Try renting one if you want to give it a whirl!

May 19th, 2012
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If you want to test whether an EV is in your near future, you might consider renting one for a few days.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the company that loaned us my Nissan Leaf for the week, was the first rental company in the state to offer electric vehicles and charging stations to the public.

They passed on some pretty neat facts so I thought I’d share some as we start to wind up our week with the Leaf, a car I’ve come to enjoy and will truly miss when I return it tomorrow.

The first Leafs were introduced locally at Enterprise’s Honolulu airport location and today the company has a fleet of 30 on Oahu, said Chris Sbarbaro, vice president of sales, marketing and external affairs for Enterprise in Hawaii.

Electronic vehicles will begin appearing on Maui later this month (along with charging stations, as they have here on Oahu) and then on Kauai later this summer, Sbarbaro said.

Back on Oahu, Enterprise has EVs in Kailua, Kaneohe, Waipahu, Disney Aulani Resort (through Alamo), Turtle Bay, Waikiki and downtown, as well as the airport.

“Our goal is to continue to expand our network to reduce the concerns of the ‘charging anxiety’ that people have felt at times,” Sbarbaro said.

“Due to the limited driving distances, we see Hawaii as a great fit for the EVs in many ways,” he said, reiterating a thought my colleague Alan Yonan has heard from others.

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The Leafs are pretty popular at the airport location, according to branch manager Daniel Gatewood and assistant branch manager Matthew DeMille, who gave me an informative 15-minute overview of the EV including the ways to charge it.

On Monday when I picked up the car, more than half of the Leafs were rented, they said, while others had just been returned and were being charged, or waiting to be charged.

In the beginning, a good portion of EV rental customers were Hawaii state employees who flew for a day or two on business, Sbarbaro said. He believes one reason is state employees get to charge their EVs at state office parking lots.

“As we’ve expanded and added more Enterprise charging stations, we now are renting them to customers who take their car into the shop and want to try them for a day, or customers who take them over the weekend,” Sbarbaro said.

Gatewood also recommended the EVs for folks flying in for the day to attend a sporting event at the Stan Sheriff Center or Rainbow Stadium. Not only are there six (free) BetterPlace charging stations in the “F” section of the parking structure near the Stanley (I checked them out myself yesterday), but the parking fee is waived for all EVs.

Rental pricing can vary based on demand, Sbarbaro said, but they typically will cost 20-25 percent more than standards because they come with the GPS navigation system, he said. They also have a higher sticker price than other standard vehicles their size, by about 25 percent.

On the flip side of that, though, consider you don’t have to pay any gas and can take advantage of charging stations at Enterprise locations, the BetterPlace (at various shopping centers and other public lots) and elsewhere.

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So what happens when one of their renters runs out of juice while driving around the island?

The same that happens when a car renter runs out of gasoline in a gas-powered car – they call for a tow truck.

“Fortunately, this has only happened a couple of times, mainly in the North Shore area,” Sbarbaro said. “When it did, (the renters) called us directly or our Roadside Assistance hotline and we’ll send someone out to tow the car.”

Sbarbaro said he’s hoping such incidents are minimized now that there are charging stations at the Turtle Bay Resort, where there’s also an Enterprise location.

Enterprise employees tell customers to plan to get 80-90 miles of range on a Leaf rather than the 110-plus miles the manufacturer boasts. Customers are also warned that the range indicator will go up and down based on whether they are driving freeways, hills, accelerating and decelerating. (See the previous blog titled “The Estimator.”)

“In the future, as more shopping malls, hotels and restaurants install these charging stations, the anxiety and worry about where people have to go will be reduced,” Sbarbaro said.

If you ask me, that’s a good incentive for shopping mall managers to install as many electric charging stations as they can as soon as possible in their parking lots. Everything else being equal, I’d bet EV owners go shopping, have a coffee or see a movie where they can also juice up.

3 Responses to “Try renting one if you want to give it a whirl!”

  1. Shaun Stenshol:

    Bio-Beetle ECO Rental Cars has been offering the only electric rental car on Maui since September 2011 - a Nissan Leaf.


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