Car rental agencies have been talking about adding EVs to their fleets for years, and Teslas have been offered for rent in early-adopter markets such as Norway (and elsewhere on the freelance rental platform Turo). Now things are now starting to move more quickly. Rental giant Hertz gave the EV industry a boost with last year’s announcement that it would add up to 100,000 Teslas to its fleet.
Car rentals and EVs could be a powerful combination—a new report from the Electrification Coalition details the lessons learned from a test deployment of EVs in a large rental car fleet. The report shares key findings from the Drive Electric Orlando Rental Pilot, which incentivized travelers to rent EVs in Orlando, the largest rental car market in the US.
The multi-year program was led by the Electrification Coalition in partnership with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the City of Orlando, and several resorts and theme parks. Program partners incentivized participation by providing exclusive perks to Enterprise customers who rented EVs, including free parking, complimentary valet service and free charging. The results indicate that the rental car industry can play an important role in accelerating consumer adoption of EVs.
“Rental car companies operate some of the largest light-duty vehicle fleets in the country, so the electrification of this industry will be critical in the shift to an electric transportation future,” said Ben Prochazka, Executive Director of the Electrification Coalition. “Drive Electric Orlando put the consumer behind the wheel of an EV during a vacation—a perfect opportunity to experience all the benefits of this technology. The program engaged consumers during the early stages of EV market growth, and it can now serve as a roadmap for the rental car industry to go electric.”
Three key insights from the study:
- Two-thirds of EV renters surveyed indicated that their experience made them more likely to purchase an EV as their next vehicle.
- Incentives were valuable tools to attract program participants. Perks such as VIP parking and free charging generated more consumer interest in renting an EV.
- As the rental car industry incorporates EVs into its fleets, it must be proactive in overcoming barriers to the transition. Companies need to plan for staff training, onsite charging at rental centers and customer education on EV operation and charging.
“In many ways, we were blazing a new trail with each step of the DEO program,” the Electrification Coalition’s Prochazka said. “This pilot helped us dig into the challenges and identify ways for EVs to succeed as rental cars. As the number of EV models grows, and access to charging stations increases, it’s our hope that the rental car industry will use the lessons we learned to build a model that will successfully electrify rental fleets across the country.”
According to Bobit Business Media, automakers sold 494,960 units to US rental fleets in the first quarter of 2020. The extraordinary scale and rapid turnover of these fleets offer unique opportunities to boost EV adoption. The rental car industry is a major source of used vehicles, supporting a market that is more accessible to middle- and lower-income consumers.