Car rental companies go electric
Travelers concerned about the size of their carbon footprint will soon have more options on the road. Last week Enterprise Rent-A-Car announced it will begin adding electric vehicles to its fleet, joining other rental companies in offering cleaner cars.
Enterprise, which also operates the Alamo and National brands, will take delivery of 500 Nissan Leafs in January 2011. Initially these cars will be available for rent in eight cities: Knoxville, Tenn.; Los Angeles; Nashville; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; Seattle; and Tucson. Enterprise also offers about 100 locations in 30 cities that provide hybrid rentals.
The Leaf seats five and can travel about 100 miles on a single charge. It can be charged with a standard 110-volt home outlet or through a commercial charging station. Later this year Enterprise will be installing charging stations at select locations.
In February, Hertz announced an agreement with Nissan to introduce the Leaf at “select rental sites” in the United States and Europe by early 2011; Hertz also said it plans to introduce the Leaf into its global car share service, Connect by Hertz. In addition, Avis also said it would begin offering EVs—short for electric vehicles—within Europe in 2011.
Many of the major rental firms offer hybrids or other environmentally friendly vehicles, such as those offered through the Avis Cool Cars Collection, the Budget Green Machine (formerly Driver’s Choice) fleet, and the Hertz Green Collection.
However, as we noted in in 2008, actually securing a booking might be a challenge. At that time we tried making reservations online and through call centers, and had difficulty confirming a hybrid rental.
Even so, the popularity of greener cars may be driving customers to seek out more fuel-efficient rentals. For example, Budget recently announced that among its fleet of approximately 100,000 vehicles, more than half are rated 28 miles per gallon or better on the highway by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Our earlier advice still holds:
- If you can’t secure a hybrid or electric car, consider renting a non-hybrid gas sipper to avoid paying extra.
- Reserve far ahead and ask whether the agency will guarantee your requested car.
- Rent at major airports, which often have more cars than do other facilities.
- Try renting an eco-friendly vehicle directly from a car maker, such as Toyota.
— William J. McGee