How to hire an electric car: rental and subscription services explained
The electric car market is booming. If you want to buy one, you now have more choice than ever – and the infrastructure required to recharge them is scaling rapidly, making it easier to go further than before.
But what if you want to hire an electric car, whether to test before you buy, or to use occasionally? This is our guide to hiring an electric car in the UK and the different types of hiring options available.
Why hire an electric car?
First, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of hiring an electric car. If you want to buy an electric car, a typical test drive at a dealership lasts about 30 minutes. If you’re lucky, you might persuade them to give you a 24-hour test drive. But that isn’t long enough to get accustomed to a new technology, and the ins and outs of charging. So hiring one for a few days is a great way to learn the ropes and see if the car fits your lifestyle.
Or perhaps you don’t want to own a car and would prefer to hire as you need? If so, there are several companies that work on a membership basis, allowing you to rent as you drive. Others offer longer-term rental, from daily to monthly, and many include all costs like insurance, maintenance and even charging.
Where can I hire an electric car?
The electric-car hire market is growing rapidly – and the traditional rental companies appear to be lagging behind electric-only start-ups. There are a myriad of options out there, from car-club-style services with a monthly fee that allow you to pay for an electric car only when you need it, to more traditional ‘self-drive’ schemes.
What to look for when hiring an electric car
You’ll want to check if charging is included in the price. If not, does the car come with an ‘access card’ giving you the ability to charge up at public charging points? If it doesn’t, you might have to sign up to several charging schemes. Also, check if you have to return the car with a full charge or you might be penalised.
Traditional hire companies
The major rental companies like Avis, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt don’t hire full electric cars in the UK right now. All promise the ability to hire electric, but when you research what cars available in a location like London, you’ll find that only Europcar offers a BMW i3, with the rest providing access to hybrids such as the Toyota C-HR. Their websites don’t make it easy to search by powertrain type, either, sticking to the traditional model based on type of car with no guarantee of reserving a specific make and model. Sixt offers electric cars for rental in the US, and says the service will be coming to the UK soon.
There are a number of pay-as-you-go electric-car hire companies based in the UK. For a fixed monthly membership fee and a per-mile charge, you can pick up and collect electric cars parked on the street and pay for them only when you use them. This is perfect for people who only need occasional car access.
Blue City is a pay-as-you-go electric-car club based in London. Cars are available 24/7 and you need to sign up and subscribe to use the service. Plans start at £5 a month for a one-year plan, with mileage charged at 19p a minute. The minimum journey fee is £3.80, while journeys over three and less than six hours are capped at £34.20. Blue City also offers special deals, such as one free rental per month and three hours free if you hire for three hours. The only cars available are small city cars built by Bolloré, the owner of the service.
Co-Wheels Car Club
Co-Wheels offers a pay-as-you-go subscription hire service. Users sign up by paying a £25 joining fee. You then hire cars by the hour, with prices starting at £5.50 per hour for a Renault ZOE. You can also hire an electric van. The scheme doesn’t exclusively offer electric cars but it does have a substantial fleet of them, including the Nissan Leaf, Citroen C-Zero and BMW i3. It’s available throughout the UK.
Drive Now Car Club
Drive Now, now called Share Now, is an on-demand car club created in a joint venture between BMW and Daimler (parent company of Mercedes and Smart). The scheme is available in most major European cities, where there’s a greater range of cars on offer. In the UK, the only electric car available is the BMW i3. To join, you download the Drive Now app and pay a one-off £9.98 membership fee, then choose your location and a car and off you go. The i3 costs 39p a minute, but there are rental plans allowing you to pay by the hour or the day. You can also subscribe to buy a set number of minutes every month: 125 minutes costs from £32 a month and lasts for 30 days.
