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Hertz plugs its new electric car fleet

20/09/2010

The auto renter unveils its first all-electric wheels for NYC market, hoping to offer up to 20 of the vehicles for its local car-sharing business by the end of the year

While gas-guzzling cars zoomed up Third Avenue on Monday afternoon, Hertz Corp. debuted what it hopes is the future of automobile travel.

Hertz displayed a plug-in electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF, which will inaugurate its line of purely electric automobiles. In addition to its rental car business, Hertz intends to use electric vehicle travel to revolutionize its car sharing enterprise, “Connect.”

Richard Broome, Hertz’s senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications, said he expects 15 to 20 all-electric vehicles to be on the road here by year’s end.

While gas-guzzling cars zoomed up Third Avenue on Monday afternoon, Hertz Corp. debuted what it hopes is the future of automobile travel.

Hertz displayed a plug-in electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF, which will inaugurate its line of purely electric automobiles. In addition to its rental car business, Hertz intends to use electric vehicle travel to revolutionize its car sharing enterprise, “Connect.”

Richard Broome, Hertz’s senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications, said he expects 15 to 20 all-electric vehicles to be on the road here by year’s end.

Electric vehicles have a particularly strong application to car sharing in New York City, Mr. Broome said, adding that he hopes additional demand will grow in the rental car sector in the coming years.

“The big issue [is] how to get consumers to try electric vehicles,” he said. “The only way we could do that was build out the infrastructure, like the charging stations.”

To accomplish this, Hertz partnered with California-based Coulomb Technologies, which produces “smart” recharging stations. The $6,000 devices allow users to pay with a special card, and receive directions to the nearest recharging station with their smartphones, said Scott Saffian, Coulomb’s senior vice president of sales.

Currently Hertz has 100 different New York City locations, where its 20,000 car-sharing customers can pick up and drop off their cars as part of the Connect program. As its electric car fleet expands, the company hopes to add more charging stations to increase convenience.

At Monday’s event, Hertz offered consumers an incentive to get its electric cars on the road. By committing to try a PHEV, each person received a $75 driving credit. With car sharing’s current hourly rate at $10 to $14, that’s about six hours of free driving. Additionally, since the electric cars get anywhere from 80 to 120 miles with a full battery, recharging would not be an issue.

“We want to get cars in certain locations where the public can try out electric vehicle travel without having to make the commitment to buy,” Mr. Broome said.

He acknowledged that Hertz is still in the formative stages of development, and the company has yet to get commitments to rent or share from corporate customers. The price of renting an electric car is still to be determined, though Mr. Broome said he does not anticipate any premium.

Still, the partners in this initiative say they are optimistic that they can bring together all the necessary sectors to make their electric vehicle ecosystem a reality.

“There may be people that take these as a weekend long-term test drive,” said Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning and advanced technology strategy. “Also, commuters or conventioneers—you put these cars at the airport, you have a downtown convention or hotel with charging, and suddenly you’re zero emission the whole time.”

Electric vehicles have a particularly strong application to car sharing in New York City, Mr. Broome said, adding that he hopes additional demand will grow in the rental car sector in the coming years.

“The big issue [is] how to get consumers to try electric vehicles,” he said. “The only way we could do that was build out the infrastructure, like the charging stations.”

To accomplish this, Hertz partnered with California-based Coulomb Technologies, which produces “smart” recharging stations. The $6,000 devices allow users to pay with a special card, and receive directions to the nearest recharging station with their smartphones, said Scott Saffian, Coulomb’s senior vice president of sales.

Currently Hertz has 100 different New York City locations, where its 20,000 car-sharing customers can pick up and drop off their cars as part of the Connect program. As its electric car fleet expands, the company hopes to add more charging stations to increase convenience.

At Monday’s event, Hertz offered consumers an incentive to get its electric cars on the road. By committing to try a PHEV, each person received a $75 driving credit. With car sharing’s current hourly rate at $10 to $14, that’s about six hours of free driving. Additionally, since the electric cars get anywhere from 80 to 120 miles with a full battery, recharging would not be an issue.

“We want to get cars in certain locations where the public can try out electric vehicle travel without having to make the commitment to buy,” Mr. Broome said.

He acknowledged that Hertz is still in the formative stages of development, and the company has yet to get commitments to rent or share from corporate customers. The price of renting an electric car is still to be determined, though Mr. Broome said he does not anticipate any premium.

Still, the partners in this initiative say they are optimistic that they can bring together all the necessary sectors to make their electric vehicle ecosystem a reality.

“There may be people that take these as a weekend long-term test drive,” said Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning and advanced technology strategy. “Also, commuters or conventioneers—you put these cars at the airport, you have a downtown convention or hotel with charging, and suddenly you’re zero emission the whole time.”

Fuente: Crain’s

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