Remember the controversy surrounding Nissan’s questionnaire to prospective Leaf buyers? The questionnaire that asked you to provide detail on your driving habits and daily mileage? The one that was designed to make sure prospective Leaf buyers were a good fit for the variable-range battery powered car? I wonder if prospective renters will have to complete the same survey, and I find myself thinking the answer to that question is, “no”. In other words, Enterprise franchises that rent the Leaf should plan on regular phone calls from pissed off, stranded renters who ran the batteries out in 50 miles of stop and go driving in summertime heat.
Surprisingly, Enterprise is the second rental agency to ink a deal for the Leaf. Hertz will take delivery of the electric cars for their fleets in both the United States and in Europe, where electric car rental probably make a lot more sense.
I don’t mean to sound critical of the Leaf, because that’s not my intent. The Leaf will be fine for a select group of buyers, namely those that won’t drive more than 60 miles per day. Ever. Under any circumstances. As Nissan has already disclosed, the Leaf has a variable range, impacted by such things as air conditioning (mandatory in FL about six months out of the year), stop and go traffic and weather extremes. Their projection of 100 miles between charges isn’t best-case (which is 138 miles), but it’s certainly not the 47 mile worst case, either.
In our litigation-happy society, I can see the Leaf related lawsuits against Enterprise and Hertz stack up like planes at O’Hare. There will be missed business meetings, missed marriages, missed funerals and missed opportunities blamed on the Leaf when it doesn’t get from Point A to Point B on the charge remaining in its batteries. Lawsuits aside, there are some serious logistical problems to overcome for Leaf renters. How, exactly will they charge the Leaf’s batteries overnight? Will hotels provide extension cords that reach to the parking lot? Will they reserve spots for electric car owners near outlets? Will renters even remember to plug the car in after a lifetime of locking the door and walking away?
Most of all, I’m surprised that Nissan will take this chance. They have one opportunity to prove that electric vehicles are a viable alternative, and disgruntled Leaf renters are the last thing they need to worry about. Call me a pessimist, but I don’t see this ending well for the rental car companies, Nissan or the future of electric vehicles.