Electric Car Rentals Stall as People Return Their Rental EVs

“Range anxiety” – the fear that a car will run out of juice before it gets to its destination – has put the breaks on demand for electric vehicles nationwide, both in rentals and sales.  Rentals, which would give drivers an opportunity to test out EVs, have experienced an especially sluggish market.

People who rent electric vehicles from Enterprise Holdings Inc., the biggest U.S. auto renter, often bring them back in less than two days to trade for a car that runs on gasoline, according to a story in Bloomberg. That’s compared to an average rental time of six to seven days for conventional vehicles. Even hybrids have been easier to promote than EVs; they’re similar to conventional cars and range isn’t an issue.

Slow demand is the main reason Enterprise only has 300 electric cars in its fleet, 40 percent below a target set in 2010 when it ordered 500 of Nissan Motor Co.’s plug-in electric Leafs.

A competitor, Hertz Global Holdings Inc., said in 2010 it would have 500 to 1,000 electric vehicles in its fleet by 2011, but it too has fallen short of its goals because of lack of consumer interest.

Consumers won’t show more interest in renting electric cars until they can go farther before topping up the battery, given the lack of public charging stations and the fact that most car renters are in unfamiliar territory when they rent a car.

Apart from Tesla’s Model S, which has a maximum range of about 300 miles, most EVs need to be recharged after less than 100 miles of driving.  The Leaf models in Enterprise’s fleet are rated for only about 75 miles.

Hertz’s Tesla cars, which is offers in Los Angeles and San Francisco as part of its Dream Cars program, rent for about $500 a day. Enterprise’s Tesla Model S cars in its Exotic Car Collection fleet rent for about $300 to $500 a day.  That’s about 10 times the price of renting a Leaf, which runs closer to $55 a day, the same price as other compact or standard vehicles.

Despite the slow-moving market, rental companies still plan to buy more electric vehicles. Consumer interest in electric cars will increase as more people have opportunities to test them, said Sam Ori, executive vice president at the Electrification Coalition, an EV trade group.

To read the Bloomberg article cited in this story, click here


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