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Hertz is adding 100,000 Teslas to its rental fleet in a big push toward electrification. Photo: Hertz

People who are on the fence about buying an electric vehicle — or who can't afford one — can now rent one from Hertz.

Driving the news: The giant rental car company said Monday it is adding 100,000 Teslas to its fleet as the first step in a major shift toward electrification.

  • The order represents $4.2 billion in revenue for Tesla and is the carmaker's biggest-ever order, Bloomberg reported. Tesla's market cap reached $1 trillion following the deal.
  • The vehicles will account for more than 20% of Hertz's global fleet. And Hertz is also adding thousands of charging stations to its rental locations and hiring seven-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady to pitch EVs to consumers.

Why it matters: Broader availability of electric cars on rental lots could give the EV movement a needed boost by allowing cautious consumers a no-risk way to try before they buy.

The big picture: President Biden wants half of all new cars sold to be electric by 2030, and many carmakers are making the pledge to switch away from gasoline-powered vehicles by the middle of the next decade.

  • But consumer demand remains low, with battery-electric vehicles accounting for less than 5% of auto sales.

Yes, but: Consumers are getting more curious about plug-in models.

  • "Consumer confidence and acceptance of EVs is growing gradually," says Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Cox Automotive, adding that the opportunity to try one for a few days could snag more interest.
  • Surveys show that when people gain experience with new technologies, they become more accepting, she said.
  • For example, luxury car owners with driver-assist systems like adaptive cruise control are much more accepting of autonomous vehicles than those who've never experienced the technology.

What they're saying: "Electric vehicles are now mainstream, and we've only just begun to see rising global demand and interest," Hertz interim CEO Mark Fields said in a statement.

What's next: Consumers will be able to rent a Tesla Model 3 at Hertz airport and neighborhood locations in U.S. major markets and select cities in Europe starting in early November, with availability growing through 2022.

  • They'll have access to 3,000 Tesla Supercharger stations, besides the Hertz-installed chargers.

But EVs take some getting used to and features like regenerative braking could be confusing to drivers getting acclimated to their rental car late at night in an airport garage.

  • Hertz said it will offer help to educate customers about their EV through the Hertz mobile app.

Of note: Teslas are already popular on the peer-to-peer car rental site, Turo, CEO Andre Haddad tells Axios.

  • Some are booked by travelers and others by potential buyers looking for an extended test drive.
  • Many Turo hosts maintain small fleets of Teslas and EVs to keep up with demand.

Go deeper

Electric vehicles cost more to buy, but less to own

Expand chart
Reproduced from Energy.gov; Chart: Axios Visuals

Electric cars are still more expensive to purchase than gasoline models, but they're considerably cheaper to maintain.

What we're driving: 2022 GMC Hummer EV

The 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1. Photo: GM

At $112,595, the 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 pickup truck is the epitome of a "halo" vehicle for General Motors.

  • It's an over-the-top technology showcase for GM's electric vehicle ambitions, even if few people will actually own this limited edition supertruck.

Why it matters: The market for electric pickups is about to explode, and the Hummer EV, along with Rivian's R1T, are first out of the gate.

The big picture: Hummer, known for its gas-guzzling behemoth SUVs, is making a comeback as a zero-emissions sub-brand under the GMC label.

  • The Hummer truck is the first of more than 30 battery-electric models — including a Hummer SUV — that GM will introduce by 2025. All are based on the automaker's new Ultium battery architecture.
  • GM says it is "sold out" of the limited run for the pricey Edition 1; less expensive versions are still a long way off.
  • A $100,000 version comes in fall 2022, followed by a $90,000 model in spring 2023. The lowest-priced version, at $80,000, won't be available until spring 2024.
  • Production of the Edition 1 is just starting, but I got to drive a near-final prototype recently in and around Ann Arbor, Michigan — hardly the extreme off-road environment it was designed to tackle.

Still, the technology on this truck will blow you away.

  • It has an estimated 1,000 horsepower, a range of 350 miles per charge, and goes 0-60 mph in 3 seconds.
  • The Hummer EV can actually drive sideways, thanks to its four-wheel steering and a feature called CrabWalk.
  • The adjustable air suspension can lower the truck 3½ inches, or raise it as much as 6 inches.
  • Underbody cameras — with windshield wipers! — on each wheel let drivers see exactly what's happening under the truck.

One feature in the Hummer that's likely to permeate all of GM's vehicles is an enhanced version of Super Cruise, GM's hands-free assisted-driving system.

  • With the Hummer EV, Super Cruise is introducing automatic lane-changing capability.
  • It worked perfectly during my test drive, identifying an opening in traffic and then carefully navigating around slower-moving cars.
  • Tesla already has this feature in its cars, but safety advocates say GM's technology is better because it has a driver-monitoring system to ensure that drivers are paying attention.

The bottom line: The GMC Hummer EV is too extreme for most people's tastes, but its mission is to excite people about the potential of electric vehicles.

2 hours ago - Health

WHO: Not yet known whether Omicron leads to more severe disease

Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Sunday said that it is not yet clear whether the newly discovered Omicron variant is more transmissible than other strains of the COVID-19 virus.

Why it matters: The agency's statement comes as the variant, discovered in South Africa, has already been detected in European and Asian countries.