UFODrive rents out electric vehicles including the Tesla Model 3 and Jaguar I-Pace via its app-based booking platform for prices starting at €69 per day
App-based platforms for on-demand car hire are becoming all the rage in large cities, with several automotive giants launching services – but UFODrive comes with a difference in its all-electric fleet.
The Luxembourg start-up is already up and running in cities across Europe, including Paris, Berlin, Brussels and Vienna.
It recently launched in London, with a list of more locations to follow in the coming months.
UFODrive’s electric cars – which include the Tesla Model 3, Jaguar I-Pace and Nissan Leaf – can be rented from €69 ($75) per day, with bookings made via a mobile app and vehicles using keyless access technology.
They all have ranges of more than 200 miles and can use any of the 100,000 charging points across the UK and Europe.
After launching the London service in January 2020, Irish founder and CEO Aidan McClean speaks to NS Business about the company’s journey so far, the challenges it faces and where it’s heading.
Tell us how UFODrive came to be and how it works?
UFODrive was created out of my personal frustration. I’ve travelled my entire professional career and regularly had to queue an hour for rental car.
These cars were also all damaging to the environment so I created UFODrive, which is a 100% electric vehicle car hire business.
We’re mobile only so our customers can reserve and pick up their car in two minutes.
We are on a mission to dramatically reduce air pollution in cities through the use of EVs.
What makes UFODrive different to other car hire platforms already on the market?
All our vehicles are fully electric, with 100 Teslas in prime locations in central London currently, for example.
The business is based around our unique app, which is used for booking cars as well as offering 24/7 support and journey navigation.
This includes co-ordination with charging points throughout Europe, where we offer unlimited free charging.
How has the company grown since its inception and what’s been behind the growth?
UFODrive members have driven over six million kilometres in just 18 months.
We have grown rapidly to be in 16 locations across eight countries including the UK, Ireland, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Our cars are either in central city locations or airports, where they are needed most.
We’ve agreed to launch in over 20 new cities in the coming months, which includes growth in the USA.
What kind of difficulties are involved when setting up in new cities?
One of the challenges most car hire businesses have is that airports run very restrictive tender processes.
It’s often difficult for any new companies to work with them. However, we’ve been able to overcome that hurdle as we’re 100% electric and help towards their environmental, social and governance goals.
Our model has allowed us to work as partners with airports across Europe, becoming the first new car rental business at some locations in over 20 years.
The other challenge is the electric requirements for each vehicle within our car park locations.
This requires significant investment and regular management to ensure the best support for our users.
Is there enough EV charging infrastructure for your operation and what’s your view on the best way to improve this?
As EVs grow in popularity, naturally there will need to be more – specifically fast charging – points installed.
However, right now the infrastructure available is perfect for anyone who wants to drive cars like a Tesla or Nissan Leaf as 90% of journeys are less than 100km per day.
With vehicle range now up to 400km, often our customers don’t have to charge at all during a two or three-day rental.
There’s been a lot of talk about car consumption models moving from ownership to on-demand renting. What needs to happen for car clubs to really take off and displace ownership as the primary consumption model?
I don’t think that car hire and sharing schemes will replace ownership in the near future, as certain people still like the freedom of owning their own vehicle.
However, many others have realised they don’t need a permanent vehicle. Maybe they live in a city and it would just be a hassle.
This is where tech has combined with the industry to become part of the mobility solution.
As well as buses and trains, there are e-bikes and e-scooters for short, inner city trips; and car-sharing platforms if you just need to move around for a few hours or car rental services, like ours, for a few days.
We’re all playing a part in helping the world travel easier, cleaner and with less congestion.
The key is awareness – knowing that all these solutions are available and the difference they can make.
How much research are you doing into autonomous cars and what impact could these have on your business model?
Autonomous cars are very interesting and like anyone in the sector, we’re keeping an eye on how we could use this technology.
But I believe we’re still a long way from a fully-adopted autonomous solution.
For us, there are many exciting new developments in electric vehicles, primarily around battery and range that we’re focused on.
From our research, these are key for further continued and sustained growth in our market.
By working with some of the biggest names in manufacturing and production, we want to continue to innovate and offer the best solutions available.
A lot of car-sharing businesses are already in London but others have dropped out, including Daimler’s DriveNow. Does this make entering such a crowded market more daunting and what do you need to do to ensure you succeed?
There are a number of companies but no one who is doing what we are so we actually believe we have an advantage.
All of UFODrive’s vehicles are 100% electric and in major city centre or airport locations. This is a key differentiator for us.
We’ve seen in our growth thus far that our proposition is unique and people want the flexibility of a car without the negative consequences.
As a result, we encourage as much exploration as possible, hence why we offer unlimited free charging across Europe.
We also know that our customer service is a big part of our success. With our app and in-car service, we ensure that the driver always feels comfortable with their driving range and charging management, both vital if it’s your first or 100th time in an EV.