Australian holiday-makers can expect to see more electric and hybrid vehicles on the roads this festive season as rental firms expand their fleets to include eco-friendly options.

And the companies say greener vehicles are in high demand, both from curious motorists keen to take test drives and bargain-hunters trying to avoid rising petrol costs this Christmas.

It’s a challenge being tackled by some of the country’s biggest car hire outfits, including Hertz, Europcar and Thrifty, as well as smaller operations and car-share services such as Turo, Evee and Uber Carshare.

Hertz Asia Pacific vice-president Eoin MacNeill said a survey of more than 1000 Australian motorists showed two in three wanted to rent electric vehicles, and many would use the holiday season to to do so.

“There’s curiosity about trying one of these cars,” he said.

“There’s a particular curiosity from travellers and if you’re not doing a massive road trip across Australia these are perfect for driving around Noosa and having a nice holiday.”

Mr MacNeill said the car rental firm, which added Tesla and Polestar vehicles to its fleet in 2022, was also seeing interest in electric cars from savvy shoppers cutting costs.

“There are cost savings to hiring an EV, particularly if there are petrol price spikes at Christmas, which there are normally,” he said.

Powering an electric vehicle costs about a third the price of fuel.

“There’s also an added benefit in that normally our customers have to refill our vehicles with fuel before they return them whereas they don’t have to do that with these vehicles. We can charge them,” Mr MacNeill said.

While electric vehicles made up just 3.39 per cent of new vehicles sold in the year to September, the technology was increasingly being offered for hire.

NRMA launched a fleet of MG and Tesla electric vehicles under the SIXT brand, and services including Evee, Uber Carshare and Turo rent a range of battery-powered cars, including models from Hyundai, Mini and BYD.

Some firms were also offering hybrid vehicles for rent in Australia, including Thrifty and Kinto.

Kinto marketing head Vesna Benns said the Toyota-owned company offered vans and four-wheel drives for rent but almost all its smaller vehicles were hybrid models.

“We’re moving towards a full hybrid fleet,” she said.

“We’re sitting about 97 per hybrid for our passenger cars so it means people can experience what that’s like if they haven’t done that before and people can rent a car with the knowledge they’re doing something a bit greener and using less petrol.”

Ms Benns said customer feedback had been positive but some first-time users phoned to complain they could not hear the engine.

“It’s been fun talking people through that and helping them experience a hybrid vehicle for the first time,” she said.


Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
(Australian Associated Press)