The Drive Electric Orlando program yielded insights that can serve as a roadmap for successful...

The Drive Electric Orlando program yielded insights that can serve as a roadmap for successful implementation of electric vehicles in car rental.

Photo: Electrification Coalition

The Electrification Coalition released a new report today detailing the lessons learned from a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership that brought about the deployment of electric vehicles in a large rental car fleet. The report shares key findings from the EC’s Drive Electric Orlando Rental Pilot, through which tourism industry titans incentivized travelers to rent EVs in Orlando, reportedly the largest rental car market in the United States.

The multi-year program was led by the Electrification Coalition in partnership with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the City of Orlando, Central Florida Clean Cities Coalition and Orlando-area resorts and theme parks, including Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort. This collaboration among non-profits, government agencies, and the tourism industry yielded critical insights for future EV deployments in the rental car market. And the project affirmed that the rental car industry can be a valuable avenue through which to accelerate consumer acceptance and adoption of EVs.

“Rental car companies operate some of the largest light-duty vehicle fleets in the country, so the electrification of this industry will be critical in the shift to an electric transportation future,” said Ben Prochazka, executive director of the Electrification Coalition. “Drive Electric Orlando put the consumer behind the wheel of an EV during a vacation – a perfect opportunity to experience all the benefits of this technology. The program engaged consumers during the early stages of EV market growth, and it can now serve as a roadmap for the rental car industry to go electric.”

Prochazka announced the release during a panel discussion at the 2022 International Car Rental Show in Las Vegas, a major convening of leading businesses and stakeholders in the rental car industry from across the globe.

"Orlando is a top tourism destination, and we were grateful for the opportunity to embrace the future of how visitors will move around our region,” added Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “Collaboration and partnership are key to helping Orlando prepare for the future, and that includes working together to develop clean, sustainable mobility options for visitors. With the lessons learned from this pilot, we look forward to enhancing the program and playing a key role in the electric vehicle revolution."

The Drive Electric Orlando Rental Pilot, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, sought to promote consumer adoption of EVs by offering travelers a unique, hands-on experience. Program partners incentivized participation by providing exclusive perks to Enterprise customers who rented EVs, including free parking, complimentary valet service and free charging.

“We are excited by the increasing interest of rental car companies to electrify. This early work by the Electrification Coalition and Drive Electric Orlando provides a series of lessons learned for other rental car companies to learn from as they electrify their fleets,” said Michael Berube, deputy assistant secretary for sustainable transportation at the U.S. Department of Energy. “The rental car industry can help customers experience the benefits of electric vehicles first-hand, and this report demonstrates valuable insights on how to build a successful electric rental program.”

The report serves as a guide for future initiatives and the rental car industry at-large. It presents lessons and recommendations from the program, including:

  • Renting an EV can have a substantial positive impact on a consumer’s attitude toward and interest in the technology. Two-thirds of EV renters surveyed indicated that their experience with Drive Electric Orlando made them more likely to purchase an EV as their next vehicle.
  • Incentives were valuable tools to attract program participants. By providing a variety of perks, such as VIP parking and free charging, program stakeholders generated more consumer interest in renting an EV.
  • As the rental car industry incorporates EVs into its fleets, it must be proactive in overcoming certain barriers associated with the transition to this new technology. For example, companies need to plan for staff training, on-site charging at rental centers and customer education on EV operation and charging.

In the last year, the transportation sector has made major strides toward an electrified future that includes the rental car industry. Congress has allocated billions of dollars toward the development of EV charging stations, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Automakers have set ambitious new targets for EV production and sales, and consumer interest in EVs is on the rise. The rental car industry is following suit with plans to electrify.

“In many ways, we were blazing a new trail with each step of the DEO program,” the Electrification Coalition’s Prochazka said. “This pilot helped us dig into the challenges and identify ways for EVs to succeed as rental cars. As the number of EV models grows, and access to charging stations increases, it’s our hope that the rental car industry will use the lessons we learned to build a model that will successfully electrify rental fleets across the country.”

Rental car businesses operate some of the largest private-sector light-duty fleets in the country, with annual vehicle procurements in the hundreds of thousands. According to Bobit, automakers sold 494,960 units to U.S. rental fleets in the first quarter of 2020.

The extraordinary scale and rapid turnover of these fleets offer unique opportunities to deploy electrification as a strategy for direct reductions in transportation emissions and oil consumption, as well as for indirect reductions through the consumer EV experience. Furthermore, the rental car industry is a major source of used vehicles, supporting a market that is more accessible to middle- and lower-income consumers.

Oil accounts for 90% of energy use in U.S. transportation, leaving consumers vulnerable to volatile prices and supply disruptions. Transportation is the largest source of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.