More short-term, subscriber and traveller drivers are demanding electric vehicles and Canada’s car rental and car-sharing companies are responding, adding ZEVs to their fleets even in the face of supply chain and economic challenges
Editor’s note: This story was updated in July 2022 to include announcements about the expansion of Hertz’s rental partnership with Uber into Canada and Turo and Hyundai Canada’s EValuate program.
Canadian vehicle rental and car-share companies are taking note of the market shift towards zero-emission transportation, with more availability of electric vehicles than ever before.
Craig Hirota, vice-president, government relations and member services at the Associated Canadian Car Rental Operators (ACCRO) — a Canadian rental industry advocacy group — says these changes are a clear indication of companies taking the pulse of consumers and making the necessary changes to meet shifting demands.
“Public perception and public awareness of EVs, zero-emission and hybrid vehicles is growing by the month and there’s certainly a lot more consumer curiosity about those types of vehicles,” Hirota says in an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada.
“The industry is going to always respond to what their customers want… So if [EVs] are what customers are buying, [rental] fleets will reflect what customers drive in their own lives and what they want in terms of when they are travelling.”
At the start of the pandemic, Hirota notes many rental companies sold off their combustion fleets when demand crashed and have since struggled to recover their stock due to global supply chain problems.
But, despite these issues, Hirota is confident that demand for rental vehicles will rebound and the choices will include more electric models.
Big and small players
The pivot for car rental companies to adopt electric vehicles is led by some of the industry’s most recognizable names.
Hertz, for example, is offering a range of EVs for rent, such as the Hyundai Kona, Volvo XC40, Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt and Polestar 2, to its Canadian customers. Last month, the company said it ordered 65,000 electric vehicles from Polestar, to be added to its North American fleet near the end of the year. The company also purchased 100,000 Tesla Model 3 to be distributed to its U.S. market. This will make up more than 20 per cent of the company’s global fleet.
In July 2022, Hertz announced that it will be expanding its partnership with San Francisco-based ride-hailing company Uber, into Canada. Hertz is now offering drivers who use the Uber platform to rent one of its Teslas on a weekly basis in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.
“Hertz is leading the way in electrification, shared mobility and a digital-first customer experience by offering the largest electric vehicle rental fleet in North America,” said Jeff Nieman, Hertz senior vice president, Operations Initiatives in a press release. “Canada is the next frontier for our exclusive partnership with Uber, reaffirming our commitment to being an environmentally-forward company.”
Enterprise and Avis, too, offer electric rentals, but only in the United States at this time. So it’s the smaller companies that are getting a chance to move in and fill in the gaps in the Canadian EV rental market.
For six years, the founders of the Vancouver-based rental car company Zerocar have been paying close attention to the market’s steady pull towards EVs. During the pandemic, the company rebranded itself from EV Rentals into Zerocar, a 50 Tesla fleet company that rents them per day or at a base rate of $8 per hour. Zerocar expects to triple the number of vehicles within the year.
“There’s a lot of knowledge that we already had about the [EV] market and it was just identifying that there was a transition point that was happening that we wanted to get ahead of before others did,” explains Raymond Reid, co-founder and CMO of Zerocar in an interview with Electric Autonomy.
“It was a strategic decision…to be first in the market and establish a strong brand when people came to be thinking about EVs.”
Reid adds that, in addition to renting to consumers and providing public education about EVs, Zerocar is offering services to businesses by collecting and sharing data from its vehicles to better understand how consumers use EVs.
Elsewhere in Canada, the used EV dealership Shift Electric Vehicles in Oakville, Ont., sells a range of electric cars but also gives customers the opportunity to rent out one of its four Tesla models.
Toronto-based used EV dealership, EV Network has a similar business structure where it rents out more than half a dozen electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Later this year, the company is planning to expand its rental program to Nova Scotia and Alberta, in collaboration with multi-residential buildings and factories that wish to provide the service to residents and employees.
Similar to the rental companies, the car-sharing industry, where customers can rent a vehicle for short periods of time by the hour, is also experiencing a shift towards EVs.
Quebec-based car-sharing company Communauto saw a 30 per cent increase in the number of members and overall usage of its services in 2021. In March, the company announced that it will be adding 100 new electric Kia Niros to its fleet in summer 2022. At the time, Communauto said it was having some difficulties fulfilling the complete Niro EV order due to vehicle shortages. Communauto operates in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.
San Francisco-based Turo entered the Canadian market in 2016 and provides peer-to-peer car-sharing service through its app and website in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Halifax, Edmonton and Ottawa. Turo reported having more than 1,000 zero-emission vehicles on its platform, including over 200 Teslas in Canada alone.
In an effort to boost consumer education and awareness of electric vehicles, Turo announced that it was teaming up with Hyundai Canada in July 2022, to launch EValuate, a program that will allow Canadians to test drive a Hyundai EV model by booking through Turo’s website or app.
“Canadians understand the importance of transitioning towards a green future, but are hesitant to switch to an EV before they have the opportunity to try one,” said Cedric Mathieu, vice president and head of Turo Canada in a press statement.
“Turo has one of the largest selections of EVs of any car sharing marketplace in Canada. We are proud to partner with Hyundai to greatly expand our electric vehicle offerings and make it easier than ever for Canadians to enjoy an extended EV test drive.”
The program will be available in Quebec and Ontario and will expand into British Columbia in a few weeks. Customers who use the program and then go on to buy a Hyundai EV will be eligible to get a $500 incentive on the purchase price.
Modo is a member-owned, car-sharing co-operative in B.C. (700 vehicles in 25 municipalities in total) that made a commitment to transition its entire fleet to zero-emission vehicles by 2030, says Patrick Nangle, CEO of Modo in an interview with Electric Autonomy.
Currently, Modo has 25 zero-emission vehicles in the share program with another 25 to be added this year. The purpose of the co-op is to make car use more accessible, affordable and sustainable by reducing the environmental impact of sharing vehicles.
“We know that when people choose to carshare on an individual basis, you’re already reducing your emissions through the use of vehicles by 30 to 50 per cent, just kind of out of the gate,” says Nangle. “We wanted to go the rest of the way and figure out how do we eliminate the rest?”
As more car-sharing companies begin to incorporate zero-emission vehicles into their fleets, some of the challenges they’ll have to face include access to federal and provincial rebate incentives, high costs for charging infrastructure installations, and determining a fleet’s opportunity costs.
There is a lot of work to be done but Nangle says he is optimistic that the business case for ZEVs will continue to improve in the future.
“I’m absolutely confident that the business case is going to emerge as a good business case,” says Nangle.
“There’ll be more [electric] vehicles coming into the market, the cost will come down, cost of gasoline is going up…we will hopefully have better access to charging in an affordable way. So, I feel good about the momentum.”