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Hertz, Marriott offer electric car tryouts

Customers will have a chance to rent and test-drive leading electric vehicles at certain Hertz rental locations, including two Marriott hotels in the San Francisco Bay Area.

An EV Smart Car plugged in to one of the newly installed EV charging stations at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront hotel. Hertz

Hertz has decided to offer interested drivers a chance to test-drive electric cars, the company announced yesterday.

In November 2010, Hertz announced it would be adding EVs to its U.S. rental fleet throughout this year, mentioning a deal for 100 Coda EV sedans for the California area, as well as another deal with Nissan for its Leaf cars.

Hertz has now announced more details: it will initially offer EVs as a car rental option at two pick-up points in San Francisco: the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront hotel and a Hertz Rent-a-Car office on Mason Street in San Francisco. EVs added to those fleets include the Nissan Leaf and EV Smart Car, with a plan to eventually add the Chevy Volt.

The cars will be available via the Hertz On Demand rental service (similar to ZipCar) through which members reserve and pick up cars as needed, and are not limited to daily rental, but are also offered an hourly rental option at between $6 and $8 an hour, according to Hertz.

One perk that EV renters will get is not having to return the car fully fueled. Renters can return the EV with a partially depleted battery, and the return valet will recharge the car to its full capacity at no cost to the renter.

Those who travel beyond range and need to recharge can use a Hertz card kept under the sun visor, the same as they would a gas card for any Hertz On Demand car. While Hertz recommends staying in range or planning a route with available EV stations along the way, should a driver become stranded they can call the Hertz Member Care Center for assistance, according to the rental car company.

In preparation for the change, the airport Marriott has had two EV charging stations installed in the hotel garage.

The EV rentals for that Hertz location are not restricted to hotel guests. And not just Hertz renters, but any EV drivers staying at the Marriott, or eating at one of the hotel restaurants, will be offered free valet and car charging services when available.

Hertz also announced Wednesday it's partnering with GE Energy China to build out EV infrastructure and offer EVs in China's Shanghai region. But unlike the San Francisco plan, the Hertz plan in China will focus on offering companies and government agencies both the EVs and charging facilities as a bundled option by Hertz and GE Industrial Solutions. It's part of an effort to promote EV adoption in China.

Hertz already offers plug-in hybrid electric cars at several locations in the U.S. and around the world. They include the Smart Fortwo, the Toyota Prius, and the Nissan Altima hybrid among others.