Hertz, Denver, accomplice on a broad electrical car and charging program

Hertz is working with the City of Denver — and hopefully other cities soon — to expand its charging infrastructure to support the ongoing EV transition.

The partnership is a big step in helping rental car drivers, including those who may be renting an electric vehicle for the first time or in an unfamiliar area, navigate the often daunting task of finding a charge. It will also see Denver driving EV availability and education in a unique effort.

Under the program, dubbed “Hertz Electrify,” the rental car company plans to add more than 5,000 electric vehicles to its Denver fleet for daily customers as well as for ongoing rentals to drivers for ride-sharing services like Uber. To support those renting the electric vehicles, Hertz and its partner BP Pulse, the electric car network owned by oil giant BP, will also install public electric car charging stations at Denver International Airport and locations around the city, with a focus on underserved ones communities.

The latter point is key to the deal. In addition to building chargers in low-income neighborhoods, Hertz will provide electric vehicles, tools and training for the city’s technical high school — and offer summer jobs as part of Denver’s youth employment program.

“Public-private partnerships are very powerful vehicles,” Hertz CEO Stephen Scherr said in an interview with CNBC. “We see what is happening in mobility, we see the direction of the journey. And so we can be a force together with a very powerful city and a mayor to push this forward in the way I think we all want to see, that’s broad participation in electrification.”

Scherr said Hertz plans to share de-identified location data from its rented electric vehicles with the city to help Denver officials determine where to install new charging stations. He expects some of that data will point to locations in the less affluent neighborhoods of the city where rideshare drivers using Hertz electric vehicles typically live.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said the city’s goal is to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 and to fully electrify the city’s own buildings and vehicle fleet by the end of this decade. He told CNBC that Hertz’s plan to focus on underserved neighborhoods and train local students to service electric vehicles could make this deal a “game changer” for the city.

“I’m always concerned about justice and how communities are left behind,” Hancock said in an interview. “In my opinion, electrification is progress on the road to sustainability that will progress faster.”

Hertz previously announced plans to purchase up to 340,000 electric vehicles from Tesla, Polestar and General Motors by 2027. The company currently has about 40,000 Teslas and Polestars for rent, Scherr said. He expects that number to double by the end of the year as GM’s electric vehicles join the company’s fleet.

Last fall, Hertz and BP Pulse announced they were working together to install thousands of high-speed electric vehicle chargers at Hertz locations across the United States. Some of these chargers will be exclusive to the rental car giant, but many — like the Denver program — will be publicly available.

Hertz hopes to do similar deals with other cities across the country. Scherr said the Denver partnership will serve as a blueprint that he and Hancock plan to discuss at the US Mayors’ Conference winter meeting in Washington, DC this week.

“It’s great that a company like Hertz is stepping up and saying we want to do this to spread the opportunities of this new revolution in this industry,” Hancock said. “It’s a strong thing. It’s a big deal for Denver, and it will be a big deal for the nation as it spreads.”

A Hertz spokesman confirmed that the company is in active discussions with other US cities, but declined to be more specific.

“We obviously have a motive, which is to see our business grow,” Scherr said. “To the extent that this aligns with what a city like Denver wants to see driving sustainability, putting more electric vehicles on the road, creating new jobs in a very rapidly changing world of mobility, and driving electrification, in a way, broadly distributed across neighborhoods in a particular city like this, it’s good for Hertz’s business, it’s good for the city of Denver.”

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