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New Effort: Electric-Car Rentals And Charging For Orlando, Florida

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What's the best way to persuade people that electric cars are a viable alternative to gasoline cars? Get "butts in seats."

And what's one of the largest car-rental markets in the United States?

That woud be Orlando, Florida.

Now a new initiative, Drive Electric Orlando (DEO), is coordinating rental agencies, charging stations, hotels, theme parks, and other stakeholders in hopes of creating a "seamlessly positive experience for visitors who rent this innovative technology."

Electric cars at charging stations at Disney Family Museum, San Francisco [photo: Wendy Bartlett]

Electric cars at charging stations at Disney Family Museum, San Francisco [photo: Wendy Bartlett]

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It plans to make electric cars available for rental at major agencies (Enterprise is the named partner) and ensure that charging stations are conveniently located at hotels, theme parks, the Orlando Convention Center, and other locations.

DEO says the short distances that most visitors drive--from the airport to a hotel, and then among hotels, theme parks, and other attractions--are a good match for the range of a battery electric vehicle.

The EPA rates the electric range of the 2013 Nissan Leaf at 75 miles.

The initiative plans to offer not only competitive rental-car pricing--as low as $30 a day for a Nissan Leaf with GPS navigation standard--but such added services as free valet parking and overnight charging at hotels.

Another innovative benefit for electric-car renters: free use of the Clear security lanes when leaving the local airport.

We suspect, however, that Nissan Leafs will not appear at the GM Test Track attraction at Disney World's Epcot Center. Perhaps a Chevrolet Spark EV or two?

The Orlando region is home to many, many family entertainment destinations that have grown up since Walt Disney World opened in 1971--soon joined by Universal Studios and several other theme parks, plus tens of thousands of hotel rooms and rental cars.

Renderings for the new Test Track at Walt Disney World

Renderings for the new Test Track at Walt Disney World

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The city hosts more visitors--56 million a year, 10 million of whom are business travelers--than any other single destination in the U.S.

It was an early advocate of installing public charging stations for electric cars; there are now more than 300 in the region.

The partners in the DEO initiative include Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which already has an existing electric-car rental program--and Nissan, whose Leaf is the best-selling battery-electric car in the world.

Theme park companies taking part include Disney, Sea World, and Universal Studios; other partners include Duke Energy (the local electric utility), tourism group Visit Orlando, the Peabody Hotel, and the University of Central Florida.

Advocacy group the Electrification Coalition is also a partner in the effort.

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