EV Rentals is Vancouver’s only all-electric rental company.
Entrepreneur Jason Gagné’s second foray into sustainable, environment-focused commerce has come with a steep learning curve. The owner of B.C.’s successful GreenPrint.ca, the only sustainable-source-only printer in the country, launched EV Rentals in the spring, offering high-end electric vehicles for rent from its Richmond, B.C. location.
“It’s not just a new business, but a new industry,” Gagné says. “When we launched, you couldn’t find us on Google if you tried. But we’re always rebuilding our website to improve it, and we fixed that. Now we’re starting to get the calls.”
He notes that customers are most interested in the Tesla right now, although the fleet also includes such green and delectable options as a Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid and a BMW i8 Plug-in Hybrid.
It wasn’t always his intention to stick to upscale vehicles. In fact, he’d acquired five other electric vehicles, including a i-MiEV and a C-Max Energi, but discovered BC’s government-run insurance system was against him.
“I realized when I insured them as rental cars that it was impossible to make money unless I was doing it on a huge scale,” he says. “I had to get rid of them and concentrate on higher end vehicles. I don’t know if it’s necessarily good or bad, but for the size we are now, it makes sense to focus our energy.”
Vancouver International Airport, whose executives have publicly declared their intention to be the greenest airport in the world, are proving to be a hurdle too. He sees an airport presence as the next step to real success, but the red tape is considerable.
“They only do five or 10-year contracts with national or international chains,” he says. “We think we may have a chance because we offer something unique and green, which the other guys aren’t doing. None of the big guys offer hybrids even, let alone electrics.” With 50 percent of all Vancouver car rentals originating at the airport, it’s not a market anyone in his position can afford to disregard.
He says another avenue he’s exploring is to form partnerships with local dealerships, Customers who are interested in purchasing these cars, worth $100,000 or $200,000 say, would likely want to spend more time than a quick test drive in one before purchase, and a company like EV would give them that opportunity. “Research says they’re twice as likely to buy if they get to rent it ahead of time,” Gagné says. He says hotel partnerships are another possibility.
Tourists and celebrities
“Our customers are varied,” he says, with most so far being tourists who want to make the lovely drive to Whistler in something like a Tesla. “People who want to adopt the technology, people who can’t afford to buy but just want to try, weddings, special events, movies.
“We were invited by the city to participate in a discussion on how to make the movie industry here greener—Vancouver being Hollywood north, after all. Not only on set, but we think we’d be a good fit for crews and stars who care about the environment.”
EV Rentals may be small now, but Gagné (likely rightfully) believes he’s on the vanguard of a rapidly evolving market. “Our little business may look like nothing, but it can help spur change,” he says. “The market is going there and we want to do what we can to help and grow our business at the same time. People, profit, planning— we want to do it while we’re being good to the Earth.”