Canadian car rental and car-sharing companies are turning to electric vehicles


More subscriber drivers and short-term travelers are demanding electric vehicles and Canadian car rental and car-sharing companies are responding by adding ZEVs to their fleets, even in the face of supply chain and economic challenges

Canadian vehicle rental and car-sharing companies are taking note of the market shift towards zero-emission transportation, with more electric vehicles than ever before.

Craig Hirota, vice-president, government relations and member services at Associated Canadian Car Rental Operators (ACCRO) – an advocacy group for the Canadian rental industry – says these changes are a clear signal that companies are taking the pulse of consumers. and make the necessary changes to meet changing demands.

Craig Hirota, vice president, government relations and member services at Associated Canadian Car Rental Operators (ACCRO). Photo: LinkedIn

“Public perception and awareness of electric vehicles, zero-emissions and hybrid vehicles is increasing every month and there is definitely a lot more consumer curiosity about these types of vehicles,” Hirota said in an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada.

“The industry is always going to respond to what its customers want… So if [EVs] are what customers buy, [rental] fleets will reflect what customers drive in their own lives and what they want when they travel.

At the start of the pandemic, Hirota notes that many rental companies sold their combustion fleets when demand slumped and have since struggled to recover their stock due to global supply chain issues.

But, despite these issues, Hirota is confident rental vehicle demand will rebound and 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 most recognizable names in the industry.

Hertz, for example, offers a range of electric vehicles 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 add to its North American fleet by the end of the year.

In fall 2021, Hertz also announced plans to purchase 100,000 Tesla Model 3s for distribution in its US market. This will represent more than 20% of the company’s global fleet.

Enterprise and Avis also offer electric rentals, but only in the United States at this time. So it’s the smaller companies that have the chance to move in and fill the gaps in the Canadian EV rental market.

For six years, the founders of Vancouver-based car rental company Zerocar have paid close attention to the market’s continued appeal of electric vehicles. During the pandemic, the company rebranded itself from EV Rentals to Zerocar, a 50 Tesla fleet company that rents them out daily or at a base rate of $8 an hour. Zerocar plans to triple the number of vehicles in the year.

Portrait of the co-founder and CMO of Zerocar, Raymond Reid
Raymond Reid, co-founder and CMO of Zerocar. Photo: Zerocar

“We already had a lot of knowledge about the [EV] market and it was just about identifying that there was a transition point that was happening that we wanted to anticipate before the others, ”explains Raymond Reid, co-founder and CMO of Zerocar in an interview with Electric autonomy.

“It was a strategic move…to be first to market and establish a strong brand when people started thinking about electric vehicles.”

Reid adds that in addition to renting to consumers and educating the public about electric vehicles, Zerocar offers services to businesses by collecting and sharing data from its vehicles to better understand how consumers use electric vehicles.

Elsewhere in Canada, used electric vehicle dealership Shift Electric Vehicles in Oakville, Ont., sells a range of electric cars but also offers customers the option of leasing one of its four Tesla models.

A Toronto-based used electric vehicle dealership, EV Network has a similar business structure where it leases more than half a dozen electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Later this year, the company plans to expand its rental program to Nova Scotia and Alberta, working with multi-residential buildings and factories that want to offer the service to residents and employees.

car sharing industry

Like rental companies, the car-sharing industry, where customers can rent a vehicle for short periods by the hour, is also seeing a shift towards electric vehicles.

Quebec-based car-sharing company Communauto saw a 30% increase in membership and overall usage of its services in 2021. In March, the company announced it will add 100 new electric Kia Niros to its fleet in the summer of 2022. At the time, Communauto said it was having difficulty fulfilling the full 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 offers peer-to-peer carsharing through its app and website in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Halifax, Edmonton, and Ottawa. Turo said it has more than 1,000 zero-emission vehicles on its platform, including more than 200 Teslas in Canada alone.

Patrick Nangle, CEO of Modo. Photo: LinkedIn

Modo is a member-owned car-sharing cooperative in British Columbia (700 vehicles in 25 municipalities in total) that is committed to moving its entire vehicle fleet to zero emissions by 2030, said Patrick Nangle, CEO of Modo in an interview with Electric autonomy.

Currently, Modo has 25 zero-emission vehicles in the sharing program and 25 more will be added this year. The objective of the cooperative is to make car use more accessible, affordable and sustainable by reducing the environmental impact of car sharing.

“We know that when people choose to carpool on a one-to-one basis, you’re already reducing your emissions through vehicle use by 30 to 50 percent, kind of right off the bat,” Nangle says. “We wanted to go the rest of the way and figure out how to eliminate the rest?”

As more car-sharing companies begin to integrate zero-emission vehicles into their fleets, some of the challenges they will face include access to federal and provincial rebate incentives, high installation costs charging infrastructure and determining the opportunity costs of a fleet.

There’s a lot of work to be done, but Nangle says he’s optimistic that the business case for ZEVs will continue to improve in the future.

“I absolutely believe that the business case will become a good business case,” says Nangle.

“There will be more [electric] vehicles come on the market, the cost will come down, the price of gas will go up… we hope to have better access to charging in an affordable way. So, I feel good in the momentum.

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