Finally, someone is getting smart about the Smart. Electric Drive Smart ForTwos will be available at 175 Connect by Hertz New York City locations around December 15. Mitsubishi i-MiEVs, Nissan Leafs, Coda sedans and Prius plug-ins will also be coming.
Hertz plans its “Global EV initiative” for Washington and San Francisco as well, with England and China on the rollout map to come.
You’ll be able to rent your Smart for $6-$10 an hour. Starwood Hotels, among other places, have charging stations. Hertz says there is cellphone software (available?) that can locate charging stations for you—a very neat idea.
So is the fact that “millions,” per Hertz, will be exposed to the car and have a chance to use it under tough urban conditions. Kind of a glorified test drive.
Another reason this move is smart is because companies like Zipcar have dominated the hourly rental scene in big cities. Car-sharing, as it’s called, makes much sense in the urban environment, and so does the EV. It will be interesting to see whether Hertz, with its vast reach, can beat Zipcar or at least challenge them.
Sales of the ForTwo have tanked since gas prices went down, and we have talked before about some of the economic roadblocks for EVs. The gas-powered Smart has been dogged by a balky transmission, lack of power, and a too-high price.
The Electric Drive overcomes some of these issues—it doesn’t have a lot of power (top speed is 62 mph, governed) but torque has been increased 29 percent to help it scoot through city traffic. It drives well in the city, is quiet and “downright enjoyable,” according to Autoblog, but the price is still way over the top: $599 a month for a 48-month lease.
If I were living in a big city again, I would never own a car, but I’d rent one in a heartbeat. The Smart EV is for intracity commuting or occasional use. Its range is 84 miles, and it recharges in less than eight hours on 220 volts.
Would renting instead of buying an EV appeal to you? Would an hourly EV rental make sense in your life?