The Coalition for Electrification has published a new report detailing today the lessons learned from a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership that enabled the deployment of electric vehicles in a large fleet of rental cars. The report shares key findings from the EC’s Drive Electric Orlando rental pilot project, through which titans of the tourism industry enticed travelers to rent electric vehicles in Orlando, believed to be the largest car rental market in the USA.
The multi-year program was led by the Coalition for Electrification in partnership with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the City of Orlando, the Central Florida Clean Cities Coalition, and Orlando area resorts and theme parks, including Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort. This collaboration between nonprofits, government agencies, and the tourism industry has provided critical insights for future deployments of electric vehicles in the car rental market. And the project asserted that the car rental industry can be a valuable avenue for accelerating consumer acceptance and adoption of electric vehicles.
“Car rental companies operate some of the largest fleets of light vehicles in the country, so electrifying this industry will be key in shifting to an electric transportation future,” said Ben Prochazka, executive director of the Coalition for Electrification. “Drive Electric Orlando put the consumer behind the wheel of an EV while on vacation – a perfect opportunity to experience the full benefits of this technology. The program engaged consumers during the early stages of the growth of the electric vehicle market, and it can now serve as a roadmap for the car rental industry to go electric.
Prochazka announced the release during a roundtable at the 2022 International Car Rental Show in Las Vegas, a major gathering of leading companies and players in the car rental industry from around the world.
“Orlando is a premier tourist destination, and we were grateful for the opportunity to embrace the future of how visitors will travel through our area,” added Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “Collaboration and partnership are key to helping Orlando prepare for the future, and that means working together to develop clean and sustainable mobility options for visitors. Based on the lessons learned from this pilot project, we look forward to to improve the program and play a key role in the electric vehicle revolution.
The Drive Electric Orlando Rental Pilot, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, aimed to promote consumer adoption of electric vehicles by providing travelers with a unique and convenient experience. Program partners encouraged participation by offering exclusive benefits to Enterprise customers who rented electric vehicles, including free parking, free valet parking and free charging.
“We are excited by the growing interest of car rental companies in electrification. This early work by the Coalition for Electrification and Drive Electric Orlando provides a series of lessons learned for other rental car companies to electrify their fleets,” said Michael Berube, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Sustainable Transportation. at the US Department of Energy. “The car rental industry can help customers experience the benefits of electric vehicles first-hand, and this report provides valuable insight on how to create a successful electric rental program.”
The report serves as a guide for future initiatives and the car rental industry as a whole. It presents lessons learned and recommendations from the program, including:
- Leasing an electric vehicle can have a substantial positive impact on a consumer’s attitude and interest in technology. Two-thirds of EV renters surveyed indicated that their experience with Drive Electric Orlando made them more likely to purchase an EV as their next vehicle.
- Incentives were valuable tools in attracting program participants. By offering a variety of benefits, such as VIP parking and free charging, program stakeholders have generated more consumer interest in renting an electric vehicle.
- As the car rental industry incorporates electric vehicles into its fleets, it must be proactive in overcoming some of the barriers associated with transitioning to this new technology. For example, companies should plan for staff training, on-site charging at rental centers, and customer education on EV operation and charging.
Over the past year, the transportation sector has made significant strides towards an electrified future that includes the car rental industry. Congress has allocated billions of dollars for the development of electric vehicle charging stations, through the bipartisan Infrastructure Act. Automakers have set ambitious new targets for electric vehicle production and sales, and consumer interest in electric vehicles is on the rise. The car rental industry is following suit with electrification plans.
“In many ways, we have blazed a new trail at every stage of the DEO program,” said Prochazka of the Electrification Coalition. “This pilot project has helped us dig into the challenges and identify ways for EVs to succeed as rental cars. As the number of EV models grows and access to charging stations increases , we hope the rental car industry uses the lessons we learned to build a model that will successfully electrify rental fleets across the country.
Car rental companies operate some of the largest private sector light vehicle fleets in the country, with annual vehicle purchases in the hundreds of thousands. According to Bobit, automakers sold 494,960 units to U.S. rental fleets in the first quarter of 2020.
The extraordinary scale and rapid turnover of these fleets offers unique opportunities to deploy electrification as a strategy for direct reduction in transportation emissions and oil consumption, as well as indirect reduction through consumer experience in VE. Additionally, the car rental industry is a major source of used vehicles, supporting a more accessible market for middle and low income consumers.
Oil accounts for 90% of transportation energy use in the United States, making consumers vulnerable to price volatility and supply disruptions. Transportation is the country’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.