How to Rent an Electric Car

The Nissan LEAF has an MSRP of $32,780, with up to $7,500 in federal tax savings as well as further rebates and credits available in some states. A consumer lease is available for $349 a month for 36 months.

The line to buy the all-new Nissan LEAF is 20,000 people long and growing. If you're not on that list, and you're not a celebrity or politician, you'll have a hard time getting to drive the battery-electric vehicle (BEV) anytime soon-unless you rent one.

Enterprise and Hertz have launched electric vehicle rental initiatives and are working with manufacturers, charging station providers, municipalities, NGOs, corporations and car sharing divisions to help scale up BEV use.

Hertz is planning an early 2011 launch of the LEAF, while Enterprise will begin receiving 500 LEAFs to rent through its network of neighborhood locations in December. Enterprise also recently announced an agreement with CODA Automotive, an independent electric vehicle maker, to rent a select number of its all-electric sedan in 2011.

In Europe, Avis Europe announced a partnership with Nissan-Renault to rent four of Renault's upcoming electric models in 2011, while Europcar has plans to rent the Peugeot iON and Citroen C-Zero, both based on the all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

The Nissan LEAFs will initially be available to customers across markets where the infrastructure is being built to support them. For Enterprise, those markets are Phoenix, Nashville, Tenn., San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., and Seattle. Hertz and Enterprise are placing charging stations at BEV rental locations.

Though the actual driving experience should be almost transparent to the driver, there will be inherent challenges to renting this brand-new technology.

Auto Rental News spoke with Lee Broughton, Enterprise Holdings' director of corporate identity and sustainability, to understand the logistics behind the Enterprise rollout. And we got a chance to ride along in a Nissan LEAF to understand the experience firsthand.

Who Will Rent the LEAF?

Broughton defines three general categories of initial LEAF renters and a smaller offshoot category:

● Early adopters in the market for a retail BEV purchase who will seek out the LEAF for an extended test drive.

● Replacement vehicle renters who live and work in the local community. "They'll see an electric vehicle on the lot," says Broughton, "and their curiosity will get the better of them."

● The experienced local Enterprise renter who wants to "drive the future."

● A fourth category consists of environmental-minded municipalities, utilities and corporate customers.

CONTINUED:  How to Rent an Electric Car
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