5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Renting My First EV
Updated: Oct 2
So you're about to rent your first EV. Awwww yiss.
EVs are a lot of fun to drive (dat acceleration), they're quiet, and you can sit in traffic or idle without worrying about burning gas. However, they do come with a side order of surprises.
I've taken everything I learned from my first two EV rentals and put them in this pre-launch checklist. It might be long, but don't let it deter you. By the end, I'll have shared the best tool available to prepare for an EV rental: this pre-launch checklist.
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Disclaimer: this is about renting an EV in USA.
For tips on renting an EV elsewhere, swap the Rs and Es, change decimals into commas, and convert to metric.
#1 - Rent the right EV for your trip
Well, yes. Of course.
What's different about EVs is that the selection of rental models can be limited. Car rental companies generally offer Tesla, though some are beginning to offer other EV options. For more choice, you may need to look at peer-to-peer sharing options like Turo.
Here's what to consider:
Your travel companions
While driving an EV is fun, it may be less fun traveling with (let's just say, totally hypothetically) your older, sometimes anxious in-laws on a tight travel schedule in area with limited charging options. With an EV, there are likely to be bumps even when you have fast chargers, and if you're traveling with people who can tolerate uncertainty, you might still all be friends at the end.
On the plus side, pets might enjoy the stretch break during longer charging stops. I mean, people too, but they don't tend to get as excited about going for walks.
Your ride comfort
While Tesla has a better fast charging network (more on that later), the suspension on their cars can feel stiff and can get uncomfortable for long rides. For a cushier, quieter ride, you might opt to rent a different car.
Your ride range
Depending on how many chargers are available on your journey and how often you're willing to stop, you may want to look up the EPA range on your EV, which you can do at fueleconomy.gov or everyone's favorite search engine... Bing 🙂
Similar to gas cars, your actual range depends on number of things. It's hard to know exactly how much these will affect you, but you might want a car with more range if:
You're driving uphill and gaining elevation (though you'll gain some back on the downhill)
It's really hot or cold outside
You like to drive fast
You're carrying a lot of weight (like yo mama) sorry, it was right there!
#2 - Plan your charging stops
Charging is by far the worst part of the experience, and you'll want to make sure you can actually complete the trip in an EV before booking one.
As I mentioned earlier, Tesla's fast-charging network is so much better than the rest that you won't really need to worry about this. For everyone else, though:
You're going to want a backup
Before you rent, look up the chargers on your route and options on your favorite app (might I suggest Chargely?)
Pick chargers (ideally at least two viable options) that have:
Fast chargers - the difference between 250 kW and 50 kW could mean the difference between stopping for 15 minutes and 60
Multiple chargers at a station - if one (or two) are broken or in use, you won't have to drive to the next station to charge
Networks you've used before - Mainly so you don't have to download too many extra apps (read on)
Download the charging network apps ahead of time
Some chargers may have credit card readers, but in case they don't (or in case they're broken, which happens more than you'd think) download the apps from the charging network for the chargers you plan to stop at. Some common examples include ChargePoint, Electrify America, and EVgo.
If you're driving a Tesla and only charging at Tesla chargers, you won't need to worry about this either.
Charge overnight if you can
To save time, try and find a place to stay overnight where you can charge at the property or nearby. If you're doing a short-term rental like Airbnb, you may need to bring your own cable or adapter (more on that next).
#3 - Spring for the extras
Despite being someone who NEVER pays for pre-paid gas when renting a car, I'm thankful that I paid a little extra for these accessories.
Depending on who you're renting from, the cost and availability of these extras may differ.
Charging cables can be used for charging overnight if there's a wall outlet available, but the main reason for getting a charging cable is for peace of mind. If your plans and backup plans for charging fail you, having a cable could mean the difference between a long delay and a long delay plus the cost of a tow.
One of the Airbnbs I stayed at advertised an EV charger, but when I arrived, I discovered there wasn't a charger, just a wall outlet. While the outlet was 240V (Level 2), my cable could only handle 110V (Level 1) and I wasn't able to use it.
If there aren't pictures of the charger, double check!
Return with the battery less than full
Because fast chargers aren't as prevalent or reliable as gas stations yet, I found it a relief not to have to deal with charging the car up at the end of my trips.
Again, I never pre-pay for gas, but this is one extra I was happy to pay for.
For Tesla drivers: Adapters for Level 1 Charging
If you're a Tesla driver hoping to charge overnight at a non-Tesla charger, you're going to need an adapter, specifically for a "J1772" plug (what a fun name).
Your rental may already include it, but as one Redditor encountered, you'll want to double check that you actually have it before you start driving.
#4 - Budget extra time and flexibility
See all of the above.
#5 - Have fun and take photos!
I really wish I had taken more photos of my EV experience on my first road trip. Mainly because I now want to write a post about it for Chargely 😉
This was the best picture I got of my Polestar 2 rental (the one on the left).
Have a great trip and let us know how it goes!
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