Range Anxiety Hurting Electric Car Rental Market

Tesla Model S. Photo courtesy of www.autoblog.com

Tesla Model S. Photo courtesy of www.autoblog.com

By 2015, President Obama had hoped to have one million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road in the United States. That goal now seems a bit lofty unless demand picks up – and consumers’ anxiety dies down. According to a recent article published in Bloomberg, many rental car drivers are trading in an EV for a vehicle that runs on gasoline or shying away from electric models altogether due to fears the batteries will die during their trip. Experts are calling these fears “range anxiety.”

At Enterprise, one of the largest car rental companies in the country, customers typically rent an EV for 1.6 days on average, compared to six or seven days for gas-powered vehicles. The company, which ordered 500 plug-in Nissan Leaf’s in 2010, has just 300 EVs currently in its fleet because of slow demand. One of Enterprise’s top competitors, Hertz, also has fallen short of their 2010 goal of adding 500-1,000 EVs to its fleet.

Despite slower than expected growth, both Hertz and Enterprise are making moves. Recently, Hertz added Tesla Motors Inc. at its Los Angeles and San Francisco locations as part of its Dream Cars program and Enterprise now offers the Tesla Model S cars in its Exotic Car Collection fleet. The Tesla S, which can be rented for $300-$500 per day (or 10 times the price of the Nissan Leaf), has a maximum range of about 300 miles. Aside from the Tesla, both companies are expected to expand their electric fleets over the next 12 months and place EVs where there is the most demand. One of those places may be Orlando, Florida where Walt Disney World, Travelocity, Enterprise, Nissan and others are building an electric-car rental program.

Despite rental companies’ plans to expand, experts believe it’s unlikely consumers will show more interest in renting EVs until they have a bigger range batter and more charging stations are available.

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