Five Questions About Electric Car Rentals
Even the most ardent electric car advocates openly agree that pure EVs are not for all drivers and for all purposes. Yes, electric cars can meet the daily driving needs of the vast majority of U.S. drivers. But for long-range driving, or other cases where you far from home and not familiar with your routes (or the location of charging stations), maybe it’s best to drive an efficient car that has a gas-engine on board, like a hybrid or plug-in hybrid.
That’s why I have doubts about Enterprise and Hertz jumping so quickly on the EV bandwagon. If you believe the press releases, there will be hundreds of Nissan LEAFs available for rent at Enterprise and Hertz starting in January. Enterprise will apparently send LEAFs to rental fleets in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland and Seattle, while Hertz will have the LEAF in New York, Washington and San Francisco.
Enterprise will begin installing charging stations at locations in the Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., Knoxville and Nashville, Tenn., San Diego, Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., and Seattle markets.
"As a company that owns and operates the world's largest fleet of passenger vehicles, we have a vested interest and a history of working with manufacturers to integrate alternative-powered vehicles into our fleet," Lee Broughton, director of sustainability for parent company Enterprise Holdings, said in a statement. He added, “The details are still being worked out," Broughton said.
As usual, the devil is in the details. Five (sets of) questions come to mind about EV rentals.
- When it’s hard enough getting around an unfamiliar city, do you really want to navigate your way to a local charging station? If you’re renting for a longer road trip, will you be prepared to charge every 70 or 80 miles during a business trip or vacation?
- Will a progressive hotel chain seize the opportunity and establish charging stations so guests can fill up overnight? And if they do, how will it coordinate the needs of multiple EV-driving guests?
- Will the rental companies charge customers for a full battery pack, when the electricity for 100 miles of driving might cost them only a couple bucks? Will they require customers to return the car with a certain level of charge? And will they be prepared to take the car offline for a few hours to recharge for the next customer?
- Will EV rentals from Enterprise and Hertz primarily serve as a kind of car sharing demo program, mostly for consumers wanting an extended test drive of an electric car? That seems like a good idea, but if those consumers don’t have Level 2 equipment at home, are they going to be satisfied with slow Level 1 charging from a common 110-outlet?
- The car rental companies say they will charge a premium for the electric cars. How much? Will the combination of higher cost, and other nagging concerns about range, charging, and a general lack of familiarity give the wrong overall impression to those customers and the public?
Maybe I’m worrying about nothing. Maybe Enterprise and Hertz are working out every single detail, and it’s going to be a great program to promote consumer adoption of electric cars. But at this stage, I’m not getting it.
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