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Here's how to get your hands on an EV without buying one: 'More fun to drive'

"Electric cars are better for the environment."

“Electric cars are better for the environment."

Photo Credit: iStock

Renting an electric vehicle can amp up a road trip, save you money, and help the planet. It's also a clever hack for trying an EV before you buy. 

However, because these modern machines run differently from other cars, there are steps to take to smooth out your rental ride.

How does renting an EV work?

In most ways, the rental process for an EV is similar to renting other cars.

Major brands such as Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise are all expanding EV fleets. Hertz has launched an electrification campaign, ordered hundreds of thousands of EVs from Tesla, GM, and Polestar, and seen profits roll in as maintenance costs plunge compared to gas vehicles.

Fleet expansions have made EVs easier to rent in many areas. The car-sharing platform Turo offers another option: renting from owners, like Airbnb, but for cars.

What's truly different about renting EVs boils down to the need to plan ahead.

First, EVs handle differently. If it's your first time driving one, you may need to prepare for everything from opening doors with an app or hard-to-find buttons to orienting the car at a charger or pressing the pedal lightly for fun but fast-twitch acceleration. Tesla has videos to familiarize yourself; Hertz has tools, too.

Second, you'll want to consider your purposes. If you need the rental for a long, rural trip, strongly consider cars with a large range that can go longer between charges. For in-city use, this is less crucial. Sources like AAA generally advise renters to consider range carefully. 

Just as you make other decisions to ease anxiety while traveling, worrying less about charging may be worth it.

This brings up a third aspect of planning: knowing about access to chargers, how you'll find chargers along your route, and whether you can charge overnight where you stay. 

Kayak advises mapping out your trip and downloading an EV-charging-station app. The magazine AFAR recommends PlugShare and ChargeHub, Google Maps, or Tesla's routing tools.

Also to know: Chargers vary widely. Level 3 chargers can charge during a rest stop; Level 1 chargers take much longer.

Tesla has thousands of fast Superchargers across America. ChargePoint, EVgo, and Electrify America have networks, as do some hotel chains such as Hilton — with more on the way.

Why is knowing how to rent an EV important?

The more you know about renting an EV, the smoother your experience will be — and the more you will enjoy the benefits of the technology.

The Washington Post and the nonpartisan think tank Energy Innovation conducted a review and found that "​​In all 50 states, it's cheaper for the everyday American to fill up with electrons" versus filling up with gas. Every EV driver, owner, or renter can save money — not to mention avoid pollution that warms the planet.

For rentals specifically, there are great reasons to overcome any current hassles. "It's not uncommon now to see sporty electric cars available for around the same price — and sometimes even cheaper," writes the Post's Chris Velazco. 

"Electric cars are better for the environment, and many are more fun to drive than traditional models."

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