EV Rental Finds Its Niche with Hybrids
Like most Americans these days, Jeff Pink sees dollar signs when he pulls in at a gas station. But instead of flowing out of his wallet, the dollars are flowing in.
As chief executive of EV Rental Cars, a Los Angeles agency devoted solely to hybrid vehicles, Mr. Pink is one of the few U.S. business owners actually enjoying, and profiting from, the current surge in oil prices. Daily rental rates range from $35 to $75 for the combination gasoline-and-electric cars in his fleet, including Toyota's Prius, Camry and Highlander, the Honda Civic and the Ford Escape. Depending on the make, the hybrids average from 30 to 50 miles per gallon and, in some cases, upward of 600 miles per tank of gasoline -- a powerfully attractive number to anyone who plunks down $60 or more to fill up an all-gas SUV.
With 425 cars and eight rental locations on the West Coast, EV Rental is barely a blip on the radar screen compared with car-rental giants. But the company's stable of hybrids has thrust it into the industry spotlight. Even Enterprise Rent-a-Car Co., one of the largest rental agencies, has only about 50 hybrids in its fleet of roughly 650,000 cars, and it can't expand that portion because the supply of hybrids is so tight. "Manufacturers aren't making them widely available to us," says Christy Conrad, a spokeswoman for Enterprise. The company had about 3,000 Prius hybrids last year but had to return them to Toyota under the terms of its agreement with the manufacturer. "Consumers like them," Ms. Conrad says. "Demand is there."
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