Hertz To Offer Electric Vehicles By The Hour

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Hertz Rent A Car is set to offer electric vehicles at an hourly rate starting December 15th in New York City, with expansion of the service to San Francisco, Washington D.C., London, up to 50 college campuses in North America, and markets in Texas and China by the end of 2011.

For what it calls the ConnectByHertz “car sharing” service in Manhattan, the company aims to make 20 electric vehicles (EVs) available by the second quarter of 2011. In total throughout the U.S. next year, Hertz plans to have 500 to 1,000 all-electric cars available.

The number of EVs that Hertz purchases for its rent-by-the-hour fleets will depend upon the availability of the cars, many of which have not begun to ship yet the company’s head of communications, Rich Broome, said Sunday.

Hertz has committed to purchase: the Nissan Leaf, the Mistubishi i-MiEV, the Chevy Volt, and electric cars from Coda and Smart, Broome verified.

The company will work with a variety of charging station makers, EV manufacturers and electric utilities to ensure there are enough chargers available to drivers where Hertz rents EVs and plug-in hybrids.

Broome explained the company’s decision to invest in and promote EVs and the “car sharing” model:

We spend in the billions a year on our fleets, and only keep cars in [them] for eight to twelve months… chang[ing] them out before a service or maintenance issue ever comes up.

At the same time, we serve customers who need cars for all different reasons. They may be families on vacation together, or people on business by themselves, people who want to enjoy a luxury vehicle, others who want something more economical.

Offering EVs is a continuation of a trend for us, of diversity and being first to market with new and interesting models. We were the first [rental company] to offer the Prius.

Traditionally in the U.S., a mark of adulthood is owning a car. Those habits are changing in some places, especially cities and college campuses for some good reasons. They’re not just environmental but personal financial reasons. We can help people think around the question: do I really need to own a vehicle?

We want people to be able to try these new EVs out, for something around or less than $10 an hour. When they do, hopefully they’ll see the cars are fun to drive, they handle nicely, the braking is smooth and they have nice acceleration.

Clean energy catalyst, investor and serial entrepreneur, Jack D. Hidary— who was a cofounder of Vista Research, Dice.com and a co-architect of the federal Cash-For-Clunkers program— worked with Hertz to set up the new EV service.

Hidary told TechCrunch:

“This will be the first car sharing provider in the country with a scaled EV program. There have been small-scale tests of EVs, but nobody has said we’re going to launch EVs into our mainstream fleet, in multiple cities around the world.

One thing that made this possible [for Hertz] today, is information technology. We have the digital commons. But there is an evolving ‘EV-commons,’ too. It includes the smart grid, and smart cars and information about where are the charging stations, are they available now or when will they become available.

That did not exist back when we saw the first EVs. Now you can look at a web app or a mobile app and see it easily as a consumer.

If you were interested in an EV before, you had to buy it and spend money on the charging station at home to drive a zero emissions vehicle.

Renting the EVs by the hour, and ensuring enough charging stations in those markets is a business model innovation. I see the business model innovation as something that is at least as important as the technological innovation.”

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