In fact, people who drive off in electric vehicles from Enterprise Holdings Inc., the biggest U.S. auto renter, often bring them back to trade for a car that runs on gasoline.
“People are very keen to try it, but they will switch out of the contract part way through,” Lee Broughton, head of sustainability at Enterprise, said in an interview. “Range anxiety makes them think they can’t get to a charging station.”
Limited range is holding up demand for electric vehicles nationwide, both in rentals and sales. About 140,000 plug-in EVs are on U.S. roads, short of President Barack Obama’s goal for 1 million of the cars by 2015, data from the Electric Drive Transportation Association shows. That may slow efforts to cut pollution from transport, which is responsible for a third of U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions.
At Enterprise, customers rent the electric cars for about 1.6 days on average, compared to six days to seven days for conventional vehicles. Slow demand is the main reason the St. Louis-based company has 300 electric cars in its fleet, 40 percent below a target it set in 2010 when it ordered 500 of Nissan Motor Co.’s plug-in electric Leafs, Broughton said.
Hertz Global Holdings Inc. said in 2010 it would have 500 to 1,000 electric vehicles in its fleet by 2011, including Leafs and General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Volt. It’s fallen short of that goal because of lower-than-expected customer interest, according to Paula Rivera, a spokeswoman for the company based in Park Ridge, New Jersey.
“When we first launched in 2010, there was definite interest, but we fleeted according to demand,” Rivera said.
Hybrids have been easier to promote because they’re similar to conventional cars, Rivera said. She wouldn’t say how many EVs or hybrids Hertz owns. Enterprise has 11,000 hybrids.