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Hertz Says 'We Need More Electric Cars' After Year Of Rentals

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Hertz electric-car rental press event, New York City, September 2010

Hertz electric-car rental press event, New York City, September 2010

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Hertz has now been renting electric and plug-in cars for almost a year, and the company has learned some lessons along the way.

Among them: "We need more electric cars!"

Specifically, "We've got about 50 electric cars in our fleets now, and we could use another 2,000 to 3,000 if we could just get the vehicles."

Those are the words of Rich Broome, the rental-car company's head of public affairs and communications. He spoke at length with GreenCarReports about the Hertz electric-car rental programs in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, London, and--soon--Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen, China.

Hertz currently offers Nissan Leafs and Chevrolet Volts, though it is testing the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (a precursor to the 2012 Mitsubishi 'i' for the North American market, which will go on sale in December). It also has a small number of Smart Electric Drive two-seaters, and plans to offer BYD e6 electric crossovers in China.

Perhaps the most unexpected lesson, Broome said, was that while consumer demand is steady, the demand from corporations is far higher than predicted.

Companies want to rent electric cars for three basic reasons, he said.

First, those businesses with strong sustainability targets find putting their employees in electric cars for short-distance travel is an easy and hassle-free way to meet them.

Second, many companies involved in different aspects of the electric-car ecosystem are eager to experiment with them in real-world usage, so they're using their own employees as test cases. These include electric utilities; Broome cited Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, and the Texas firm NRG, among others.

Hertz electric-car rental press event, New York City, September 2010

Hertz electric-car rental press event, New York City, September 2010

Enlarge Photo

Third, businesses find that renting electric cars for short runs among airports, hotels, and company properties is a suitable use even for battery electric vehicles with ranges up to 100 miles. With charging stations in all three locations, Broome called this duty cycle a "closed loop" that makes perfect sense to corporate travel planners.

As for retail electric-car renters, Broome said, they're pretty much the early adopters that were predicted. They're interested in testing out the cars, perhaps even before planning to buy one.

But, Broome warned, it's his personal belief that it will take ranges of "close to 200 miles" before electric cars are suitable for the mass consumer market--which uses their rentals in much more diverse ways than the predictable patterns of traveling business executives.

Finally, "the customer feedback on the driving experience has been really good," Broome said, "better than we expected." The cars are quick off the line, quiet and smooth, and have all the usual accessories drivers expect to find in any rental car, like air conditioning, navigation, and a stereo system.

And that, he said, makes him suspect that electric cars may be adopted by the mainstream more quickly than hybrids have been. "Everyone gets that the operating cost [per mile] is lower" with an electric car, he said. "And they really like the driving experience--unlike early hybrids, which weren't much fun to drive."

In the end, Broome was upbeat, excited, and eager to expand the program. If, that is, he can just get the manufacturers to allocate more cars to Hertz.

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Comments (9)
  1. Perhaps someone can explain to me the "fun to drive" aspects of EV versus hybrid. I own a 2006 Prius and have driven the 2011 Nissan LEAF. While I like the LEAF, I don't think the "fun" in the driving was that notable compared to the Prius. The LEAF acceleration off the line was reasonable, but not much different in 0-60 than the Prius.

    Or does someone saying "fun to drive" simply a throw-away comment to be disregarded.
     
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  2. "Hertz has now been renting electric and plug-in cars for almost a year, and the company has learned some lessons along the way.
    Among them: "We need more electric cars!"
    Specifically, "We've got about 50 electric cars in our fleets now, and we could use another 2,000 to 3,000 if we could just get the vehicles."
    C'mon, Ramon, where's your usual angry diatribe talking about how nobody wants EVs, how the government is forcing people to buy them, etc...? Here's an actual company that states that it has demand but can't get the vehicles itself... So much for your usual "nobody wants them, nobody will buy them, GM will end production" nonsense...
     
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  3. Troll baiting?
     
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  4. well, coda has had plans to sell cars to the rental companies.

    here is an article about coda. and why i like them.

    the gist of the article talks about how plain jane the design of the car, and how good the engineering.

    http://www.autoblog.com/2011/10/14/2012-coda-sedan-quick-spin-review/
     
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  5. @John B (I can't just hit reply for whatever reason as it blocks me), yes... Ramon loves to talk about how there's no demand and only the government is pushing EVs. Here, where there is clear evidence from a company in the middle, he conveniently disappears...
    @EV Enthusiast. I hope Coda makes it, but at that price, I think it will be very tough for them. Just too bland for my tastes, but I do hope that someone makes it from the EV world and I don't see Tesla as feasible for many reasons.
     
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  6. i hear the same complaint from just about everyone, so i have no doubts that it is true.

    i agree that the price is something that may be difficult to overcome.

    but remember that the people on this site and those who write up about evs, etc. - are not typical. they are car enthusiasts.

    lots of people, including myself are not as into the car looks. i actually much prefer the simpler look of the coda, versus the leaf or the volt.

    i dont think the looks of the coda is gonna hurt them. too many people buying evs do so mostly because of practicality, etc.

    because they dont have a known name, they cant afford to come out with a car that has major working problems. but if consumers find it good and dependable, i think they will make it.
     
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  7. @EV Enthusiast, all good points. I think we're just very different. I've never read a review of the Coda that didn't get pretty negative about the styling, or lack thereof, but in my case, I'm particularly into styling. I don't think either of us is probably typical to some degree, I guess.
    For me, I won't drive a vehicle I hate looking at and that means the LEAF, Prius and Coda. Even EV fans can do better than a Coda, if not now, then in 2-3 years when options will be more plentiful than now. I just think that getting roughly $45k will be tough now, tougher in 2-3 years. Other OEMs can lose money on EVs for a while cause they earn elsewhere. Coda and Tesla won't have that luxury.
    We'll see, though. I'd love to be wrong here.
     
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  8. i agree with the styling of the coda, regarding reviews. but as i said, reviews are written by car enthusiasts.

    i would bet that the majority of people buying an ev are doing so for practical reasons.

    tesla and coda have never been rivals, since they are targeting different mindsets. tesla wants to become the bmw of evs.

    coda and the leaf are definitely rivals. coda has put all their money into the quality of the car. and from what i have read, it beats the leaf hands down, in that regard.

    if they get it out in the hands of the rental companies as planned, and the way they are already marketing it, it should become well known in a reasonably short time.

    it must first succeed on the most important angle - a good quality car.
     
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  9. if it does, the price is something that can be ironed out along the way. dont forget that right now, the evs can be sold at a premium because of the lack of supply.

    i think we will see a large drop in price after a few years, when a dozen or more companies have evs to sell.

    my guess is that the quality of the coda is well worth the extra cost, when compared to the leaf.

    but it will take a few years of having codas out on the road to answer this with actual performance.
     
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