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    Program introduces electric rental cars in Orlando, Fla.

    Enterprise Rent-A-Car has 15 Nissan Leaf electric vehicles available for use by visitors to Orlando.
    Scott Olson/Getty Images/File
    Enterprise Rent-A-Car has 15 Nissan Leaf electric vehicles available for use by visitors to Orlando.

    ORLANDO — Visitors to Orlando often try new things while on vacation: thrilling roller coasters, luxury hotels, different cuisines.

    Now they can try out a fully electric car — and not have to pay for gas during their vacation.

    Under a new program announced Thursday called Drive Electric Orlando, anyone who rents one of 15 Nissan Leaf cars from Enterprise Rent-A-Car will be able to charge the car for free. There are about 300 charging stations in the greater Orlando area, with many located at hotels, near theme parks, and even outside of City Hall downtown.


    ‘‘This is a first of its kind. This is ground breaking,’’ said Robbie Diamond, president and chief executive of the Washington, D.C.-based Electrification Coalition, a group that worked with Enterprise, several hotels, corporations, and local officials to organize the program.

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    The group, which aims to get more people behind the wheel of electric cars, is made up of business executives, including some from Nissan — which means they have an interest in marketing the rental cars in hopes of courting future buyers.

    ‘‘Our hope is that it’s a revolutionary project — once we get people in the car, we’re confident that the technology will sell itself,’’ Diamond said.

    Here’s how it works: Once drivers rent the Leaf (at a cost of about $30 a day or less) at the Enterprise counter at the Orlando International Airport, they can stop at any of the kiosks in the area when the car has a low charge. More than 25 hotels, including the Peabody Orlando and Renaissance Orlando, have charging stations, and valets will charge the cars overnight. Other large public places, such as the Orlando Convention Center, have charging stations in the parking lot.

    There are no charging stations inside the area’s theme parks, but there are many nearby — and organizers say more charging stations are in the works. Renters are more likely to charge their vehicles at hotels overnight, they said.


    If the car runs low on power while on the road, its dashboard screen displays the nearest charging stations.

    If the vehicle’s battery dies entirely, then AAA will come to charge the car at no charge, said Lisa Martini, a spokeswoman for Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

    The cars have a range of about 80 to 100 miles on a full charge. All of the details, including how to plug the car into a charging station, are fully explained to the renter at the Enterprise counter, Martini said.

    ‘‘We want people to be comfortable with the technology,’’ she said.

    Diamond, along with other officials, said that many people like the idea of fully electric vehicles like the Leaf, but are worried about how far the car’s battery will go.


    Electric car sales are only a tiny fraction of overall US auto market. Automakers sold just over 12,000 pure-electric vehicles in the United States through April, according to WardsAuto InfoBank, an industry database, and Tesla Motors, which designs electric vehicles. That is less than 1 percent of the 4.97 million cars and trucks sold during the same period. Even a $7,500 tax credit from the US government that effectively lowers prices couldn’t persuade most car buyers.

    The Nissan Leaf sells for $29,650 including shipping costs, although the company does offer $199 monthly leases with $1,999 down.

    Renting a car and driving it while on vacation or on a business trip is a ‘‘try before you buy’’ scenario, said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who took reporters on a cruise around downtown Orlando on a recent day in a Leaf.

    He pointed out the charging station in front of City Hall, at the Amway Center — where many concerts and sporting events are held — and at other county-owned locations, all within a 2-mile radius of downtown.

    At one location, he popped the car’s tiny hood and clicked a charging ‘‘pump’’ into the socket.

    Dyer noted that Orlando is one of the most visited destinations in the United States and said it is the nation’s largest rental car market.