car2go - Washington, D.C.Enlarge Photo
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 2010Enlarge Photo
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.
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.
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.
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.