Electric cars to rent from next week

Hertz is to launch an hourly electric vehicle sharing scheme December 15, according to US media reports.

The car rental firm, which has already said that it will be adding the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Coda Sedan to its fleets, will offer electric vehicles through its ConnectByHertz car sharing scheme in New York from this month, reports TechCrunch.

The company confirmed on Twitter last week that it will be holding a demonstration day in Times Square on Monday December 6.

Reports suggest that 20 electric vehicles will be available to rent in Manhattan by the second quarter of 2011, with between 500 and 1,000 available in the US by the end of the year.

The hourly service will expand to "San Francisco, Washington D.C., London, up to 50 college campuses in North America, and markets in Texas and China by the end of 2011", according to TechCrunch.

The popularity of hourly vehicle rental in major cities around the world has raised hopes that it could play a key role in introducing the skeptical public to electric vehicles.

ConnectByHertz will have several competitors by the time it launches in European markets, including Move About in Oslo, the state-backed Paris EV-sharing service Autolib and a London equivalent planned by green-friendly mayor Boris Johnson.

It will also compete with a number of smaller private firms such as Zipcar and Streetcar, some of which have been operating electric vehicles on a limited scale since 2009.

A February 2010 report by business analyst Frost & Sullivan suggested that 5.5 million Europeans will be part of a car-sharing scheme in 2016. The firm said that 77,000 vehicles could be shared by 2016, one in five of them electric.