There are a few things they don’t tell you when renting an electric car

There are a few things they don’t tell you when renting an electric car

For years, my brother kept a poster on his garage wall of a grizzled old

For years, my brother kept a poster on his garage wall of a grizzled old cowboy, soiled hat, bandana around his neck, staring into the distance, with this caption: “There were a heckuva lot of things they didn’t tell me when I hired on with this outfit.”

Well, there were a heckuva lot of things they didn’t tell me when I rented an electric car.

My wife Kerri and I were going to Virginia to visit our son. We found a listing on Turo, the ridesharing app, for a 2021 Tesla series Y. The owner, a man in Washington, D.C., was offering us the use of his vehicle for $50 a day. We jumped on the deal. Not only was that cheaper than the car rental companies, but we wouldn’t have to buy gas. And we’d get to drive a Tesla and save the planet.

We picked up the car in the parking garage at Reagan International Airport in D.C. It was located next to the charging stations. As instructed, we texted the owner when we found the vehicle, after which he remotely unlocked the doors for us. I half expected Bob Woodward and Mark Felt to come around the corner.

The Tesla was immaculate. It looked new. The white leather seats were spotless. You could hear the owner shouting, “Do not eat in my car!”

So we were off. Our plane had arrived early so the car hadn’t had time to get a full charge, the owner told us. Undaunted, we headed into rush hour traffic and looped around the Jefferson Memorial on our way to Charlottesville, Virginia. My brother used to live and work in the D.C. area so I was confident I knew where I was going. Then we looped the Jefferson Memorial again.

“Hey! Didn’t we just see that 15 minutes ago?” said Kerri. Then she turned on the navigation system.


If you’re ever in Richmond, Virginia, in need of a charge, there’s a station at this condominium complex just outside of town.

As advertised, the car’s power is impressive. It’s like driving the world’s fastest golf cart. You do have to be careful easing up and down on the gas pedal, er accelerator, or you can make yourself carsick. Also, you don’t need the brake pedal as much if you feather the accelerator.

It’s just 116 miles from D.C. to Charlottesville, so we settled in for a quick and quiet ride, feeling smug, looking down on all the environment-destroying gas guzzlers we were passing.

Until we looked at the “state of charge” icon that informed us we weren’t going to quite make it. We needed to power up.

These are among the things they don’t tell you about driving an electric vehicle:

  • Charging stations aren’t everywhere.
  • Charging stations aren’t all the same.
  • Charging stations cost money.

Should we have known this? Of course. Did we know this? Of course not.

The Tesla’s touchscreen helpfully shows the location of Tesla charging stations, so we got off the interstate and pulled into the nearest one, plugged in the charger and walked across the parking lot to the mall to kill 30 minutes, grabbing something to eat at Chipotle while the battery charged.

The next day, we took a side trip to Richmond for some sightseeing and shopping.

It’s 72 miles from Charlottesville to Richmond. When we pulled into the shopping center parking lot I noted that we had 76 miles till we were out of battery.

It was a huge sacrifice on my part not to go to the mall, but I said, “You guys shop, I’ll get the car charged.”

I looked on the touchscreen for the nearest Tesla charging station. Turned out there was one just a mile away at a Wyndham Hotel. I drove to the hotel and asked where the charging station was located. In the parking garage, I was told, followed by “it’s only for use by hotel guests.”

The next nearest charging station was 7.8 miles away at a Tesla dealership. I drove there and found four charging stations at the front of the dealership — every one of them being used.

There were no other Tesla charging stations nearby so I clicked on an alternate station, plugged the coordinates into the navigation system, and set off again. Fifteen minutes later I arrived at a large condominium complex. At the office I was directed to their charging stations, two of them, tucked behind the swimming pool and tennis courts.

I followed the instructions about how to open an app and use a credit card to pay for the electricity. That took a while. Then I plugged in and sat in the car and played Wordle.

We were going to a movie, so after 45 minutes I had to unplug and get back.

I pulled up at the same place I’d dropped everyone off, looked at the “state of charge” icon: 70 miles remaining.

In two hours I’d managed to return with six less miles than when I started.

Important note: other charging stations are much less powerful and take more time than Tesla Supercharging stations.

Later, on the way back to Charlottesville, we diverted 10 miles off the interstate to a Tesla Supercharger. As we sat and waited, I finished Wordle.