Open Letter to Rental Car Companies
With Hybrid Fleets
Scott Griffith, Chief Executive, Zipcar
Mark Norman, Chief Executive, Flexcar
Roo Rogers, Founder, OZOcar
Pat Farrell, Spokesman, Enterprise Rent-A-Car
John Barrows, Spokesman, Avis
Getting to the weekend New York Times a little late as I
usually do, I found an
interesting article by Barry Rehfeld discussing
the growing trend of making hybrid vehicles such as the Prius available
for temporary use by renters or even as a car service. I also
found your names in the article, which makes my life simple since, as
regular readers of my blog know, I'm not all that keen on "research."
I thought I'd take this opportunity to let you know about a feature of
your fleet of hybrids, one that you possibly might not have considered,
that might be of commercial or personal interest. If you take up
the suggestion I offer, it will also provide the opportunity to publicize your
enterprise in an entirely different and advantageous way.
I've owned a Prius for
over two years now, and I love it. While I'm pleased with all the
environmental and gasoline-expense benefits that it brings, I bought it
for a special reason: its multi-kilowatt electrical generating
capability. As I was reading about the car, I had the sudden
realization that it could be used not only for transportation, but for
emergency power as well. This led to what I call my "PriUPS"
project, in which I use the car to power my house during an electric
power failure. I live in the suburbs and typically experience
several failures per year. Although they are less common in the
cities in which your rentals are typically located, emergency power
is still occasionally required.
What if, in addition to offering hybrid car rentals, you
could also offer to rent emergency power along with its transportation to
the scene where the power is needed?
Imagine your company's hybrid on the scene of a
(hopefully local) utility outage, providing power for refrigerators,
sump pumps, and emergency equipment. Or offering to your customers
or members not just a car for a few hours or days, but also portable
electricity on the same basis. I am only one person and have this
capability for myself alone. Your fleets have thousands of Prii
and you can not only be of great help in emergencies, but also help
publicize the utility of this scheme and the value of hybrids.
Needless to say, each instance will be a publicity boon for your
company as well!
The PriUPS web site has
abundant information on what's involved in doing this. I'll save
you and my regular readers from a rehash and provide just the briefest
For each hybrid that you want to be in the program, you
will need to
provide an electrical connector to the hybrid system. This is a fast and
very inexpensive modification. The cost for materials will be
perhaps $10, and require well under an hour of a mechanic's time once
he's practiced. (Logistically, it will probably be better to add
this to all the cars, since it's so much less expensive than keeping
track of which have it.)
You can then provide a
UPS or inverter
that will take the power from the car and turn it into several kilowatts
of ordinary household electricity. While doing this for one car as
I did requires a lot of head scratching and planning, replicating the
setup for a fleet simply requires finding a vendor for multiple systems
or, if your fleet is a small one, finding an in-house electrical guru to
take on the project.
Why Am I Suggesting This?
To begin with, I've already gotten a blogitem and
another chance to tout my PriUPS project to people who might be
unfamiliar with it. For another, I get the satisfaction of seeing
more than just a tiny
handful of folks implementing my grand scheme. (I have a lot
of grand schemes, but many
grand even for industrial enterprises.) I feel that using
hybrid vehicles in so-called "vehicle to grid (V2G)" applications will
be a boon for the country and for its energy-hungry citizens. Call it
patriotism if you wish.
That's it! Take a look at my web site if you have
the time. Even if you don't, tuck into your brain the notion
"hybrids can provide electricity as well as transportation." OK?
Thanks for reading.
NP: "Pinball Wizard" - The Who