Hertz Chevy Volt Rental: Potential for Disaster

Hertz Chevy VoltIs the Chevy Volt a hybrid? Nope--but it is the exact powertrain configuration I dreamed of during my previous all-electric Hertz rentals. The Volt is an electric car with a small gas generator that keeps the car moving if the battery runs out. A car like this can get away with a light-weight battery pack because its range of 40 miles covers, say, 80% of trips, and on longer trips the gas motor kicks in (a Nissan Leaf has to have a huge heavy battery for a 100 mile range). You also aren't married to the idea of charging a dead battery if you have to head out. Awesome, right?

Chevy Volt ChargerWe rented a Volt from Hertz today, and found out that the gas engine doesn't charge the battery. When the battery is at 0% the car goes almost feels broken--you find yourself staring at a full tank of gas and an empty battery, and wondering why the battery won't charge--and wishing it would so you can glide along in electric-only stealth mode. You have to remind yourself that it is an electric car with gas backup.

The Volt looked swish, but was not plugged-in when we arrived at the Hertz Location, and as I feared, the battery was at 0% charge. The gas engine had to run for the duration of our rental (except at stoplights and when coasting), and the battery gauge didn't move from 0% (the car has less power when it has 0% batteries--the gas engine only makes 84bhp). This was a pity, since the whole point of renting the car was to let my dad drive an electric vehicle, and my personal car sat parked at the Hertz location during our rental.

The fact that you have to plug the Volt in seemed like news to the Hertz reps, and they didn't rush to plug it in for the next renter, who was slated to arrive at 17:00. A pity, since that person--like me--is probably renting it solely because it has an all-electric mode.

The Volt needs to be treated as an electric vehicle when deciding on how many charging stations are needed at a Hertz location, and Hertz employees need to look at the battery gauge when the vehicle returns, in order to determine whether or not it needs to be charged--it's a lot slower when it is out of batteries!

People who are used to hybrids will evaluate Volts by renting them through Hertz, but there is a financial disincentive for Hertz to charge the cars before renting them (since electricity costs money, but renters pay for gas). The renters could be severely disappointed if the battery starts and stays at 0%, and that's a big problem for GM.


Anonymous said...

hi, FYI, the volt uses the engine generator to provide current to the motor when the battery is depleted. In no way shape or form was it designed to recharge the batteries, and I think has long been documented revelation during the volt's development.

Nick Goddard said...

Thanks for the comment. I realize that it is set up as a series hybrid with a big battery, but the engine was actually designed to be able to recharge the batteries. If you put the car in "Mountain Mode" when the battery is below about 35%, it begins charging the battery until it reaches either 35% or 45% charge (so both batteries and gas can supply power when climbing the grade), although it doesn't show this on the screen because Chevy doesn't want people to drive the car like a regular hybrid...