I've had this recurring dream: A lone vehicle traverses a serpentine, switchbacked Alpine road. Jagged, snowy peaks line the horizon, standing out in sharp relief against a flawless, blue sky. I open the window to taste the crisp air, laden with the scent of mountain flowers.
And then, one day, I woke to find myself living that dream as I drove the E-Grand Tour of Switzerland (with a stop in Liechtenstein) for Real Road Adventures on public television. All of our travels up to that point had been via Switzerland’s beautiful and efficient rail system, but the pandemic had made public transportation harder to manage. Once things began to open back up we, like many others, opted for the relative isolation and safety of a car. However, we wanted to maintain our ethic of sustainable travel, so we opted for a battery electric vehicle (BEV or EV for short).
Lucky for us, Volkswagen was willing to help us out with an all-electric ID.4 SUV. The car was fun to drive and zipped effortlessly through the Alps, climbing over passes and navigating mountain highways. Charging stations lined the E-Grand Tour route, so we never had to worry about topping up our battery.
How can you join in the fun? Switzerland has a high EV adoption rate, and rental car companies are finally taking notice of public enthusiasm for EVs. While EV rentals are still not the default, they’re popping up more and more as options in top fleets. A quick scan of Zürich Airport’s available EVs for rent this summer brought up some good options.
Skyscanner, a favorite of mine for searching flights, has by far the best search engine for EV rentals at Zürich Airport. After putting in my dates, I was able to filter the search by clicking on the “Electric” option under the “Greener Choices” tab in the left-hand column. Up popped 11 possibilities, 8 of them available directly from the airport terminal. On closer inspection though, I noticed that not all of the offers showed exclusively EVs when I clicked through to them, so buyer beware.
Hertz was offering the sleek Polestar 2 and the practical Citroen E-C4 during the dates I selected. They also offered several hybrid-electric vehicles as “green” options.
Europcar was offering the VW ID.3 and its cousin, the Seat Cupra Born EV. For about double the rental cost of the ID.3 or Cupra Born, you can get the Audi E-Tron 4x4 SUV EV (think ski trip!).
Enterprise allowed me to select “Hybrid & Electric” as a search option, but then only came up with two fully-electric possibilities, the Mazda MX-30 and the luxury BMW iX xDrive40, mixed in with a bunch of internal combustion engine vehicles. I’m not sure how their search engine managed that, so carefully check your EV reservation before you book.
Unfortunately, aside from Skyscanner, none of the reservation portals offered a way to narrow the search to only EVs, so you’ll have to do a little sorting on your own to find the “green” options. Surprisingly, Sixt, Avis/Budget, and popular travel amalgamators Expedia and AutoEurope offered no EVs whatsoever.
Another way to get your EV lined up is to join a tour or plan your trip through a travel agency that has experience with EV touring. Switzerland Travel Centre offers a 9-day E-Grand Tour of Switzerland trip that includes EV rental, hotels, and some sights. Even a big operator, like Viator, is in the game (Viator is an affiliate of Jeff Wilson Explore) with a 9-day tour. Switzerland travel veteran TravelWell offers a Tesla Rally package that includes the rental of a Model S.
EVs are clean, quiet, and fun to drive. Wherever you’re going on your next adventure, consider renting an EV to keep your environmental footprint small.
What do you think about EV travel? Have you rented an EV anywhere in Europe? Tell us your stories and tips to help fellow travelers on their journeys.