Hype Aside, Americans Still Aren’t Renting Electric Cars

2017 Ford Focus Electric

It seems inevitable that sooner, rather than later, electrified vehicles will begin to dominate on the world’s roads, replacing their gasoline-burning counterparts. Countries such as France and Great Britain have pledged to ban the sale of new vehicles with conventional diesel and gasoline engines by 2040. That same year, electric vehicles are predicted to make up more than half of the new-vehicle market. This summer, the official reveal of  the Tesla Model 3 received much media gushing, with the car portrayed as an EV for the masses that the masses seem to really want. More than half a million $1000 deposits have been thrown down for a car that most buyers won’t get until sometime in 2018 or maybe even later. And yet, when it comes to car rentals, the masses still seem uninterested in electrification.

Both Enterprise and Hertz, the two largest U.S. car-rental companies, confirmed to Car and Driver that they have been reducing their fleet of EVs because of a lack of demand. Avis, which is in third place, does not offer any fully electric vehicles for rent. One big reason for soft EV-rental demand is low fuel prices. But Kurt Kohler, senior vice president of fleet acquisition and remarketing for Enterprise in North America, pointed to some other factors that underscore how far a broader adoption of electrification has yet to go in the United States.

Kohler said most customers who have rented electric cars have been impressed by the way they drive. He said consumers have commented that the cars are “very peppy, very responsive.” However, some of those same customers have often rented EVs for a seven-day period, only to bring them back after a couple of days to swap them out for vehicles with internal-combustion engines.

Typical reasons for the early trade-off include range anxiety, a dearth of charging infrastructure outside the country’s EV hotspots, and even just a general lack of understanding of how and when to recharge the battery. That’s despite the rental companies allowing consumers to return EVs with as much or as little battery life left as they please, as opposed to demanding a full fuel tank in internal-combustion cars coming back from rental. Enterprise’s own charging infrastructure at its 5800 U.S. neighborhood (non-airport, non-urban) rental locations is “minimal,” Kohler said. The company as a whole has only about 300 EVs for rent, most of which are found at city and airport locations where recharging is easier. With some 1.9 million vehicles in service worldwide, the company considers itself a decent barometer of consumer taste.

At one point, Enterprise had about 500 Nissan Leaf electric cars for rent in the United States. Its total EV rental count now is dominated by the Tesla Model S, which is part of the company’s specialty, higher-end Exotic Car Collection, offered only in select locations. Enterprise also has about 30,000 hybrid vehicles in its fleet. With regular-grade gasoline currently averaging less than $2.50 a gallon, even these hybrid rentals have seen lukewarm demand. “Nobody’s really telling us, ‘Hey, I need to drive a hybrid,’ ” Kohler said.

If gas prices spike and EVs suddenly become the rentals du jour, Kohler said Enterprise could adapt. “If [customers] start asking for more of them, I think we feel like, structurally, we could pivot pretty quickly and make sure we have the right cars for them.” But for the moment, he added, “Everybody’s asking for trucks and SUVs.”

from remotecar http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/caranddriver/blog/~3/tQTO4WTV49U/

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Hype Aside, Americans Still Aren’t Renting Electric Cars

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