Today saw the official launch of E-Car Club’s University of Hertfordshire hire point, where two all electric Renault ZOEs and a Renault Fluence are stationed and ready for hire at their dedicated charge points. This makes the University the first higher education institute in the UK with an electric car club.
The E-Car Club has been working in cooperation with the University of Hertfordshire and Source East for some time now to make this possible and the three Renault’s first appeared on-site just before Christmas 2013.
Students, staff and local residents are the expected users of the vehicles which are located in two areas of the University. Two cars will be positioned just by the entrance to the main University car park at the de Havilland Campus. The third car will be based at the College Lane Campus, the other side of the A1. We have been informed that the E-Car Club will eventually be adding a fourth vehicle at the University, but there is currently no charge point for it and as such this will arrive at an undisclosed later date.
The E-Car Club’s premise is simple enough, all the transactions and administration are conducted online meaning there’s no need for a sales person on-site. You must be a club member to use the cars which involves a £50 joining fee – currently half price to students who were able to grab a flier from the E-Car Club team.
Having joined the club and received your user swipe card in the post, the next step is to log on to the E-Car Club website and book your car. If one is available for use, you can book it straight away and for slots as short as just one hour. Rates are straightforward enough, with small cars such as the Renault ZOE commanding a mere £5.50 per hour and the larger Fluence is surprisingly the same rate. The daily rate for both cars is just £45.*
In principle, once setup all you need do is approach the car and swipe your card which unlocks the doors. Don’t forget to unplug the car from it’s charge socket before then entering the vehicle to tap in your secure code. Once done, you can drive away and will be charged once you return the vehicle. Upon your return, users should plug-in the car ready for the next user.
There are some potential limitations that go unadvertised with this type of car rental though. For example, the price is relatively high when compared to similar sized internal combustion powered cars from hire car companies such as Enterprise who, in this particular case, also happen to be located a short distance away from the University of Hertfordshire at the shopping centre, the Galleria.
To get into a little maths, you can hire the Renault ZOE for £45 a day. That will get you 100 miles before having to recharge, so we’ll use that as our basis for the following calculation. If you hired a similar sized (but not as technically adept or quiet) car from Enterprise, it will cost you about £30 to hire for a day. However, to travel 100 miles in that car, it might cost you a little under £15 in fuel, based on consumption of about 40mpg so around 3 gallons of fuel.
Effectively, the total becomes £45 to hire the conventional car in a roundabout way. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the ICE powered car would necessitate a trip to a fuel station to return the vehicle full, or, if Enterprise are employing the most irritating car hire policy in the world – the return the car empty policy – you’re needlessly spending money out on a full tank of fuel, at their prices. So, the electric car, based on a 100 mile round trip makes sense but won’t save much money. However, as with a lot of simplistic maths, it doesn’t tell the full story. The electric car will be smoother, quieter and likely more relaxing to drive than it’s ICE competitor, not to mention more technically adept too. Additionally, with the larger Fluence at the same rate as the ZOE, there is no conventional car of similar size that could be obtained at a similar rate. For example, a Ford Mondeo or similar such car from Enterprise would cost around £45 per day excluding fuel, far greater than the cost of hiring the Fluence.
There are some simple concerns potential club members may have though, such as if a car is booked in advance for a specific journey and find there’s damage to before collection, there’s no E-Car Club office you can turn to. Instead, you’re at the mercy of being able to contact them by either internet or phone. However, there are policies in place to prevent this type of occurrence, for instance cars are checked and cleaned weekly. Furthermore, in a bid to prevent late returns, there are penalties in place so that the next person doesn’t suffer. As E-Car Club put it:
“If there is another booking [after your own] or you don’t let us know in advance – you will be charged a late fee of £35 per late hour, or any part thereof. Please let us know in advance if you can.”
As we all know, electric cars can take a while to recharge, so if for example you find yourself in need of recharging the car in order to be able to return it, then it’s likely to add time on to your original booking.
Of course, most of these points are worst case scenarios that ought not happen too frequently, if ever. The E-Car Club’s launch at Hatfield is further evidence of their commitment to expansion across the country. It should be remembered that membership to the club gives the opportunity to hire cars at any of their venues, of which are currently all located in the south east.
You can join the car club at their website here: www.e-carclub.org
* EDIT: We previously wrote the Renault Fluence is £7.50/hour to hire and £60 a day. This has now been corrected to be the same hourly and day rate as the ZOE, at £5.50/hour and £45/day.