Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Sabre, and hotels and theme parks in Orlando have partnered with the Electrification Coalition to launch Drive Electric Orlando, an electric car rental program.

“The reason that Sabre has gotten involved and why I’m so interested in this — our transportation system is almost entirely dependent on petroleum today, and this initiative will help us in that regard,” said Sam Gilliland, the former Sabre CEO who still serves on the company’s board of directors.

Sabre is promoting the Drive Electric Orlando program to travel agents who use the Sabre reservations system.

“The idea here is that if we can reduce dependence on foreign oil, we can reduce fuel pricing,” said Gilliland.

Enterprise rents out Nissan Leaf plug-in electric vehicles at its Orlando International Airport location. The electric vehicles rent for about the same rate as mid-size, gas-powered vehicles.

“Where you really save the money is on the charging. Many hotels are offering free charging and free valet,” said Sam Ori, executive vice president of the Electrification Coalition, a group of business leaders who promote policies that facilitate the deployment of electric vehicles on a mass scale.

Electrification Coalition refers to itself as a nonprofit, nonpartisan group.

The Peabody Orlando and Renaissance Orlando are among hotels offering free charging for Drive Electric Orlando participants and free valet parking. The Orange County Convention Center offers several free charging stations for meeting attendees.

Ori said that when hotels don’t offer vehicle recharging for free, it should cost “a few dollars” to recharge an electric vehicle. Orlando has approximately 300 charging stations in metro area, many of which are free to use.

Drive Electric Orlando has approximately 30 hotel partners in the Orlando area that have joined the initiative, as well as Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld. All will have charging stations available.

As one of the largest tourism markets in the country with 57 million visitors annually, and as one of the largest car rental markets in the world, Orlando was the ideal location to launch the initiative, said Ori.

Considering the typically short distances that Orlando visitors drive and the number of charging stations in Orlando, Ori hopes that the program will resonate with Orlando car renters.

Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.

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