Turn on Nissan's new all-electric Leaf and here's what you hear — nothing.
“There's no rev,” said Greg Tabak, director of Business Sales for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which is set to introduce the electric car into its rental fleet in 2011.
“There's no transmission (noise). When you hit the accelerator, it just goes,” he said.
Tabak and the Leaf were in Palm Springs Friday for the city's first Electric and Alternative Fuel Vehicle Fair, which brought a small fleet of electric, hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles — and more than 150 residents and visitors — to the Palm Springs Convention Center.
“I think it's the nicest,” said Mark Thomas, 46, of Cathedral City, who was checking out the Leaf. “It seems the back seat has a lot of space. The only problem is it's all electric so the range is going to be short.”
Tabak said the car has about a 100-mile range, a little more depending on how you drive.
Electric vehicles such as the Leaf and the supercharged Tesla roadster, which goes 0 to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds, can travel as fast as 245 mph and comes with a six-figure price tag, were the stars of the event.
“It's fantastic. I've never run out of juice,” said Tesla owner Gary Warner, 64, of Indio. “The only thing that makes noise is the battery for the air conditioning.”
But beyond the flash, the purpose of the event was to focus valley officials and businesses on getting ready for the range of electric and hybrid vehicles coming to the market in 2011.
Enterprise plans to add the Leaf to its rental fleets in San Diego and Los Angeles locations — where Nissan is introducing the car — before gauging the market in the Coachella Valley, Tabak said. The roll-out to smaller markets could be in 12 to 18 months, he said.
Hertz will also be offering the Leaf and Mitsubishi's i MiEV beginning the end of the year, but again in larger, metropolitan markets to start, said Annette Zackey, a sales representative for the company.
With more and more car companies introducing electric models, Michele Mician, sustainability manager for Palm Springs, says the valley needs a network of charging stations for visitors and residents.
“We have to have infrastructure,” she said. “You have to be able to run errands, to move around the valley and plug in.”
Valley residents ready to take the leap will be able to install chargers in their homes, sold by local businesses such as the Green Bay Group in Palm Desert.
The company has a 240-volt home charger that can recharge a car in six to eight hours, said Jeffrey P. Bay, company president. Installing the device is similar to installing a dryer hookup, he said.
And Dick Cromie of Southern California Edison, said electric models such as the Leaf would cost about $1,100 to $1,300 a year less to operate than comparable gas cars.
Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez said electric vehicles can only add to the valley's profile as a renewable energy powerhouse, with wind, solar and geothermal resources.
“We have a window of opportunity that has never existed in the past,” he said. “Let's incorporate electric vehicles; let's incorporate infrastructure. We can create good-paying jobs; we can recover as a state and a nation, while reducing our greenhouse gas and carbon emissions.”