoring From Hertz

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Take a Trip; Rent an All-electric Car! Yes.

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau

Recent travel took my wife and I from our Chicago home to the Florida Keys to attend a wedding. An air flight to Miami and a rental car to get us to Islamorada was our transport.

I had seen ads by Hertz promoting electric vehicle rentals, so I gave it a look. “Save up to 30% off the base rate when you pay now and rent an electric vehicle” greeted me on the Hertz website.

Polestar 2 Dual Motor, Kia Nero, and the Tesla Model Y all-electric, battery powered cars were being offered. “From techy touchscreens to smooth drives, choose from the largest EV rental fleet in North America,” touted Hertz.

Okay. I’m interested but I needed to consider driving range and charging ability. I had recently test-driven the Polestar 2 in Chicago, so I was familiar with its performance and driving range ability. From Miami International Airport to our hotel in Islamorada it was 79 miles. The Polestar 2 has an EPA-driving range rating of 260 miles. We would only be driving additional short distances around Islamorada for the wedding event. I most likely would be able to do this without even needing to recharge. However, what does Hertz require? When renting a gasoline engine vehicle it needs to be returned with a full tank. If not, Hertz charges nearly $10.00 per gallon to refuel the car.

I took a quick look at the availability of EV charging stations in the Florida Keys. There are not too many with the majority being in the Tesla network. An Electrify America fast charging station was located in Key Largo back towards Miami, about 20 miles from our hotel. If I actually needed to add charge I could also use the Polestars’ 11-kW onboard charger connected to standard 120-volt AC power while parked overnight at out hotel.  

The weather in the Keys would be warm and toasty. We would need to use the air conditioning which uses battery power and takes away from driving range. From my Chicagoland test drive, I liked the Polestars’ energy-efficient HVAC mechanical improved heat pump that reduces the reliance on battery charge to heat and cool the interior, thus boosting overall driving range in adverse conditions.

I reserved the Polestar…and crossed my fingers. I read on the Hertz website that an EV rental needed to be returned with a minimum of 10% charge remaining. Curious? That’s it, 10%. Well! Upon picking up the Polestar at Hertz Miami Airport I learned there was an option. Return the car with at least 70% charge. Or, pay the $35 Charge Purchase Option (CPO) and return the car with as little as 10%. I chose to pay the fee because I did not want to try to locate and stop at an EV charger during our return to the airport.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Just like with any typical car rental, the task of locating a gas station that’s near an airport to refill a rental car is often a challenge. Plus, their gas prices are usually higher.

When we got into our Polestar it was fully charged with 260 miles of range displayed on the instrument cluster. Off we went south to Islamorada. From Miami a couple different 65-70 mph highways eventually lead to US Highway 1. From two lanes the road becomes one lane and speed limits drop down to 45 mph. Overall, a nice mix of speeds appropriate for electric vehicle driving.

Driving from mainland Florida down the Overseas Highway, the southernmost leg of U.S. Highway 1 is often referred to as the "Highway that Goes to Sea. The 113 miles of roadway from Key Largo to Key West incorporates an astonishing 42 bridges leapfrogging from key to key in a series of giant arches of concrete and steel over the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

We stopped for lunch in Key Largo and then made our way to our hotel. The Polestar had plenty of remaining range. The wedding, on a beach in Islamorada, was wonderful. I though about plugging in at the hotel, just to be safe, but convinced myself there was no need.

Upon return to Hertz at Miami Airport we had driven a total of 171 miles and still had an indicated 110 miles of range and 43% battery charge. Yes, the Polestar driving range dropped by 150 miles while we drove 171 miles. As the saying goes, “your mileage may vary.” I attribute this to the use of regenerative braking which puts charge back into the battery while also slowing down the car.

Coming back to the $35 charge fee we paid. Regular grade gasoline was running around $3.50 - $3.60 a gallon in Florida. A gasoline engine car similar to the Polestar would probably have an EPA combined mileage rating of 25-26 mpg. That equates to around seven gallons of gas that would have been used for the 171 miles of driving, or around $25.00. Add to that the chore of locating a gasoline station. The $35 fee seemed a fair deal.

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Would I rent an EV again? It will depend on my driving needs. The ability to recharge an EV battery is THE issue today. The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program is being rolled out over the next few years. The resulting installation of EV fast chargers located every 50 miles along interstates and major highways will make recharging more convenient.

Reuters/Ipsos asked in a survey of 4,410 people nationwide whether they’d consider buying an all-electric vehicle as their next vehicle. Despite most Americans driving just 30-40 miles a day, the survey showed that a third of U.S. consumers who would consider buying an all-electric vehicle as their next vehicle say they need at least 500 miles of charge – with another third saying they need at least 300 miles. The desire for your car to have a range far beyond what you use in daily life – dubbed “range anxiety” in the industry – is the paradox of the electric age. In part, you could argue range anxiety is a result of charging anxiety – people don’t trust that they’ll find a charging point when they need it and would rather be safe. 

Hertz is investing in the largest rental EV fleet in North America. Through Hertz Electrifies, Hertz is expanding the availability of that fleet – including models from Tesla, Polestar, and GM – and helping to add charging capacity to Hertz locations in cities. Hertz is supporting the installation of new public charging infrastructure through its partnerships with bp pulse and others.

The future is electric. Happy motoring!

© 2023 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy