Exploring the Viability of Renting an Electric Vehicle for your Next Adventure: The Convenience of Renting an EV while Traveling


Exploring the Viability of Renting an Electric Vehicle for your Next Adventure:

The Convenience of Renting an EV while Traveling

By Danielle Hayes | April 4, 2024

Interior view of a mini cooper electric vehicle showing the steering wheel, dashboard, center console with navigation screen, and part of the driver's seat.

Electric Vehicles (EVs) are on the horizon of being as convenient as fueling up the typical gasoline-powered vehicle. The EV infrastructure is building up every year as new funding opportunities continue arising. This can be a great opportunity to give tourists the EV experience when visiting new cities, but is it truly viable and functional enough yet for the tourist community? I have recently found myself traveling for leisure to Phoenix, AZ. While on this travel, I took advantage of my time and decided to explore renting EVs to show that it is not much more different than renting a traditional fuel vehicle.

Throughout Indiana there are areas that have easily accessible public charging, while there are also “charging deserts” in other areas. My first thought before I rented an EV in an unfamiliar city was if there would be comfortable charging that I can rely on or if there would be only charging deserts. Viewing a map of surrounding chargers is important before starting a trip in an unknown area and to my surprise, the infrastructure was well built up throughout Phoenix and the surrounding areas.

Why rent an EV and have one more thing to worry about?

Initially when renting a vehicle, I always choose the most fuel-efficient and cost-effective vehicle option. (As most traveling individuals do, right?). To my surprise the most cost-effective options recently have been an electric option; Chevy Bolt, Polestar, and Mini Cooper SE (Mini Electric). The second deciding aspect to which rental vehicle I pursue is if I can rent a car seat through the company. Hauling a car seat throughout an airport is not ideal, as I am sure most parents also agree with who are traveling airport to airport.

The past two trips I have taken, I chose a Polestar 2 and a Mini Electric. These were both great vehicles that I had an exceptional experience with, but not every customer had the same experience. While at rental car companies, I have come across individuals that are either excited about experiencing an EV or fully refuse to give an EV a try. No matter the situation, I respect if you are willing to rent an EV or not.

Renting the Polestar 2 vs the Mini Electric:

Polestar 2

The Polestar 2 is a slick vehicle that boasts low-key luxury. This is a terrific everyday vehicle that had enough room to hold my family and all of our luggage. The Polestar is manufactured by Volvo and rumor has it, they want to lower Polestar prices enough to be Tesla’s next competitor.

Upon finding out the vehicle I will be renting was a Polestar instead of a Chevy Bolt, I was full of excitement. The others I was waiting in the rental car line with felt entirely differently though. Depending on budget flexibility, there was a choice of a Tesla, Polestar 2, and a Chevy Bolt. Only electric options. A couple people argued and refused to rent an EV, which made me think about how many people might have this argument on a weekly basis with this rental car company.

A blue electric sedan parked on a paved surface with desert vegetation in the background, available for renting.

The house I was staying at was just 5 minutes away from an Electrify America, where I had to stop at only once while on this trip. The charging rate was $0.48/kWh and it only took me about 40 minutes to get back up to a full charge. This Electrify America was found in a Walmart parking lot and had 2 other owners utilizing the charging spots.  

Mini Electric

On my most recent trip to Phoenix, I rented a Mini Cooper SE or Mini Electric. I chose to rent this vehicle because of the cost-efficiency, but mainly because it is a vehicle that I would love to own one day. My scenario was different this trip and I was not in need of a car seat this trip. I just needed to be able to drive around a couple people to and from nearby Scottsdale destinations. This was the perfect little vehicle that was able to adorably cart people around like a golf cart zipping by.

Upon arriving to the rental car company, I was given a welcome brochure on the Mini Electric and which specific apps that were recommended to locate chargers before returning the vehicle. Having an app, such as PlugShare, while in a new area is key. Even if you chose to not download a new app, Apple Maps and Google Maps both have accurate charging locating. When in a new city, you are most likely going to have to map out a gas station anyways, it is not much different to map out charging stations.

Black mini cooper electric vehicle with reflective detailing parked outside, available for renting.

Compared to the last rental car company, this company exceeded my expectations on informing and educating the drivers on EVs before sending them on their own. Needless to say, I was not disappointed with my experience renting this vehicle.

Throughout this 4-day trip, I only had to recharge once and had no issues finding an available charger. Level 2 chargers were found on each floor of multiple parking garages and throughout almost every area of the city I drove to. When it was time to charge up, I chose to charge for a few hours at a Level 2 Blink charger for $0.39/kWh which was located within a parking garage by high-end restaurants and a variety of nearby shops.

Overall, renting an EV is not much different than renting a traditional fuel vehicle. Just like the typical fuel vehicle rental, there is an optional refueling/recharge fee if you do not have the time to charge up before returning the vehicle. If you are someone that does have time to charge, the charging infrastructure in cities such as Phoenix have been built up to where you can comfortably charge up in comfort without range anxiety. These conveniently located chargers are both Level 2 and DC Fast Charging all near businesses and restaurants.

If there is convivence in renting an EV, then why are people shying away from them?

There are most likely a few different reasons behind this, but the top reasoning behind it is the idea that your travel has to be planned out. When traveling, people want the simplicity and convenience that they have already adapted to. Due to that reason, renting an EV might take a couple years to truly catch on and become popular. In my option, the best way to make these rental vehicles popular would be to stay the cost-efficient rental option. If EVs can continue on that trendline, then they might gain more popularity with people who typically might not rent an EV.