When I went to book a rental car for Thanksgiving a few months ago, all that Hertz had left at O’Hare International Airport were Teslas. Usually, I end up with something like a Nissan Altima — not an amazing car, but one that gets the job done. Cheaply. But not this time.
Hertz is in the process of adding 100,000 Teslas to its rental fleet, so it was statistically probable that one day I’d end up renting one. I’m certainly in their target demo — all of our cars over the last seven-plus years have had a plug, and while none of them have been Teslas, I am what you might call Tesla-curious. Aside from a test drive of a Model Y a couple of years ago, I’d never driven one for an extended period of time.
What the heck, I thought. Let’s go for it.
Even though I’m far from an EV novice, I still wasn’t sure about renting an EV. I do the vast majority of my charging at home, and I’m familiar enough with my vehicles to know their real-world range and how the weather will affect it. I don’t have that same familiarity with the Model 3, and I wouldn’t have anything more than a 120v outlet at my parents’ house, which is two hours from the airport.
But I’ve got a weak spot for new technology and new ways of experiencing it, especially when it comes to electrification. Here went nothing.
How it went
When we picked up the car at the airport, I was directed to the kiosk, where a nice Hertz rep behind the counter explained that she had to give me a spiel, the same one she gives to all Tesla renters. She asked if I had any questions, and I told her that while I didn’t own a Tesla, I was familiar enough with EVs that I was confident I’d get by.
One difference she pointed out was that in place of the usual offer to pre-pay for a tank of gas, there was an option to place a $35 deposit in case I wasn’t able to return the car more than 70% charged. If I was able to charge it before returning it, the $35 would go back on my credit card. Seemed like a reasonable offer, so I took her up on it.
In our conversation, she mentioned that Hertz’s O’Hare fleet was largely being replaced with Teslas. Ah, so that’s why only Teslas remained.
We found the car, got the kids situated, adjusted the mirrors and steering wheel (no small feat), and headed out. Anyone who’s driven an EV is addicted to instant torque, and the Model 3 has it in spades. The twitchy accelerator pedal reminded me of our old BMW i3 — in a good way — as did the one-pedal driving, which activates regenerative braking when you lift your foot, allowing you to largely ignore the brake pedal. The suspension was tight, but not horribly so. It was certainly far better sorted than the Model Y, which on rough roads felt like it was pummeling my kidneys.
Though the car had enough range to make it to my parents’ house, I wanted to charge on the way to ensure we’d have enough for the return. (120v outlets are excruciatingly slow.) After entering our destination into the nav, we added another stop and searched for “supercharger.” Helpfully, the top hits were Superchargers along our route, starting with the one closest to our destination.
Driving the car was great, but letting it drive itself … not so much.