The future of vehicle renting

The future of vehicle renting in an all-electric era

It is difficult to argue against the benefits for the climate and reducing pollution of a wholesale change to electric vehicles.

Already, car maker Volvo has announced that all its new cars launched from 2019 will be partially or wholly battery-powered.

Countries, too, have been quick to declare deadlines for all vehicles to be fully electric. The UK and France have set a deadline of 2040 for ending sales of petrol and diesel engines. In India, the hoped-for deadline is 2030 and in Norway it is 2025.

Austria, China, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Korea and Spain have also set official target dates.

What needs to happen to turn aspiration into reality?

Not everyone wants to own a car, so it is likely that there will still be a demand for rented vehicles.

But regardless of whether people own or rent vehicles there will need to be huge changes to the infrastructure that will be needed to support electric cars and vans.

Clearly, there will need to be a network of public charging stations and the existing network of fuel stations could be re-configured. Already there are charging points in some spaces in town centre car parking facilities.

Even charging a vehicle at home overnight is not simply a case of plugging a cable into an ordinary household socket.

One of the main issues with electric vehicle battery technology is the length of time re-charging can take, although this may improve in time.

There are currently three levels of charging:

Slow – which requires a type 1 connection and can take up to eight hours

Fast – which requires a type 2 connection and offers a charging time of three to four hours

Rapid – can be as little as 30 minutes but chargers and cables are not universal.

It is likely that motorists on the move will need the rapid charge facility and motor manufacturers will have to collaborate to provide a universal cable and connection system. It would not be realistic for converted petrol/diesel filling stations to offer anything other than Rapid charging.

Installing the infrastructure is likely to be costly and this is likely to affect the vehicle rental business too.

Among the questions rental companies will need to consider are the costs and the charging options they will adopt. Again, it would make sense for them to go for the Rapid charging model. Is there likely to be any Government help towards the conversion costs?

In addition, they will need to consider if they will need extra space in their yards to accommodate the number of vehicles they will need to rent out for the business to be profitable.

Then, there is the issue of supplying the charging cables with the rental vehicle – and ensuring they are returned!

Given all these issues, the planning and preparation that will be needed, a deadline of 2040 is really not a long way ahead.