German-based car rental firm Sixt started to offer electric vehicle rentals this week, ahead of many of its main rivals.
Sixt customers in five German cities can now reserve the vehicles under a pilot program that is expected to last for 12 months. The cars will be available in Essen until June 30 and then go on to Munich, Hamburg, Dresden and Berlin.
The Fiat Karabag 500 E, an electric version of the popular Fiat 500, will be available to rent from €59 per day and the larger Fiat Micro-Vett Fiorino E, based on the Fiorino van, from €79 per day.
Both types will be fitted with navigation equipment showing the location of charging stations, which are provided by German utility provider RWE.
By allowing passengers behind the wheel of an electric car so early, Sixt has beaten rivals Hertz, Avis and Europcar, which have all said that they intend to offer vehicles from next year.
All three firms all plan to use Renault-Nissan vehicles for their fleets, which are expected to be on the market from 2011.
Advocates of electric vehicle technology hope that car rental can drive the take-up of electric cars and convince the public that they are a realistic alternative to gasoline vehicles.