A milestone in the electric vehicle revolution, toward the end of 2021, Hertz announced it was ordering 100,000 Teslas. That took true leadership from Hertz, and it’s something EV enthusiasts were long waiting to see happen (generally speaking). Aside from the fact that electric vehicles are cheaper to operate (and the more one drives in a year, the more one saves by going electric), electric vehicles are just much more enjoyable to drive, so EV enthusiasts have always seen electric rentals as a superb way to sell more EVs. That said … there are some differences in driving electric versus driving a gas car, or driving a Tesla specifically versus driving a gas car, and a rental car company renting so many Teslas to people should make sure renters know what they’re doing.
One would think that’s what has been happening, but apparently not. An author named Jon Acuff tweeted this week about his experience renting a Tesla from Hertz and it shows definite room for improvement. Notably, Mr. Acuff didn’t plan to rent a Tesla. But this must be a common situation for Hertz, given that it has bought so many Teslas. This is how Mr. Acuff started his Twitter thread: “Yesterday, @Hertz was out of cars. They said, ‘All we have is a Tesla. Can you drive it?’ I’ve never driven one before but I needed to go, so I said, ‘Of course.’ They could have just as easily rented me a seahorse for how clueless I was. (1 of 8)” (I do wonder if he had said “Maybe,” or “I will try to figure it out,” if the Hertz rep would have gone ahead and explained some things for him. Though, my assumption is they wouldn’t unless asked.)
So, from there, Mr. Acuff describes being basically clueless on how to operate a Tesla and having to figure out several things via his handy smartphone and good old Google. “I had to google EVERYTHING. I had to look up ‘How do you turn on a Tesla? How do you put a Tesla into drive? How do you open the trunk?’ I had this nightmare that I’d accidentally reverse into the 200 people who were in line me behind me waiting for a car. (2 of 8)” I get it — it’s a new type of vehicle and you have some challenge just learning the basics. I had this happen to me when I rented a BMW in the Netherlands several years ago and couldn’t figure out how to turn it on. However, I think some of this stuff is obvious enough that Google shouldn’t be needed. (Or maybe I’m just too used to Teslas.) When your car is in park, there’s a big picture of the car on the touchscreen, and there are the words “Trunk Open” and “Frunk Open” with lines next to them that are pretty clearly indicating that if you tap them on the screen, the trunk or frunk will open. Also, the DNRB stalk is not much different from the stalk other cars, and you can just look at it and see what to do. I think.
But, there’s more. …
Later in the thread, Mr. Acuff wrote, “I was driving from Nashville to Louisville and the car told me I wouldn’t make it. I had to find a supercharger in Elizabethtown, Kentucky (You know the one) and then pretend I knew how to charge it. Every other Tesla owner there could tell I was a poseur.” Supercharging is not hard. In fact, it’s so ridiculously easy that it throws some people off. You back the car up to the charger (which is obvious since every Tesla there will be backed up next to the charger they’re using). Then you just take the plug and plug it into your car. The rest is automatic. No cards, no starting the session, nothing — just plug in. Now, I know this is not entirely intuitive. People often think they need to do more, and I’ve helped a handful of new owners and renters (at least one Hertz renter) at a Supercharger to show them this. Nonetheless, this couldn’t be simpler unless the charger plugged itself in when you pulled up.
Then there was the infamous range anxiety. “I was at 16% battery trying to make it to a charger, so I stopped using air conditioning. I figured that might help. Is it June where you live? Because it’s June in the south. Hottest drive ever. I was a sweaty, range anxiety mess by the time I rolled into E-town. (5 of 8)” When you put your destination into the navigation, it tells you the percentage charge you should get there with, and if you need to Supercharge on the way, Tesla will automatically add the stop for you. Again, it’s so simple and convenient that it’s hard to see how it could be easier. But perhaps a new driver doesn’t notice the percentage the car will be at on arrival, or perhaps the driver speeds a lot and burns up range more quickly, then you could have a problem. One should not have to turn off the AC (and that’s not going to help a great deal anyway) to get to their destination in a Tesla. It’s not 2013. Though, I guess, if you just got in a Tesla for the first time at Hertz and drove off, you could end up in this kind of stressful situation before learning how good and easy the Tesla navigation system is.
The overall point is clear: if Hertz is renting a Tesla (or any EV) to someone who has never driven one before, they should be sure to show them core basics of the car, charging, and navigation. Perhaps just a printed & laminated explanation of these things sitting in the cars would be the best solution. Also, going back to the beginning, if you are 100% new to a Tesla, maybe it’s best not to say “Of course” when asked if you know how to drive it.
At the end of the Twitter thread, Mr. Acuff relays what happens when he gets to the hotel. “When I finally made it to Louisville and valeted it at the hotel, I asked the kid, ‘Do you know how to turn one of these on?’ He looked at me like I was churning my own butter. ‘Of course’ he said. ‘Fine. Take this seahorse and see how it goes.’ I said. (8 of 8)” I’m not 100% clear here if he thinks the valet would have any issues with the car, like he himself had after saying “Of course.” But I’d bet a solid amount of cash the valet knew exactly how to operate the Tesla and considered it super easy and intuitive.
Should Hertz do better to ensure Tesla renters or other EV renters know what they’re doing before they leave with a car? Probably. There are just a few basic things to share, whether face to face or with a laminated “How to …” card in the car. Better safe than sorry, and better to make the customer tell you “Dude, I’m fine” rather than assume he or she knows how to operate the car.
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