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We are going to rent a car in Lyon in August for about a week. We will live in Albertville, and are going to explore the area, including travel to neighbour countries (Geneva, maybe Turin).

I see that rental companies nowadays offer electric cars (e.g. some "Series 3 Electrique or similar" from Europcar). I've never driven one, so it can be an interesting experience in itself. However, I'm afraid that there may be different problems with it due to my lack of experience.

What should I be aware of when renting such a car? Is it correct that I'll have to carefully plan charging times and locations? Will I be able to go from Albertville to Geneva and back on one charge? How expensive is typical charging? Anything else?

Also, are there any advantages in renting an electric car, besides the experience and ecological benefits? E.g. maybe free or reduced parking fees, etc?

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    Have you checked if you can charge it at your accommodation? Charging "at home" tends to be much cheaper than charging at public charging places.
    – gerrit
    Jun 26, 2023 at 6:57

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I rented an electric car (DS E-Tense) from Europcar in Frankfurt, Germany, in the first half of 2022.

First problem: the availability of cars. I had actually booked online to rent from Europcar Offenbach, as the Europcar website claimed that all stations have electric cars, only to be phoned by the Offenbach station days later to say that they didn't have any electric cars and that I needed to change my booking, which I did (to neighbouring Frankfurt). When I phoned Europcar customer service to complain, the person on the phone merely repeated that all offices have electric cars, despite me telling them that the Offenbach office told me otherwise.

The car came with a charging cable, which you need when charging at AC (slow) charging stations. DC (fast) charging stations come with their own cable.

You do need to plan your charging. I found that the distance indicated on the dashboard only applies in optimised conditions, such as cruise-control at 80 km/h in flat terrain in good weather. Drive 125 km/h on the motorway in winter weather, and you'll lose charge twice as fast. Don't assume you can reach that 175-km-away charging station just because the dashboard promises a 200 km range.

Another problem with charging is that most charging stations do not accept regular bank cards yet, but the card or app from the specific provider. You'll need to research what providers are common in the area and sign up to each of those. In some cases, you can use a card/app from one provider to pay for another, but you'll pay roaming fees. In other cases, you can't pay this way at all.

There are several route planners on the web. I used the one from goingelectric.de, which is in German, but others exist. Note that some databases are more complete in North-America and others are more complete in Europe. None are 100% complete, but the major charging stations should be present. There are also several smartphone apps you can and should use for your on-the-go planning. See this answer.

Prices vary a lot. Prices are highest for fast (20-minute) charging along the motorway, where one might pay as much as €0.80/kWh. It's cheaper at slow (3-hour) charging places near supermarkets and such. The cheapest is to charge at home. If you're lucky, your accommodation has a wallbox, but it may also be possible (but very slow, 24-hour+) to charge at a regular power outlet, if the electricity in the house is not too weak.

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  • note: you pay roaming fees only if your plan is from outside the EU
    – njzk2
    Jun 27, 2023 at 20:58
  • @njzk2 That's not true. When I use my Shell Recharge card to pay for charging with ARAL Pulse or vice versa, I pay more than if I use the Shell Recharge card to pay for Shell Recharge or ARAL Pulse to pay for ARAL Pulse. Maybe some providers have deals to not charge roaming fees between each other, but generally you're cheapest off using the provider's own card or app.
    – gerrit
    Jun 28, 2023 at 6:43
  • Thank you for the answer!
    – Petr
    Jun 28, 2023 at 11:59
  • Finally, I've decided to rent a classic (gasoline) car, because renting an electric car sounds too much a hassle.
    – Petr
    Jun 28, 2023 at 12:00
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    @njzk2 There are EU laws in requiring that all new charging places have to accept regular (contactless) bank cards, but I'm not sure if those have taken effect yet — and providers will still be allowed to give member discounts, which are effectively similar to roaming charges, just inverted.
    – gerrit
    Jun 30, 2023 at 16:35

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