File this under really, really bad ideas: Enterprise Rent-A-Car will begin offering battery powered Coda Sedans at rental car locations throughout the United States. The plan is to deploy one hundred Coda Sedans by the end of 2011, giving renters the opportunity to experience an electric vehicle without actually purchasing one. As part of their partnership with Coda, Enterprise will also provide loaner cars to Coda owners who require service on their vehicles.
The Coda Sedan will accommodate five passengers plus luggage, and has a claimed range of 90 to 120 miles. The batteries require six hours for a full charge, but can be quick charged to a 40 mile range in just two hours. As far as EVs go, it’s stylish, it looks comfortable and it comes well appointed for a price just a little higher than a Chevy Volt.
So why is this a bad idea? Because, generally speaking, those renting cars underestimate the mileage they’ll drive, and even Coda only provides estimated range data. Sure, they say the car will go 90 to 120 miles under normal conditions, but what happens when you have five passengers plus luggage? What about range in the summer, with the A/C on max, and no traffic. Will that be 40 miles? Less, perhaps? What happens when a customer runs the batteries to zero in the middle of the freeway at rush hour? Will Enterprise send another fully charged Coda to replace the dead one?
How about those who rent the car and forget to plug it in overnight? How many missed events will result, triggering lawsuits against Enterprise and Coda? Enterprise will need to draft a multi-page disclaimer for EV rentals, and even that won’t be enough to protect them from litigation. I hope I’m wrong, because I’d love to see more EVs on the road, but I don’t think I am.