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the road ahead

Jason Tchir charges his rented Telsa Model Y in Jasper, Alta., on a drive from Vancouver to Edmonton.Jason Tchir/The Globe and Mail

If you’ve never driven an electric vehicle, it makes sense to spend some time with one before buying to avoid any shocks.

While even a 15- or 20-minute spin in an EV can be enough to give a quick sense of how it drives, it probably won’t be long enough to see how much range it actually uses for daily commutes, or to see what it’s like to charge it.

“Our experience has been that the test drive is key. We find lots of people go ahead and buy with just a normal 15-minute test drive,” said Cara Clairman, chief executive officer of Plug ‘N Drive, a Toronto-based non-profit that focuses on EV education and offers 15-minute test drives. “But that [desire for a longer drive] is an issue. I’ve had a few friends who’ve rented one for the weekend to see how it works with their kids’ hockey or with whatever else they have to do.”

While driving an EV isn’t fundamentally different than driving a gas-powered car, other than most EVs offer more power and speed, Clairman said some buyers want longer drives to see how an EV will fit into their lives.

So, how do you take an EV out for a day or two before deciding whether you’re ready to buy one? One way is to rent.

Luxury rates

Hertz offers EVs, including the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y, the Volvo XC40 Recharge and the Hyundai Kona, in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto.

Hertz said rates are similar to a luxury vehicle and vary depending on the vehicle and supply and demand.

Hertz’s website shows that renting a Model 3 from Vancouver’s airport for a week in October will cost $671, compared with $575 for a standard sedan, such as a Volkswagen Jetta.

This summer, I’d booked a Nissan Kicks from Thrifty, which is owned by Hertz, for a two-day, one-way drive from Vancouver to Edmonton. At the counter, they offered me a Tesla Model Y for $40 more a day and I took it. But not all companies offer EVs in Canada. Budget and Enterprise, for instance, don’t yet, although they offer EVs in the United States.

Some travel sites, including Priceline and Kayak, let you filter rental search results for electric cars. For instance, Kayak showed EVs available from Hertz at airport locations in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal.

If you can’t find an EV from a traditional rental company, there are EV-specific rental companies, including Zerocar in Vancouver, which offers exclusively Tesla vehicles. The Electric Vehicle Network, a used EV dealership, offers EV rentals in Toronto and Dartmouth, N.S. Nott, a used-car dealer in Winnipeg, rents out Teslas starting at $269 a day. Most standard EV rental options appear to be in the bigger cities.

Rent from an owner?

Turo Canada, a car-sharing network that lets private owners rent out their vehicles, offers EVs. It operates in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

The owners set the prices. For instance, one owner of a 2021 Tesla Model 3 in Halifax was charging $126 a day. The owners aren’t always just in major cities. For instance, in Lethbridge, Alta., about 200 kilometres south of Calgary, there’s at least one Tesla owner renting out his car through Turo.

The owners aren’t all individuals, either. Since July, Hyundai Canada has been offering Hyundai Ioniq 5s for rent through Turo at 45 dealerships across B.C., Ontario and Quebec. The cost is $150 a day.

While Turo said there’s no sales pitch, dealership staff can answer any EV-related questions. While you can rent one even if you have no intention of buying a Hyundai EV, if you’ve rented for at least two days and later decide to buy a Hyundai EV, you’ll receive a $500 credit.

“The object is for Canadians to experience EVs and see how they fit into their lives,” said Bassem El-Rahimy, Turo Canada’s director of marketing. In a Leger survey for Turo done last November, 86 per cent of respondents said they had never driven an EV, while 66 per cent said they’d be more likely to buy one if they could test drive one for a few days.