Hertz EV plans short out

Hertz thought they were being forward thinking when they ordered 100,000 Tesla Model 3 EVs last year, amounting to about a quarter of their fleet. Now a year later, its plans are in disarray and on hold.

At the time it seemed to be a clever attempt to move on from their bankruptcy and take advantage of the interest in EVs to boost their stock. But Hertz experienced an array of problems, many that could have been predicted had they thought it through or did a little testing.

First, owning an EV as a personal car with home charging is a lot different than using one as a rental, especially a Tesla that has a completely different user interface and a new method of refueling for many. But EV renters need to charge their car at their hotel or on the road during their rental period, and that requires planning for the extra time it takes to find a charger. Once they get to a charging station, they need to set up an online account to pay. And what business traveler has time to stop for 30 to 60 minutes to refuel on the way back to the airport?

As bad as it was for the renter, Hertz experienced their own set of problems. The resale values of Teslas have been plummeting because Tesla keeps lowering the MSRP of their cars. In addition, the cost of repairing Teslas turned out to be double what the company spends on conventional cars.

Hertz also signed an agreement with Uber to rent half of their Teslas to Uber drivers, which only added to their grief. The level of damages on these vehicles turned out to be even higher because of the Uber drivers’ higher usage factor.

Perhaps Hertz thought their customers would prefer EVs, but that also turned out to be an issue with some of their renters. Many complained that their cars were not fully charged when they drove away and were not provided any instructions on finding a charger.

One renter that was totally unfamiliar with a Tesla, had a horrific experience, as reported in Carscops:

Sometimes problems go from bad to worse and that was the case for a mom and daughter hoping to tour different colleges earlier this year. They rented a car, which ended up being a Tesla Model 3, from Hertz but ultimately didn’t have the knowledge they needed to use it. That led to a completely flat battery and the feeling of being trapped in the car.

Becky Liebeau says that she rented a car from Hertz and thought that it would be an everyday gas-powered vehicle. Instead, Hertz gave her the Tesla saying that it was all that they had available. “I have never driven an electric vehicle and it would not have been my first choice,” said Liebau to CBS 2 Chicago.

The issue wasn’t just that Liebau was unfamiliar with EVs, but that the car was only half-charged, she says. Liebau says she wasn’t given any instruction about where to charge, how to charge, or how to find charging stations. As a result, she and her daughter ended up stranded on the side of the road with a completely dead Tesla Model 3.

Not being familiar with the Tesla, neither knew that there were physical door releases on the doors. Both believed that they were trapped despite having the handle to open the doors mere inches away. “I ended up having to crawl out the trunk, when he told me about the release button in the back,” said Liebau.

Hertz has now put their plan on pause. They now have 35,000 Tesla vehicles and around 50,000 electric vehicles in its fleet — far shy of the 100,000. Hertz’ problems are the result of a lack of imagination, a lack of testing, and no common sense. Any business traveler could have anticipated many of these problems.

Some thoughts

With many new EVs hitting the market, you no longer need to buy a car like a Tesla with unfamiliar controls. That was a consideration of Wall St Journal’s tech columnist, Joanna Stern, who tested a variety of cars and chose a Ford Mustang. Among her many reasons, she noted that some of her friends and family would be using the car and it was important that the controls be familiar.

And Tesla’s interface looks more problematical each year. Their latest models removes the stalks for turn signals and lights from the steering column and puts them on the touch screen. Imagine renting a car and not being able to find the turn signals!

by Phil Baker

4 thoughts on “Hertz EV plans short out

  1. John Canning says:

    Thanks for an interesting article!

    I’ve rented a Tesla 4 times from Hertz. It took that many rentals for me to become comfortable with the touch screen interface. The secret to my success was when a Tesla driver showed me voice control – it makes it much easier to use the car than the touch screen!

    FWIW, when you rent from Hertz, you get free charging at Tesla charging stations.

    The folks stranded in Chicago must have been ignoring the Tesla’s voice and visual prompts (which is not an easy thing to do). The car knows it is running out of power and will start urging the user to go to a charging station long before you run out of juice and provides detailed instructions for how to get to the nearest available charger.

    • Phil Baker says:

      Did Hertz provide you with any tutorial when you first rented the car or were you on your own?

  2. Alice engelman says:

    When my 85 yr old friend went to pick up her rental, the staff were excited give her an EV. She politely declined, saying “Do I look like a person who can drive all over a strange city looking for charging stations?” They promptly gave her a gas fueled auto. I know many won’t have sympathy for my friend but we oldsters do still travel so please, cut us some slack. Thank you.

  3. Stephen P. Bloom says:

    I do think the main issue is simply that a Tesla can be a great car to own if you live in the city you are driving it in, and as was already pointed out, can simply charge it overnight when you get home. But as a rental it is a disaster. Not all charging stations that show up on Tesla’s screen are open, not all are open to the public (many at hotels are only for hotel guests) so mostly I found them only at shopping malls. The biggest problem, beyond the time spent waiting for a charge to fill up the battery (typically abourt 45 minutes) is that the projected miles you have left on the battery is wildly inaccurate and changes rapidly depending on how you drive the car. It is great in intermittent traffic because you are constantly giving it little recharges, but terrible on the open road because the faster and more interrupted your drive the faster you use up the charge. You may leave where you are staying thinking you have 200 miles left on your battery – no problem – yet need a charge after half that amount of driving

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