Over the last week, a few reports have surfaced indicating that Nissan is strongly considering providing LEAF purchasers in Europe—and perhaps even the U.S.—with a week's worth of free gas-powered car rentals per year as a way to ease potential EV buyers' minds about untethering from the gas powered-world.
The hints reached a rather substantial level yesterday in two articles published in separate outlets regarding two different continents. A column written by the Europe-based—and vicious anti-EV nut—Neil Winton indicated that Nissan's Senior Vice President, Andy Palmer, said during an interview at the Paris Auto Show that Nissan is prepared to offer a week's worth of rentals to LEAF owners so that they could go on longer trips occasionally. And in what they're calling an "exclusive"—not really, considering that the rumor has been around for a week—The Detroit Bureau quotes an unnamed "well-placed, high-ranking Nissan source" as saying that Nissan was considering doing the exact same thing for North American LEAF owners as well.
PluginCars.com reached out to Nissan USA to see how much water these reports actually hold. "These are discussions that Nissan of Europe is having," said Katherine Zachary, a spokesperson for Nissan North America. "Nissan North America is not currently actively pursuing this marketing strategy in the U.S." According to Zachary, the free rental program is something Nissan is considering for international markets where there are fewer two car households than in the United States.
Although the vast majority of daily driving needs can be accomplished in a 100 mile range battery electric car, it certainly won't satisfy those times when you want to go on a driving vacation or need to travel long distances on business—especially before substantial charging infrastructure is in place. However, most people in the United States have more than one vehicle in their household so replacing one of those with an electric car is extremely feasible—use your electric car for 90% of your daily driving needs and then use the gas car when you need to do something the EV can't and give the other driver in your household the EV on those days.
Of course, even a week may not be enough to cover the annually-needed long distance driving of an average owner, so the extra rental time may still not make the LEAF a viable car for most one car households. But, if the rumors turn out to be true, it is certainly a bold move that should allay the "range anxiety" fears of much of the population—and, if it is offered in the U.S. it will give those two car households more confidence that even on those rare days that the long range of a gas car is needed by more than one household member they have options.
[On Friday, October 8, 2010 at 10:50 AM Pacific Time, this post was updated to include comments from Nissan USA.]