Hertz Announces Electric Car Rentals


Drivers in New York City can now rent electric vehicles. Rental car giant Hertz is giving the fledgling electric car market a boost by investing in vehicle charging infrastructure early. Within a year, the company plans to ramp up to 1,000 vehicles nationwide.

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Okay. Now, our last word in business comes from Hertz. It's plug and rent, or rent and plug.

The rental car company just started offering electric cars. Now, this is only in Manhattan for the moment, but Hertz says it's the first phase of a broader rollout.

Alex Goldmark of member station WNYC reports.

ALEX GOLDMARK: Even in the bitter cold, Rich Broome is fired up about electric cars. The Hertz senior vice president sees a new charger here under an expensive midtown apartment building as symbolic.

Mr. RICH BROOME (Senior Vice President, Hertz): It's in places like this where the where the electric vehicle revolution starts.

GOLDMARK: Or restarts. Electric vehicles were briefly available for rent in the late '90s, but after that experiment failed, they're starting again from scratch, with just five electric cars.

Mr. BROOME: That's the most we could get our hands on before the end of the year. But by the end of 2011, we're going to have upwards of 1,000 EVs in our fleet.

GOLDMARK: For now, it's about gathering data. Curious potential buyers get to check out a new kind of ride, and Hertz gets to watch where people drive and, just as important, where they'll need charging stations.

Don Karner is watching, too. He heads ECOtality, a manufacturer of electric vehicle chargers and other energy products. He calls this a significant milestone.

Mr. DON KARNER (ECOtality): Like any new technology that comes out, you have to demonstrate its benefits, how it fits into people's lifestyle, and the numbers will come later.

GOLDMARK: At least 600 people have already told Hertz they want to rent an electric car.

For NPR News, I'm Alex Goldmark, in New York.

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