Hertz announced a deal Tuesday with oil giant BP to build out a nationwide network of electric vehicle chargers, the second announcement in a week that tied the car rental company to another big-name firm.
"We've been quite vocal about our electrification initiatives at Hertz," said Jeff Nieman, senior vice president of operations initiatives for Hertz. "We've currently got a goal for a quarter of our fleet to be electrified by the end of 2024. And, as doing that, one of the critical backbones to success is infrastructure."
The deal, struck with BP's electric vehicle infrastructure unit BP Pulse, aims to install chargers across the country, starting with top airports and Hertz properties nearby. The rollout will occur in phases, Nieman explained. Chargers will first be made available to Hertz employees for recharging the company's fleet of rental cars so customers can drive off the lot with at least an 80 percent charge. Next year, Nieman said, "the external component will come into play."
Hertz detailed in a statement that its plans for BP Pulse to install fast-charging hubs for use by Hertz customers, rideshare drivers, and the general public.
"There will be public access to a lot of charging, that's specific to where our customers go," Nieman said.
Charging infrastructure is a crucial component to Hertz's rapidly-expanding electric vehicle fleet. Just a week ago, Hertz agreed to buy up to 175,000 electric vehicles over five years from automaker General Motors. Deliveries of models like the Chevrolet Bolt EVs and Bolt EUVs are expected to begin in 2023. Hertz has also inked deals with Tesla and Polestar over the past year. According to Hertz, customers can already rent electric vehicles at 500 Hertz locations in 38 states.
Hertz and automakers like GM see rental cars as an opportunity to boost EV adoption.
"With the vehicle choice, technology and driving range we're delivering, I'm confident that each rental experience will further increase purchase consideration for our products and drive growth for our company," Mary Barra, GM chair and CEO, said in a statement at the time of the announcement.
The news of Hertz's agreement with GM broke during a panel at NYC Climate Week. Steve Shur, Hertz's vice president of government affairs, said the deal demonstrated the company's dedication to electrification.
"We view ourselves as a leader and a driver of EV adoption," Shur said. "For leisure drivers, we give … consumers the ability to try an EV before they buy it by renting one from Hertz."
President Joe Biden set an ambitious goal to make 50 percent of new car sales electric by 2030 nationwide. California has gone even further, approving the Advanced Clean Cars II rule that requires all new vehicles sold to be emissions-free by 2035. But for now, electric vehicle sales account for about 5 percent of new car sales in the U.S. Experts say charging anxiety over the availability and functioning of EV chargers is one factor standing in the way of broader adoption.
Biden's infrastructure bill contains $7.5 billion to build a network of new charging stations nationwide. While most of that money will go to states, $2.5 billion will be made available through a competitive grant program that prioritizes rural charging, local air quality improvement, and charging in disadvantaged communities. Asked whether Hertz would seek funding through the partnership with BP, Nieman said the company was "in constant contact with the administration and working through plans on how we can best partake."
"It's not necessarily part of what this deployment considers, but as we look to build out further and further to the public, we will certainly work with the administration on deploying funds in the appropriate manner," he said.