Buy an Electric Car, Get a Gas-Powered Car Free

  • Share
  • Read Later

A buy-one-get-one-free special on cars? Not exactly. To ease consumer concerns about the limited driving range of electric vehicles, two automakers are giving buyers free access to traditional gas-powered rental cars and loaners throughout the year.

For many drivers, purely battery-powered electric vehicles remain an impractical choice because the typical EV must be recharged after every 80 or so miles on the road, and because four or more hours are required for a full recharge. Automakers have rolled out offers such as free included auto insurance, cheap lease deals, and simple price cuts and cash rebates to convince consumers they can live with “range anxiety” and the other downsides to EVs.

A $7,500 federal tax credit and state incentives of up to $2,500 make the electric car math even more enticing. And of course, owning an electric vehicle comes with the possibility of saving thousands annually on the costs of “fueling” their cars.

(MORE: Car Buying, Reenvisioned: More Like Shopping for Apple Gadgets, Ice Cream, or a Date)

Even so, the idea that you won’t be able to take your car on a hassle-free road trip from time to time is a deal breaker for many. But what if drivers had free access to an extra car—one that runs on gas and could be taken on longer trips without a problem—when the need arose?

BMW, which is expected to start selling the electric-powered i3 this fall in the U.S., estimates that driving range is not a problem during 90% of the average driver’s day-to-day trips. To help EV owners cope with the 10% of outings when “range anxiety” would be an issue, the automaker is planning to include complimentary loaner cars with each i3 purchase. “Although the program will be free, there will be a limit to the number of times a customer could use a loaner car in a year,” reported.

According to Automotive News, Fiat is trying to negate the “range anxiety” factor by offering 12 days per year of free rental cars with Enterprise with the purchase of a 500e:

Each 500e purchase will include a business account with Enterprise Holdings and enough points to rent a gasoline-powered standard car for up to 12 days a year. Fiat will deposit additional points on the first two anniversaries of the vehicle’s purchase to extend the program through the first three years of ownership.

(MORE: Peak Battery? Why Smartphone Batter Life Still Stinks — And Will for Years)

On the one hand, these extras make it easier for consumers to do the math and conclude that an EV works for their needs and is a sensible buy. On the other hand, the fact that automakers feel the need to include these extras is telling: The promotions essentially acknowledge that most drivers can’t get through a year with an EV as their only car.