Car rental giant Hertz will be adding electric vehicles to its rental fleet and Connect by Hertz car sharing service by the end of the year. The company showed off the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius plug-in hyrbid at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York City this week. Hertz will roll out the vehicles over the next few months in key urban areas -- New York, Washington, San Francisco and London -- and on select corporate and university campuses, Richard Broome, senior vice president of communications at Hertz, told Translogic. These locations were chosen because they're perfect for the EV rental market, with plenty of people who need a car for short-term transportation and will not be driving long distances.

"We're making a commitment to be part of the electric vehicle revolution," Broome said. "Electric vehicle travel is coming, but there are some hurdles that have to be overcome and we want to be a constructive part of the process to overcome those hurdles."

  • Image Credit: Honey Berk
  • Image Credit: Honey Berk
  • Image Credit: Honey Berk
  • Image Credit: Honey Berk

Hertz has been working on its EV rental program for nearly a year, partnering with serial entrepreneur Jack Hidary to help bring the plan to fruition. Hidary is a well-known champion of high-efficiency vehicles, and was a co-architect of last summer's federal Cash For Clunkers program. Hidary was also a donor to the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize, awarded just last week to three winning teams for the development of super fuel-efficient vehicles.

"Jack and I started a discussion last fall about car rental, and how it would be a great place for the public to begin to understand electric vehicles and use them with low risk," Broome said. "They don't have to invest a lot of money to buy them, and they can operate them in areas where hopefully we would have a lot of recharging stations, so they don't have to worry about running out of electricity."

The Leaf gets about 100 miles per charge, according to Broome, and can recharge in as little as 20 minutes with the right type of dedicated charging station.

Hertz expects to have less than 100 EV's on the road this year, since the Leaf and Prius plug-in will not be in full-scale production yet. As such, the company plans on having a few strategically located vehicles available to renters in each test market, thus ensuring easy access to recharge stations, explained Broome.

"These cities -- like New York, San Francisco and [Washington] D.C. -- are all in the process of trying to figure out where to put the recharging stations that they get for free, basically, as part of the federal grant program," Broome said. "We're working with the municipalities and the officials in those cities to be part of that decision."

Since EV's are more expensive than equivalent size cars, Broome noted that rental rates are also projected to be more expensive than cars in the same size category, though he added that there will be no premium charged just because the car is electric. Hertz plans to add EV's from other manufacturers, such as Mitsubishi, Ford and GM, as they become available, ultimately building up its electric fleet over time.

"What we're trying to do is marry the interest on the recharging side with the interest on the consumer side and put them together," Broome explained, "so that, sooner rather than later, you have a system, an electric vehicle travel system that actually works in this country. That's the goal."

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