Electric vehicles offer an easy green win to holiday car rental companies, but they should be hitting the accelerator when it comes to capitalising on this fast-evolving technology not dawdling in the slow lane.
Consumers are increasingly embracing the ecological and economic benefits of electric vehicles (EVs), spurred on by government incentives, an increasing vehicle offering and government measures (in some countries) to move towards a ban on petrol and diesel cars.
Yet the progress made in EV sales has yet to translate to the travel industry.
While city-based car clubs have adopted EV technology, major international car rental companies have been slower to follow suit.
At present, Hertz only offers hybrid rentals and while EVs can be rented through Avis, Sixt and Europcar, they are only available in a limited number of countries, including Germany, France and the US.
There is no denying that potential renters still see EVs as the more difficult option when compared to petrol and diesel models. ‘Range anxiety’ – the fear the battery will run flat – is a major concern.
Plus, there is the need to plan a journey around charging points and charging times (a full charge takes anything from eight hours on a regular charger and one to two hours on a supercharger) which can take the romance out of a road trip.
But improvements in charging networks, mobile trip-planning tools and ever-evolving technology means that EV is increasingly a viable option for holiday car rentals and self-drive holidays.
With climate change a ticking time bomb, shouldn’t rental companies be driving change (pun intended), rather than waiting for customers to demand it?
This is an easy way for the travel industry to become greener and to create change in the wider world of transport.
Anyone who enjoys using an EV on holiday may be inspired to buy one for themselves – with the car rental company taking the credit for facilitating this glorified test drive.
The facts around EVs are positive. In Europe, for example, energy provider E.ON is installing a vast network of new charging stations, including ultra-fast charging points, between now and 2020.
In the US, the West Coast Green Highway is a network of fast charging stations from San Diego to Whistler, in Canada, with super charging points every 25 to 50 miles.
An increase in mobile trip-planning tools and charge maps also makes planning self-drive electric car holidays easier.
Tesla has its own trip planning tool, Chargemap shows charging points in Europe and Ecotricity has an app showing charging points around the UK .
You can also download apps to your smartphone that will let you know whether or not a charger is working and available.
Many EV owners charge their cars overnight, so for EVs to make further inroads into the travel market a comprehensive network of accommodation offering charging points is a must.
While there has been a huge increase in the number of hotels in the UK and the US offering on-site chargers, including major hotel chains such as Marriott and Hilton, more needs to be done to make them widely available.
We believe tour operators should also get in on the EV act, including them as an option on their self-drive itineraries.
Responsible Travel offers a self drive tour of Scotland in a Tesla – proving that even in fairly remote areas EV road trips are perfectly possible.
While it may still be a while before EVs become the norm, ever-evolving technology allowing for longer battery life and rapid charging will go a long way towards making EVs both a practical and ethical road transport choice.
At Responsible Travel, we believe the travel industry, including the major car rental companies, should be championing their usage now, and leading the way in green road travel.
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