Electric vehicles are future, but outside of cities they are not the present – Stephen Jardine
“Just don’t overthink it,” said the jolly woman at the car rental desk and, with those few words, my fate was sealed. Until this week, I was an electric car virgin. However the offer was too good to refuse, an electric vehicle for half the cost of a petrol car would be a great way to test the water. Well done Hertz for putting on this great offer to help convince customers.
At the rental desk, I had a few questions: basic stuff about how and where to charge the car during our visit to rural Cornwall, but these were wafted away with a photocopied page of handy hints and the suggestion that I was simply worrying too much. So off we went.
The first few miles were great. The car was smooth, quiet and super-easy to drive but soon my eye was drawn to the battery level and it seemed to be dropping fast. We’d barely left the airport and it was down one per cent. By the time we reached our destination an hour away, we’d lost ten per cent. It’s no wonder Google has nearly 600 million search results around so-called range anxiety.
There were no charging places where we were staying so I parked the car and tried to forget about that nagging percentage figure. Over the next few days, we’d planned a few trips but there was always an excuse not to get in the car. The weather was too good or the traffic would be bad were my favourites, but the reality was I didn’t want to use any more battery power.
Instead, I sat around watching videos on charging electric vehicles while downloading the numerous apps required. Eventually, I had enough confidence to get back in the car and after a great day out, the car itself suggested a charge in a supermarket car park near Penzance might be a good idea. The first point was broken and so was the second, but I eventually connected to a third where I discovered a charge would take at least five hours. Even in the rain, there is only so much time you can spend in Tesco in Penzance so after a couple of hours we left.
The rest of the trip involved criss-crossing rural Cornwall only to find charging points weren’t working or there was no mobile connectivity to pay. On the final morning, we had both of those issues at the same time in a holiday park on the way to the airport. I suppose it’s hardly surprising when two-thirds of charging points in this country are out of action at any one time.
And that’s where it dawned on me. It seemed that the cut-price electric rental offer was not a laudable way to encourage consumers to switch but instead a cynical ploy to collect the penalty fee payable when the car is returned without the stated 80 per cent battery required. Electric vehicles may well be the future but, outside major cities, they’re certainly not the present.
Normally I’d give Hertz the chance to respond but they didn’t take my phonecalls, their live chat wasn’t working, and the press office ignored my emails. Or maybe they were all just busy trying to find somewhere to charge their electric company cars.
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