Renting Electric, Hybrid And Green Cars: What Are Your Options?

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car2go - Washington, D.C.

car2go - Washington, D.C.

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If you drive an electric car, hybrid, diesel or other green vehicle day-to-day, you might like to know that you can rent similar when you go abroad, or even when you fly across country to visit relatives.

Luckily, many rental and car-sharing firms offer green vehicles on their fleets, and some even have dedicated green vehicle policies allowing drivers to pick a more environmentally-friendly option when they rent.

So next time you travel, what are your options?

High MPG vehicles

Not every rental fleet yet offers a dedicated range of hybrid or electric vehicles, but many have schemes in place to supply a range of higher-mpg vehicles, ensuring that even their regular range uses as little gas as possible.

The Avis Budget Group is one such company, which has a large range of vehicles certified under the EPA's SmartWay scheme. 100 percent of the group's Class A (subcompact) and Class B (compact) vehicles, and 75 percent of Class C (intermediate), are SmartWay certified.

That means even the least efficient vehicles in class A, B and C are capable of 26-28 mpg, meet Tier 2 Bin 5 EPA emissions standards and are classified as LEV II low-emission vehicles by CARB.

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's Green Traveler Collection is also SmartWay certified, but thanks to a strong range of electric, plug-in and diesel vehicles, the range averages a highly impressive 58 mpg.

A new addition to the range is the 2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, available at select airport locations. Hertz says it's the first clean diesel vehicle offered on a rental fleet in the U.S, and it's rated at 42 mpg highway. Hertz also offers some hybrids, including the ever-popular 50 mpg Toyota Prius.

Plug-in cars

Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular in rental fleets, though the Avis Budget Group says that demand is currently limited in their fleet, thanks to necessarily high rental prices.

Hertz offers several plug-ins, including the Nissan Leaf, smart fortwo Electric Drive, and Chevrolet Volt. As part of the Global EV program, even more are available elsewhere, with electric vehicles from Mitsubishi, Renault and Tesla also included. It's all about getting people behind the wheel, and as Hertz puts it, "demystify and break down consumer barriers to EV use".

Rival car rental firm Enterprise Rent-A-Car also offers plug-ins such as the Chevy Volt and in New York, the Nissan Leaf. Oddly though, the firm hasn't seen as much demand as Hertz, perhaps as a result of focusing solely on individuals rather than corporate business.

Car sharing

Many readers will be familiar with car-sharing schemes like Car2Go, now operating in several cities around the U.S. and abroad, with a fleet of distinctive blue and white smart fortwos.

While most of these are the usual gasoline model, a select few cities, such as San Diego, offer a dedicated fleet of electric models.

The real benefits of Car2Go and other sharing schemes are that you can pick up and drop off a vehicle when and wherever you like, with vehicles available throughout the city you're in. Users can check the internet and download smartphone apps that direct them to the nearest vehicle.

You're charged a tiny amount by the hour--some even by the minute--so you can either spend hours driving around or simply pick up a car to drive a few miles, and only pay a nominal sum for the time you've been driving. Back in March, Car2Go announced it was getting 3,500 rentals every week on its San Diego smarts, with users driving only 5-10 miles--well inside the Electric Drive's range.

Zipcar has a similar service, offering a fleet of Honda Insight hybrids, wants to add Honda Fit EVs, and offers a dedicated service for students. As with Hertz, Zipcar sees it as a way of introducing customers to brands they may not have chosen before.

Get renting!

With such a wide range of green vehicles available across the U.S. and abroad, there's never been a better time to rent cars.

Today's choices are greener than ever, and for many, they may well be the best way of experiencing an electric car, hybrid, diesel or alternative-fuel vehicle that otherwise may have passed them by.


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Comments (11)
  1. Anthony, When you look at the Government stats, about 80% of the sources of electricity in the U.S. will be coal, fossil, or nuclear in 2035. We need to take the focus off of elecric, which is simply an indirect source of pollution and focus on biofuels and the new RFS standards.

  2. Why is it that you wish to accept the status quo on electricity and create a revolution in biofuels? Why not create a revolution in electricity as countries like Germany are doing and I am doing on the roof of my own home.

  3. Biofuel ethyl alcohol consists primarily of converted plant matter. Given that E85 has not exactly been embraced by the public, there seems limited incentive to create plant-based alcohol. Also, plant-based alcohol is made from grains normally used for food, making daily survival more expensive. I wouldn't stick bio-diesel in my car if my life depended on it. VW notes that putting that stuff in my car could void my warranty.

  4. B/c James Eckler is working in the "energy" business. He like to push for "biofuels" b/c there is Profit in it for him...

    Biofuel aren't much different from other fossil fuels. It uses other fossil fuel to produce and inefficient in terms of amount of energy input vs. output. It also takes up a large area of ariable land which could have been growing crops...

    I can offset my EV usage with my own solar panels. I charge it at work as well under a 1MW solar system.

  5. @James Eckler,

    Even according to your own source, 4% of the US electric grid is renewable. 4% is enough to power 10 Million EVs daily for 40 miles/day. That is enough for most people daily commute. Why is that a bad thing? 10 Million EVs will offset even more fossil fuels and all the energy required to produce, transport and distribute those fuels.

  6. Where do you plug it in while you are renting it? If you don't own it, then you are likely not going to have a charger on hand. Using one out of state seems like it would be a big hassle in that you are pretty much trapped inside a city. When I go on vacation, I don't want to spend (waste) time charging up a car. I can just see sharing vacation pictures of me hanging out at the Starbucks next door to a charging station. My friends would be so proud of my eco-friendly time away from work. Fun-filled time, I tell you.

  7. Generally, locations that feature electric cars tend to be locations in which public charging is easy to do.

  8. I agree. Unless I really want to try out an EV. Getting an EV in a "strang" city is more hassle than fun... Half of the time you would have to "look for" charging stations and make sure they are NOT "taken" and monitor your range at all time...

  9. I'm not sure how much range-monitoring you'd *need* to do, Xiaolong - as Car2Go's info above states, their average customer drives between 5-10 miles. In a car with an 80-odd mile range, I'm not sure 5-10 miles is enough to really induce range anxiety.

  10. I attempted to rent a Volt in the San Francisco area in July--Enterprise no longer carries the Volt at any of it's locations in that area. I called individual locations that the website said had them available, but all said they didn't have the Volt, or even Leaf in some cases, anymore. Perhaps they gave up on the Volts?

  11. It's still hard as hell to figure out which rental locations have electric cars. These companies' websites tell the great story about how they have them available in some locations, but won't tell you which ones. You have to hunt around their reservation systems until you find a match. I try to rent electric whenever I travel and they don't make it easy to do. (and of course this is on top of the challenges of driving electric at this time.)

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