Hertz, Enterprise to rent electric cars

Eco-conscious travel is about to become a lot easier. Beginning as early as January, electric cars will be available at the nation's two largest auto rental companies. Enterprise Rent-A-Car, North America's largest car rental firm, unveiled plans last week to offer about 500 Nissan Leaf all-electric cars, initially at dealerships in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland and Seattle.

However, both rental car companies have outlets in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa.

The announcement came a few months after Hertz, the world's largest car rental company, said it planned to offer Nissan Leafs next year at a handful of locations in the U.S. and Europe, including New York, Washington and San Francisco. A fully charged Leaf has a range of about 100 miles.

Hertz and Enterprise already offer hybrid models, such as the Toyota Prius. But some questions about renting electric cars have yet to be answered.

For example, representatives for each company say the price of renting a Leaf will probably be higher than the rates for traditional gas-burning vehicles. But they have yet to announce exact rates.

"The details are still being worked out," said Lee Broughton, director of sustainability for Enterprise.

Perhaps a bigger concern for travelers who rent electric cars is whether they would have to pay a penalty for returning the vehicles with depleted batteries.

It is a key question because fully recharging a Leaf takes up to eight hours at a charging station and 20 hours from a standard home outlet.

If travelers don't have time to recharge an electric rental car before returning it, the rental firm must take the vehicle out of service to recharge it. Enterprise and Hertz representatives said they were still working out a solution.

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