From Green Right Now Reports

Enterprise Rent-A-Car will offer electric vehicles at select rental locations in the U.S. starting in 2011, the St. Louis-based company announced today.

The company will begin its EV offerings with 500 Nissan LEAFs, the first of which will be delivered in January. The company will add other electric cars to its fleet as they become available. Enterprise, which operates a network of auto rental outlets at more than 5,000 locations in the U.S., already has added about 7,000 hybrid vehicles to its fleet in recent years as it strives to be more sustainable and green-friendly.

Nissan's Leaf is destined for Enterprise rental fleet

“As a company that owns and operates the world’s largest fleet of passenger vehicles, we have a vested interest and a history of working with manufacturers to integrate alternative-powered vehicles into our fleet,” said Lee Broughton, director of sustainability for Enterprise Holdings, which owns and operates Enterprise Rent-A-Car and the Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental brands.

The company has airport and community storefronts¬† within 15 miles of 90 percent of the U.S. population, he said, giving it a good platform to “test the market viability” of EVs.

The Nissan LEAF is expected to hit the U.S. market at the end of this year. The 5-passenger car will get about 100 miles on a single battery charge, which can be obtained at home charging stations and public charging stations. The car can even be charged, in a pinch, on a 110 volt circuit, the same power used by many household appliances, but it would take many hours to charge using that method. Charging on a charging station using a 220 volt circuit should bring the car up to a full charge in a much shorter amount of time, a few hours, say experts.

Ecotality, a company that makes and distributes EV charging stations, is planning for their placement at public facilities and at retail outlets, where a customer could “fill their tank” while shopping.

Enterprise reports that it will be installing charging stations at select locations within its network of outlets starting in November. These stations would work for all EVs, including GM’s Volt, slated to come to market this winter. The Volt only gets 40 miles to a charge, but also contains a small gasoline engine, available to get passengers to the next charging point.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car plans to offer electric vehicles to customers in eight markets where the infrastructure to support the vehicles is strongest. Those markets are: Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.; Knoxville and Nashville, Tenn.; San Diego; Los Angeles; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle.

Several of those cities track with Ecotality’s roll out, which is being funded in part by a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Electric vehicles emit no harmful air emissions, and are considered the cleanest of all alternative cars in current production. Hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius, operate on batteries and gasoline, but are not plug-ins — yet. The current Prius, for instance, recharges its battery while the car is driven. Its partial reliance on electric power, however, makes it the most efficient commercially available hybrid passenger car, getting about 50 mpg. A plug-in Prius is in the works, and is expected to be available to consumers in 2012.

In addition to offering hybrid vehicles and soon, EVs, for lease, Enterprise participates in a motor oil recycling plan, a carbon offset program (with TerraPass) and a car sharing program called WeCar that helps make vehicles available on a short term basis, for a few hours or more, to business people, universities and others who just want periodic use of a vehicle.

About 47 percent of the Enterprise, Alamo and National rental car fleet gets 28 mpg or better, according to Enterprise, which boasts it has the most fuel efficient fleet in the business. Together the three companies offer several makes of hybrid cars, including the Toyota Prius, Nissan Altima, Ford Escape and Toyota Camry. It operates 80 “hybrid” rental locations in the nation’s busiest markets, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Denver,¬† Houston, Dallas, Austin, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis and St. Louis.