Renting an EV can help you decide if it's right for you

Is buying online wise?

By Michael Bettencourt Wheels.ca

Mar 14, 2022 4 min. read

Article was updated 2 years ago

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For Emma Jarratt’s first vehicle purchase, the mother of two bought her 2019 Nissan Leaf sight unseen. “Some people I told basically thought I was a lunatic for buying a car online,” she said.

But Jarratt didn’t make her decision without some practical experience. She originally booked and test drove a Leaf over a weekend last summer through the EVnet.ca website. That helped her confirm the all-electric hatchback could fit well with her family and her driving patterns.

Jarratt test drove a Leaf with a 40-kilowatt hour battery – which is rated to have a 243-kilometre range – through the Electric Vehicle Network, a Toronto-based used EV dealer that runs the website. It is a portal that gives potential buyers the opportunity to rent a used EV to see if it fits their lifestyle, experience different vehicle options and purchase one.

After her test experience, Jarratt decided to order a 2019 Leaf Plus, with a 62-kilowatt hour battery and a range of up to 363 kilometres. The Electric Vehicle Network was able to source and import one for her from California, and it arrived roughly two months after she placed her order.

“I didn’t sit in the car before I bought it, but I felt very confident since I had that experience with it already,” said Jarratt.

Jarratt works for ElectricAutonomy.ca, an industry site focused on zero emissions transportation, infrastructure and legislation in Canada. “I think all vehicles should be purchased this way.”

Darryl Croft, president of the Electric Vehicle Network, said allowing people to experience an EV is important when it comes to educating them about these vehicles.

“We’re not trying to rent just to do a deal later,” he said. The company realized that moving folks from gas vehicles to EVs involved a whole new set of questions around range (especially in winter), fuel costs, road trip and maintenance differences, Croft said.

“Sometimes people have 50 or 60 questions,” Croft said from his office in Etobicoke, where the showroom is located (currently by appointment only). The network has a fleet of five to eight plug-in vehicles available to rent at any one time.

“Our philosophy is that by experiencing a vehicle through a rental, it provides that reassurance.”

Renting options

Another way to experience driving an electric vehicle in Canada is through Turo, an Airbnb-style website and app where privately owned vehicles are available to rent. Cedric Mathieu, Turo’s vice-president in charge of Canada, said the main benefits of renting through it is the wide choice of different EVs available on its platform. Turo also offers the optional of having the vehicle delivered to your door.


He said there are about 750 active EVs on the platform in Canada, which range from smaller city-focused cars to brand new luxury models. Mathieu said the company doesn’t formally track how many renters on the platform use it to test drive vehicles, but he notes it’s something that’s often mentioned in the user reviews of their overall experience.

“Electric car owners are early adopters, so they’re often happy to evangelize about the car,” he said. “It’s the most effective education strategy, as it’s (coming from) a person that owns the car and helps get people over that technology barrier.”

People curious about EVs in the Greater Toronto Area also have the opportunity to test drive a variety of new vehicles through Plug ‘n Drive, a non-profit organization that makes them available at its Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre. It houses an ever-evolving fleet of new EVs for consumers to try and learn about. It doesn’t sell vehicles but can refer interested buyers to dealerships. Because of the pandemic, it is also running by appointment only.

Plug ‘n Drive founder and CEO Cara Clairman said the vehicles are not available to take overnight, but it does offer a chance to try different makes, models and battery ranges back-to-back. Clairman said she bought her first EV in 2011 after testing it through an early car share program. She also knows people who have purchased theirs after renting through EVNet.ca.

Rental car company Hertz announced last October it has ordered 100,000 Tesla Model 3 sedans to be delivered by the end of 2022. The company currently doesn’t offer EVs to rent in Toronto, but Hertz said it has non-Tesla EVs in Vancouver, but only available onsite and not through its website or by telephone booking systems.

For Leaf owner Jarratt, the appeal of an EV goes beyond its extra-quiet driving feel and how much lower her fuel costs are.

“It’s not just about cars, it’s about science, about technology, about the environment, there’s just so many aspects to it that really makes EVs exciting,” she said. “I never thought I’d be one of those people passionate about my car.”




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