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Electric Car Rentals Stalled in U.S. by Range Anxiety

Rental car drivers just aren’t plugging into electric vehicles, largely because of fears the batteries will die.

In fact, people who drive off in electric vehicles from Enterprise Holdings Inc., the biggest U.S. auto renter, often bring them back to trade for a car that runs on gasoline.
Enlarge image Chevrolet Volt

A General Motors Co. (GM) Chevrolet Volt is charged next to the Renaissance Center, the global headquarters of GM, in Detroit. Hertz Global Holdings Inc. said in 2010 it would have 500 to 1,000 electric vehicles in its fleet by 2011, including Nissan Motor Co.’s Leafs and Chevrolet Volt. Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg
Enlarge image Tesla Model S

The Tesla Motors Inc. Model S electric car sits under power lines after being unveiled at the Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) factory in Hawthorne, California. Enterprise Holdings Inc. offers Tesla Model S cars in its Exotic Car Collection fleet for about $300 to $500 a day. Photographer: Armando Arorizo/Bloomberg
Enlarge image Nissan’s Leaf

Nissan Motor Co.’s Leaf electric car sits on display at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles. Enterprise Holdings Inc. offers Leaf rental in Orlando, Florida, for about $55 a day, the same price as other compact or standard vehicles. Photographer: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg

“People are very keen to try it, but they will switch out of the contract part way through,” Lee Broughton, head of sustainability at Enterprise, said in an interview. “Range anxiety makes them think they can’t get to a charging station.””>a

Limited range is holding up demand for electric vehicles nationwide, both in rentals and sales. About 140,000 plug-in EVs are on U.S. roads, short of President Barack Obama’s goal for 1 million of the cars by 2015, data from the Electric Drive Transportation Association shows. That may slow efforts to cut pollution from transport, which is responsible for a third of U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions.

At Enterprise, customers rent the electric cars for about 1.6 days on average, compared to six days to seven days for conventional vehicles. Slow demand is the main reason the St. Louis-based company has 300 electric cars in its fleet, 40 percent below a target it set in 2010 when it ordered 500 of Nissan Motor Co.’s plug-in electric Leafs, Broughton said.


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