Turns Out No One Wants To Rent An Electric Car

Illustration for article titled Turns Out No One Wants To Rent An Electric Car

Guess Nissan doesn't have to worry about the Leaf becoming the ubiquitous rental car anytime soon. Leafs on lots across the country are gathering dust because even rental customers have range anxiety.

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According to Bloomberg, people who come in to rent a Leaf from Enterprise are keeping it for an average of just 1.6 days, versus 6-7 days for a normal car rental. And apparently both Enterprise and Hertz have fallen behind on filling their fleets with as many EVs as they promised a couple years ago. Enterprise also planned to add up to 100 Coda sedans back in 2011, but you know what happened with that.

It turns out that getting people to rent an all-electric car in the same way they'd get an all-forgettable Altima for a week has proven a tough sell, even when they go for a similar rate. It makes sense, though, since people who don't own an electric car don't have a charging station at home and quick public chargers are still few and far between if you don't live in a major city or own a Tesla.

And speaking of Teslas, Hertz and Enterprise offer them in some of their prestigious expensive collections of vehicles usually reserved for stuff like Corvettes and special stripey Mustangs. And the rental rate has been similar to the gas-hungry exotics, mostly because the Tesla is also viewed as a toy you pay $500 a day for. Not many people feel that way about a Leaf.

In the meantime, neither Hertz nor Enterprise seems to be letting up on their respective electrifications. Which means you might soon be able to hoon a Leaf for a special low weekend rate. Wouldn't that be nice?

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Photo: Nissan

DISCUSSION

When my car was in the shop (after owning it for a week, I was rear-ended... yay!). I had a Fiat 500 for the first week and then switched to a Leaf (long story). Anyway, the Leaf, which I had for two days, was interesting. I had wanted to see what it was like and what better way than driving it to work and back a few times. I was driving about 20-30 miles a day in the Oregon winter (sometime in January). It had great acceleration (that instant torque is fun, especially in the non-econ mode). I didn't like the electronic e-brake. Seemed as competent as any other hatchback (not nearly as fun as the Fiat I had had previously). The weight being centered down low made it more fun in cornering than expected. BUT.

BUT. The estimated range would suffer a HUGE drop if I turned on the lights, heater/defroster, and windshield wipers; which, if you live in a place with winters, are necessary. I thought "Oh, this thing can go 80 miles, 30 won't be a problem." On the drive home, in the dark, with all three of those things going, I was worried I might not make it home, the estimated range kept dropping. This, more than anything, made it really not fun. Even though I was the ideal candidate (commuter going <30 miles), "range anxiety" is a very real thing and very real with the Leaf.

So, if you live in California or Arizona, maybe it would work out really well as a commuter vehicle. (I still really want an electric motorcycle which doesn't have fancy things like heaters or defrosters to kill the range).