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Enterprise offers taste of Nissan's Leaf

Toshiyuki Shiga, chief operating officer of Japan's Nissan Motor, poses with charging cord attached to a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle during a press conference at the company's global headquarters in Yokohama.

TEXT OF STORY

BILL RADKE: The Leaf is turning this way. Nissan's new electric car the Leaf goes on sale in December. Twenty thousand people have pre-ordered a Leaf, so there's a waiting list to buy one.

But Marketplace's Eve Troeh tells us about another way to take a Leaf for spin.


EVE TROEH: Just turning on the Leaf feels kind of futuristic. After that ethereal startup, a screen blinks on to show how much juice the battery has, and how far you can drive before it runs out.

JEFF MORRELL: So it will tell you that anything within that shaded circle is within your range. And then you can see charging stations right there. You can identify where those are and hit with one button -- it'll tell you how to get to one of those.

Jeff Morrell is a vice president at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which owns this Leaf. The company will start renting Leafs -- and yes it's Leafs, not Leaves -- this December. The test markets are in Arizona, California, Tennessee, Washington and Oregon. Morrel says Enterprise will prep any customer who wants to try one.

MORRELL: We'll have a conversation with you about where you're going, what your use for the vehicle is gonna be. If you have a garage in your home -- because this car comes with an adapter for 110 charging -- which is likely in your garage, if you drive 200 miles in a day, we'll know that and so we won't recommend the Nissan Leaf.

Because its range is only about 100 miles fully charged. Morrel says Enterprise bought 500 Leafs for its pilot program.

MORRELL: We think that's powerful in terms of speeding the adoption of the electric vehicle to the mass market.

RAY WERT: I don't think this is going to be converting potential new buyers.

Ray Wert edits the car website Jalopnik.com.

WERT: It's all about marketing.

Wert says the 500 Leafs are just one-third of 1 percent of Enterprise's fleet. But the company wants to look green and cutting edge to hip customers.

WERT: I think these are likely going to be the people who would've been buying one anyway, or maybe they're on the waiting list for a Nissan Leaf and they just want to be able to drive it.

He says any company that rents the Leaf is likely to charge premium prices. And that will limit takers, too.

WERT: In most people's renting cases it's all about the price. It's gonna be easier to get a Toyota Corrolla or a Chevy Cobalt.

He says on the national level, the rental market for electric cars will likely follow the buyer market... not the other way around.

In Los Angeles, I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.
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