Hertz challenges Zipcar in the Rent-By-Hour Market with Hybrid Electric Vehicles

By dancurranjr On December 7th, 2010

Hertz’s answer to Zipcar is going green – letting eco-conscious New Yorkers rent plug-in autos by the hour.

The all-electric Nissan Leaf doesn’t even hit the market until next week, so I gladly parked my gas-guzzler to test drive Connect by Hertz’s model yesterday.

Here’s what I learned: If you need to take the car to the electrical outlet after the shopping outlet, you might need a lead foot.

The car looks just like any other, except there’s no tailpipe and it starts up by passing a black key card over the dashboard.

The first thing I noticed was there was no hum. The Leaf was virtually silent as I maneuvered through midtown traffic. It handled well, but you have to step hard on the gas to get it moving from a full stop. Over-acceleration won’t be an issue, though. The top speed is 90 mph.

The Leaf typically takes about eight hours to charge at a special station – or up to 20 hours in a regular household outlet.

Hertz has eight stations in Manhattan to charge the cars, and plans for some in the outer boroughs. A full charge costs about $2.

Connect by Hertz is the rental giant’s effort to compete in the car-share market. Customers pay a $50 membership fee and $6 to $7 an hour. Several electric or hybrid models will be available starting Dec. 15.

“It makes it attractive to people who want to rent a car but don’t want to to pay a lot for the privilege,” said Rich Broome, a Hertz senior vice president.

Zipcar does not have electric cars in its New York fleet, but has used them in other cities.

“We continue to evaluate the technology and we definitely welcome Hertz to the space,” said Zipcar spokesman Greg Winter.

SOURCE: NY Daily News

Raleigh, N.C. to Install Plug-in Hybrid Charging Stations

By dancurranjr On March 1st, 2009

plug-in-hybrid-phevLast week, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom reported for us that the city had just installed 3 charging stations for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Yesterday, the News & Observer reported that Raleigh, N.C. plans to install eight plug-in charging stations over the next few months, under a program called Project Get Ready. Like the San Francisco-based program, drivers will access the charging stations through key-cards. In Raleigh, this means simple credit card access at a cost of about 2.5 cents per mile, while the SF-based program uses chargers provided by Coulomb Technologies at no cost, but are only available to members of the car-sharing programs City CarShare and Zipcar.

Portland, OR, and Indianapolis are also participating in Project Get Ready, which was initiated by the Colorado-based non-profit Rocky Mountain Insititute. The stations will be installed primarily in the city’s parking garages and around N.C. State University, at a cost of about $1,000 to $4,000 a piece.

SOURCE: Gas 2.0

Zipcar Launches Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) Pilot Program in San Francisco

By dancurranjr On February 18th, 2009

coulomb-chargingZipcar, the world’s largest provider of cars-on-demand by the hour or day, today announced it has launched a pilot program for plug-in hybrid vehicles in its Bay Area fleet through a partnership with the city of San Francisco. The company made the announcement at a press conference with Mayor Gavin Newsom, which showcased the converted Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid at a special charging station across the street from City Hall.

Zipcar is supporting the Mayor’s drive to increase the awareness and use of electric vehicles (EVs), while also providing a convenient, cost-effective solution to consumer transportation needs. Zipcar’s legacy of offering clean cars dates back to 2003, when it was the first commercial fleet to widely introduce hybrids in Seattle.

“Zipcar encourages sustainable lifestyles in several ways — fewer personally owned cars, less driving overall, and now the addition of these super efficient plug-in cars,” said Mark Norman, President and Chief Operating Officer of Zipcar. “Our members strongly support the notion of adding next-generation clean cars, and this program is an important first step in exploring the potential.”

In a member survey last month, more than 80 percent of the respondents voiced support for the addition of electric vehicles (EVs), plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and alternative fuel vehicles to the fleet.

To meet member interests, Zipcar is looking for ways to increase the percentage of these types of vehicles in the fleet in 2009. The pilot program and partnership with the city will provide existing and new Zipcar members with an easy, convenient and cost-effective way to test drive the next generation of clean vehicles, helping the City and Zipcar both gauge interest and use of EVs and PHEVs.

“Electric vehicles are the future of transportation and the Bay Area is the testing ground for the technology,” said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. “We began using plug-in hybrids in the city’s fleet last year. Now, for the first time the public can plug-in to the next generation of cars through car sharing organizations and take them for a drive in San Francisco.”

The plug-in hybrid for the San Francisco Zipcar fleet is a Toyota Prius converted with the Hymotion(TM) L5 Plug-In Conversion Module (PCM) provided by A123 Systems. The addition of the Hymotion L5 PCM battery provides the Prius with up to 30 – 40 miles of electrically assisted driving on a single charge from the utility grid. During those first 30 – 40 miles, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by up to 66 percent and fuel economy of up to 100 mpg or greater can be achieved. When the L5 PCM battery is depleted, the Prius automatically reverts to standard HEV operation, so driving range need not be a concern.

“We are gratified to help Zipcar and their members realize the benefits that plug-in technology can provide today,” said Sanjeev Choudhary, General Manager of PHEV Systems at A123. “We thank Mayor Newsom and Zipcar for their pioneering efforts in demonstrating this technology in San Francisco.”

Zipcar’s award-winning car sharing service provides members with on-demand access to a diverse fleet of vehicles conveniently located throughout major metropolitan areas. To use the service, members reserve a vehicle online or via a mobile device, use a smartcard to open the doors, take their trip, and then return the car at the end of the reservation. A simple hourly or daily fee covers gas, insurance, maintenance, parking and 24-7 emergency service.

Source: PR NewsWire

Vehicle Sharing Service Zipcar Brings Plug-In Hybrids (PHEV) on Board

By dancurranjr On November 30th, -0001

coulomb-chargingZipcar, the Cambridge, Mass.-based company that allows users to rent cars online without ever speaking to an agent, has added plug-in hybrid vehicles to its San Francisco fleet. This is part of a national pilot program to increase public awarenss of new electric vehicle technology, says the service, which integrated hybrid vehicles in 2003.

Essentially, this pilot will allow one of the greenest cities in the country to test-drive the cars of the future, Zipcar executives told VentureWire. In the process, San Francisco stands to learn how these new cars may change traffic patterns, driving habits and infrastructure demands. The cars being used are all Toyota Priuses equipped with the Hymotion Plug-In Conversion Module offered by battery innovator A123 Systems. Outfitting these cars with a Hymotion L5 PCM battery is said to give them between 30 and 40 miles of electrical drive time after each charging session. A Google-sponsored test of similar cars in 2007 showed that they averaged 74 miles per gallon of gasoline.

To adapt to these new additions, the city of San Francisco has agreed to install three electric vehicle charging stations near City Hall built by locally-based Coulomb Technologies. You can find previous VentureBeat coverage of Coulomb’s innovations here.

Zipcar is backed by Benchmark Capital, Greylock Partners, Boston Community Capital and Globespan Capital Partners. Its mission has always been to reduce transit carbon emissions, first by encouraging car-sharing, and second by adopting clean technologies. Today, with 5,500 cars in 25 American cities and London, the company helps about 250,000 people swap cars on a regular basis. While there are a few fledgling efforts to compete — Hertz’s Connect by Hertz and U-Haul’s U Car Share, to name a couple — Zipcar seems to have the traction and trendy appeal solidly in its court.

SOURCE: Venture Beat