The E-Car Club is a nationwide, self-service, app-based membership scheme offering flexible electric-car rental from one hour up to several days. To get started, you need to download the app and sign up. There are two membership packages. With pay-as-you-go, there’s a one-off £50 fee and no monthly cost. Hourly rental starts at £5.50 or £45 per day. The subscription service also charges a £50 membership fee, and has a charge of £15 a month; you’ll probably want to go for this one if you intend to use the service a lot. This reduces the daily hire price to £35 a day (or £4.50 an hour). All prices include electricity and insurance. Once you sign up, you’ll receive a membership card that gives you access to the cars once you’ve booked them. Cars available include the Renault ZOE, Nissan Leaf, BMW i3 and Renault Kangoo Z.E. van. Europcar owns a majority stake in E-Car Club.
Daily and longer-term rental
These companies offer longer-term electric-car rental, with the ability to book by the day or for longer with, typically, all costs included.
Onto (formerly Evezy)
Previously known as Evezy, Onto is one of the most interesting electric-car hire offerings, as it bridges the gap between short-term car sharing and long-term car leasing, which is useful if you need regular access to an electric car without the commitment or cost of ownership.
You pay a flat fee; there’s no deposit and no long-term contract. Mileage is capped at 1,000 a month, and insurance, charging and other costs are included. You can swap your car at any time by up or downgrading to another model, and the scheme is available nationwide.
In July 2020, Onto took delivery of 1,100 Renault ZOEs (pictured above) – the largest-ever single order of the model in the UK. The ZOE is the cheapest car available from Onto, starting at £339 per month. The Hyundai Ioniq is available for £419 per month, the Nissan Leaf for £449 per month and the BMW i3 for £469 per month.
EVHire is an ‘exotic vehicle hire’ company and, despite the name, the only fully electric model available from it is the Tesla Model X P100D. Prices for daily rental start at £295 with a minimum rental of two days. That includes unlimited mileage, free delivery and insurance (although there is a £3,000 excess and no damage waiver insurance). You don’t need to sign up or subscribe to use the service.
EV Go specialises in Tesla rental, with prices starting at £99 a day and delivery and collection included. A chauffeur service is also available. There’s no subscription fee to use the service.
EVision is an electric-only car-hire company, with a fleet of more than 200 cars on offer; it’ll deliver and collect from anywhere in the UK. Prices start from £40 per day for a Renault ZOE to £340.80 a day for a Tesla Model S P100D, including VAT and insurance. There’s a further daily charge of £20 if you want to reduce the insurance excess from £4,000 to £500. EVision also offers long-term rentals of three months, 12 months and more, which reduces the daily cost significantly. The P100D, for example, over 12 months drops to £158.40 per day. On longer-term rentals and on selected models, the company will install a fast home charger for free. EVision also offers a chauffeur service.
Green Motion specialises in low-emissions car rental. It offers a range of plug-in hybrid models, but only one fully electric car, the Nissan Leaf. It operates around the world. Unlike some of the other electric-car hire companies listed here, it doesn’t require you to sign up to a membership or subscription plan, instead offering four levels of hire: basic, plus, premium and premium+. The different packages change the daily price by reducing the insurance excess and increasing the mileage limit. Booking a Leaf isn’t straightforward, though, as you can’t book a specific make and model.
Volt-Age is an electric-car hire company based in Portsmouth but available nationwide. Cars available to hire include the Hyundai Kona Electric, Nissan Leaf, BMW i3 and the full range of Teslas. Prices on the website assume collection from the company’s head office in Portsmouth, although delivery and collection is available across the UK for a charge. Prices for a Leaf and Kona start at £78 a day for a minimum hire period of three days, and include insurance and VAT. Tesla rental starts at £138 a day.
Drive Electric is a personal contract hire (PCH) company that allows you to lease an electric car for a minimum period of 24 months. There are hundreds of other leasing companies out there, but few specialise in electric cars. Prices start at £199 for a Volkswagen e-Golf. The downside is you’re locked into a long-term rental agreement and can’t swap cars.