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Orlando's Newest Tourist Bonus: Electric Cars

Want to visit Walt Disney World in a Nissan Leaf? A new initiative is bringing a fleet of electric rentals to Orlando tourists, all for the price of a standard car.

The tourist city of Orlando is now home to America's first major electric-car rental program. Drive Electric Orlando is a partnership between the city of Orlando, area theme parks, area hotels, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, travel firm Sabre Holdings, and the Electrification Commission, an industry advocacy group. Through the partnership, tourists (and locals) can rent fully electrified Nissan Leaf cars, receive a short primer on how they work and what the differences are from conventional vehicles, and gain access to local charging stations. Enterprise will start with a fleet of 15 Nissan Leaf cars, and the Orlando Sentinel's Sara K. Clarke reports that Chevy Volts will be added. The car rental giant will offer the electric cars at the same price as a standard, full-size vehicle.

In a statement, Electrification Coalition CEO Robbie Diamond said that "with more than 57 million visitors annually and one of the largest charging networks in the country, Orlando is the ideal location for the Drive Electric project.… Where better to introduce Americans to the electric car than North America’s leading travel destination and the world’s largest rental-car market?" The Electrification Coalition is a lobbying and advocacy group for stakeholders in the electric transportation industry. By pushing electric-car rentals in Orlando, the organization is intentionally targeting tourists—and the short hops between area attractions like Walt Disney World and Universal Studios is perfect for car battery range.

For participants, the big challenge will be navigating the imperfect electric-vehicle grid. While many attractions and hotels have committed to making electric rechargers freely available, others haven't—paying to recharge electric cars can easily become as unpleasant as paying for gas. In addition, the fact that only 15 cars are initially involved in the program means that many more customers will be steered toward more conventional hybrid cars instead.

[Image: Nissan]