hertz-solar-diaHertz Car Rental Company is planning to join a growing global trend towards using solar energy as an alternative energy source to power automobiles.

As part of one of the largest solar projects that the travel industry has ever seen launched earlier this year, Hertz plans to complete installation of 2.3 megawatts (mW) of multi-crystalline solar photovoltaics at 16 of its rental facilities across the United States in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania by late 2011.

And some of those facilities — including Hertz offices at Denver International Airport, where SolarChargedDriving.Com recently checked a brand new solar installation out — will likely see solar-powered EV charging soon, according to Hertz sources interviewed for this story.

“Hertz is…committed to sustainable business practices,” noted Paula Rivera, manager of Public Affairs at the Hertz Corporation. “Investing in solar energy for Hertz facilities makes good business sense.”

Solar costs and funding
Hertz is buying solar panels for an estimated $10 million from the Chinese company, SolarFun, and has hired MartiferSolar, a Portugal-based company to complete the designs and installations.  

Richard Broome, the Senior Vice President of Hertz, has said that the company is taking full advantage of federal and local grants and rebates and anticipates seeing a return on investment (ROI) in five to seven years.

EV rentals
Hertz currently offers the Nissan LEAF and the 2011 Chevy Volt for rent in New York City and is expanding its Global EV program to other heavily populated urban centers such as London, Washington D.C., and San Francisco. Corporate and university customers have also recently begun to utilize the company’s EV services, according to Rivera.

Additional EVs will be incorporated into the Global EV program as the company expands. The company also anticipates the incorporation of EVs in its municipal and local government car sharing fleets in the near future.
    
To incentivize the rentals of EVs, the company offers use of its EVs at a promotional rate. From there, hourly rates are priced in relation to its other vehicles.

hertz-solar-dia-inverterSolar at Denver International Airport
As the first part of the solar initiative, Hertz installed a 235-kilowatt (kW) solar electric system at Denver International Airport (DIA). 1,073 solar panels comprise the system and cover two rooftops.

According to Rivera, the solar system at DIA is currently used to supply the company’s location with electricity. However, as the infrastructure matures at the DIA branch Hertz anticipates the company will eventually use its solar system to charge EVs.

According to Andy Bullock, Purchasing Manager at the Hertz Corporation at DIA, the solar panels at the airport currently cover 30% of the electricity costs of the facility. The costs of the solar panels at DIA were primarily subsidized by Xcel Energy’s solar rebate program in Colorado.   

The solar power generated by the photovoltaic panels is converted to electricity through two separate solar intverters.  

FAA & solar at airports
Any additional panels would need to be made affordable by rebates and approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), according to Bullock. Though the solar panels have an anti-reflective coating, potential distraction to pilots remains an important FAA concern at airports such as DIA.

Hertz does not currently rent plug-in vehicles at DIA. However, it offers several hybrid vehicles, including the 2011 Toyota Prius, the 2011 Toyota Camry, and the 2011 Nissan Altima.

Bullock says these hybrids are extremely popular with Hertz customers, and he anticipates similar consumer interest in EVs in the future.

Hertz implements many other sustainable business practices at DIA as well, including reclaiming and reusing water, as well as converting old tires to use as mulch, according to Bullock.

Rivera says that she has noticed “great [consumer] interest in the depth of the Hertz solar program as it’s one of the most far reaching programs in the industry.”

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The fusion of solar power and EVs
As the company’s solar project develops, Hertz hopes to adopt additional sustainable practices by integrating its solar facilities with its EVs in order to fully harness its environmental initiatives, Rivera notes.

This will likely translate to the construction of solar-powered EV charging stations at Hertz facilities around the world, including DIA, as the company continues to rent out more EVs.

Rivera believes that there are “definite possibilities in integrating solar power into an EV eco-system,” and that as industries mature the future will inevitably see a greater fusion of the two.

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