Program introduces electric rental cars in Orlando (Update)

Sep 05, 2013 by Tamara Lush
This Sept. 4, 2013 photo shows an electric car at a charge point in front of city hall in Orlando, Fla. On Thursday, Sept. 5, Orlando will be home to a first-of-its-kind electric rental car initiative where hotel partners will valet park the electric rental for free and charge it for you. Orlando already has more than 300 stations in the area. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Visitors to Orlando often try new things while on vacation: thrilling roller coasters, luxury hotels, different cuisines.

Now they can try out a fully electric car—and not have to pay for gas during their vacation.

Under a new program announced Thursday called Drive Electric Orlando, anyone who rents one of 15 Nissan Leaf cars from Enterprise Rent-A-Car will be able to charge the car for free. There are about 300 charging stations in the greater Orlando area, with many located at hotels, near theme parks and even downtown outside of City Hall.

"This is a first of its kind. This is groundbreaking," said Robbie Diamond, the president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Electrification Coalition, a group that worked with Enterprise, several hotels, corporations and local officials to organize the program.

The group, whose aim is to get more people behind the wheel of electric cars, is made up of business executives, including some from Nissan—which means they have an interest in marketing the rental cars in hopes of courting future buyers.

"Our hope is that it's a revolutionary project—once we get people in the car, we're confident that the technology will sell itself," Diamond said.

Here's how it works: Once a driver rents the Leaf (at a cost of about $30 a day or less) at the Enterprise counter at the Orlando International Airport, they can stop at any of the kiosks in the area when the car has a low charge. More than 25 hotels, including The Peabody Orlando and Renaissance Orlando, have charging stations, and valets will charge the cars overnight. Other large public places, such as the Orlando Convention Center, have charging stations in the parking lot.

This Sept. 4, 2013 photo shows Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer driving a new electric rental car in Orlando, Fla. On Thursday, Sept. 5, Orlando will be home to a first-of-its-kind electric rental car initiative where hotel partners will even valet park the electric rental for free and charge it for you. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

There are no charging stations inside the area's theme parks, but there are many nearby—and organizers say more charging stations are "in the works." Renters are more likely to charge their vehicles at hotels overnight, they said.

If the car runs low on power while on the road, its dashboard screen displays the nearest charging stations. If the vehicle's battery dies entirely, then AAA will come to charge the car for free, said Lisa Martini, a spokeswoman for Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

The cars have a range of about 80 to 100 miles (about 130 to 160 kilometers) on a full charge. All of the details, including how to plug the car into a charging station, are fully explained to the renter at the Enterprise counter, said Martini.

"We want people to be comfortable with the technology," she said.

This Sept. 4, 2013 photo shows the screen of a charge point for a new electric rental car in Orlando, Fla. On Thursday, Sept. 5, Orlando will be home to a first-of-its-kind electric rental car initiative where hotel partners will valet park the electric rental for free and charge it for you. Orlando already has more than 300 stations in the area. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Diamond, along with other officials, say that many people like the idea of fully electric vehicles like the Leaf or the Chevy Volt, but are worried about how far the car's battery will go.

Electric car sales are only a tiny fraction of overall U.S. auto sales. Automakers sold just over 12,000 pure-electric vehicles in the U.S. through April, according to WardsAuto InfoBank, an industry database, and Tesla Motors, which designs electric vehicles. That's less than 1 percent of the 4.97 million cars and trucks sold during the same period. Even a $7,500 tax credit from the U.S. government that effectively lowers prices couldn't persuade most car buyers.

The Nissan Leaf sells for $29,650 including shipping costs, although the company does offer $199 monthly leases with $1,999 down.

This Sept. 4, 2013 photo shows Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer connecting a charging cable to a new electric rental car in Orlando, Fla. On Thursday, Sept. 5, Orlando will be home to a first-of-its-kind electric rental car initiative where hotel partners will valet park the electric rental for free and charge it for you. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Renting a car and driving it while on vacation or on a business trip is a "try before you buy" scenario, said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who took reporters on a cruise around downtown Orlando on a recent day in a Leaf.

He pointed out the charging station in front of City Hall, at the Amway Center—where many concerts and sporting events are held—and at other county-owned locations, all within a 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) radius of downtown. At one location, he popped the car's tiny hood and clicked a charging "pump" into the socket.

This Sept. 4, 2013 photo shows Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer driving a new electric rental car in Orlando, Fla. On Thursday, Sept. 5, Orlando will be home to a first-of-its-kind electric rental car initiative where hotel partners will even valet park the electric rental for free and charge it for you. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Dyer noted that Orlando is one of the most-visited destinations in the U.S. and said it is the nation's largest rental car market.

"It gives them an option to try out an electric car and see how easy it is to use and get rid of that range anxiety," he said.

While the big money-saver from using the electric car is avoiding the cost of gas altogether, getting the charge for free also saves a bit of cash. Some public meters cost $2.50 for a full charge, while others are free but require payment for parking at a meter. Under the rental program, drivers wave a key fob at the charger to proceed without paying.

Explore further: Cheap leases offered to spur electric car sales (Update)

More information: www.driveelectricorlando.com

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nissan to have self-driving car on market in 2020

Aug 27, 2013

Motorists could go hands-free, leaving their cars' computer brains fully in charge, as early as 2020, when Nissan says it plans to have a self-driving vehicle ready for the market.

Recommended for you

Ikea buys wind farm in Illinois

Apr 15, 2014

These days, Ikea is assembling more than just furniture. About 150 miles south of Chicago in Vermilion County, Ill., the home goods giant is building a wind farm large enough to ensure that its stores will never have to buy ...

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

Apr 14, 2014

(Phys.org) —The solar lamp developed by the start-up LEDsafari is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people ...

Power arm band for wearables harvests body heat

Apr 12, 2014

(Phys.org) —A group of Korean researchers have turned their focus on supplying a reliable, efficient power source for wearables. Professor Byung Jin Cho of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.

Making 'bucky-balls' in spin-out's sights

(Phys.org) —A new Oxford spin-out firm is targeting the difficult challenge of manufacturing fullerenes, known as 'bucky-balls' because of their spherical shape, a type of carbon nanomaterial which, like ...

Gene removal could have implications beyond plant science

(Phys.org) —For thousands of years humans have been tinkering with plant genetics, even when they didn't realize that is what they were doing, in an effort to make stronger, healthier crops that endured climates better, ...