Howard's Blog

Howard A. Learner

Dear Hertz…

On EV car rentals, please "make a new plan, Stan"

Many of us were excited when Hertz made a big public splash about stepping up to buy electric vehicles (EVs) for its car rental fleet. Likewise, we were disappointed when Hertz recently announced that it’s cutting back EV rentals.

After having twice recently rented EVs from Hertz, from my admittedly limited experience, Hertz’s EV rental system unfortunately seems designed to frustrate and fail its customers.  Renting EVs involves different systems and information than renting gasoline-powered vehicles for which service stations are often close by; all have the same gas pump design and can usually be easily located through highway signs, Google Maps, and other such apps.

Many people are new to EVs and renting one can be a path for more familiarity and interest. Hertz has an opportunity to be a leader in building confidence and excitement for transitions to EVs. But to borrow a line from songwriter Paul Simon, when it comes to the customer experience, please “make a new plan Stan.”

Here’s my anecdotal experience.

The first time that I rented an EV from Hertz was at the T.F. Green International Airport near Providence, Rhode Island, on October 11, 2023, from where I would drive to Newport, Rhode Island.

I’m a “President’s Circle” customer so when I arrived late in the evening I was able to select my choice of cars. The only cars available, however, were EVs. That might be fine for me, except that I didn’t know the area well. I didn’t have any idea where the EV charging stations were located between Providence and Newport, RI, nor did Hertz provide any EV charging information, maps, or guidance. And, it wasn’t easy to find charging stations on the EV’s video screen. So, while driving at night in an unfamiliar place, my wife and I had to search the internet to identify where there was an EV charger for the Hertz car I was renting.

Suggestions

  • First, give the customers a choice of EVs or other types of vehicles, including hybrids as well as gasoline-powered cars. Don’t “force” the customer to use an EV.
  • Second, provide a map of EV public charging stations within the areas where the customer is renting and is going.
  • Third, provide the customer with easily followed guidance on how to utilize the car’s onboard software, if any, to find EV charging stations.

Solve the EV charging location issue so that it isn’t a problem and doesn’t provoke anxiety. Make the customer experience seamless to drive an EV.

The second time that I rented an EV from Hertz was intentional.

I booked the EV online. When I arrived at the Hertz counter in Chicago, the Chevy Bolt EV was there, but it wasn’t really ready. I was planning on driving 140 miles to visit a friend, and the EV only had about 70 miles of charge (less than half the capacity of the 167-mile “tank”). The Chevy Bolt EV hadn’t been recharged and filled like the gasoline-engine car would have been. The Chevy Bolts have a different charging plug than Teslas and the Hertz staff did not have a map or know the locations of Level 3 fast-charging EV stations with the right charging plug for the Bolt in the nearby area. Nor did Hertz tell me that the maximum charge and range for my Chevy Bolt rental was only about 167 miles.

Because I own a Tesla Model 3 EV, I know how to find Tesla’s Superchargers, which are shown on the car’s video screen. That’s different, however, for Chevy Bolts that use a different plug and the car doesn’t have software showing where to charge. After downloading some new apps on my cell phone, I finally found an EVgo charging station at a Whole Foods store that had a Level 3 fast charger. The Chevy Bolt, however, would only charge up to about 38 kW. That meant it would take a long time to charge the car in order to drive to my friend’s house 140 miles away, and I was late to get there. These hassles add up to a challenging experience and, simply put, would turn off many customers to EVs.

Suggestions

  • First, treat EVs like gasoline-powered rental cars. Fully charge the EV so it’s ready to go for the customer at pickup time.
  • Second, per above, provide a map of EV public charging stations within the areas where the customer is renting, is going, and along the likely routes between them.
  • Third, train your staff to work with customers on how to navigate an EV. Better information from Hertz could have mitigating the less-than-fully charged problem.

The car rental company that steps up with a well-designed EV system will win customers and become a market leader in a growing area of consumer choice.

To do that, Hertz (and its competitors) need to better think through the experience of renting an EV and adjust to the customers. Design the rental system to succeed rather than fail and frustrate. Overall, Hertz needs to make it easy for the customer to rent an EV. 

Seize the opportunity to design an EV rental system that will bring back loyal customers time and again. If done well, you’ll be ahead of the pack in leadership and marketing advantage.

That should be good for business and good for the environment. That’s also often just called good customer service.

Howard A. Learner,

President and Executive Director

Howard Learner is an experienced attorney serving as the President and Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. He is responsible for ELPC’s overall strategic leadership, policy direction, and financial platform.

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