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European EV rental startup UFODrive launches in San Francisco – TechCrunch


UFODrive, an Europe-based electrical automobile rental firm, landed in San Francisco on Thursday, marking the startup’s enlargement into the U.S.

The startup, which provides customers a straightforward and contact-free approach of renting and subscribing to EVs, involves California at a time when gasoline costs are nonetheless incredibly high at $5.56. While that number has dropped in recent weeks, it’s nonetheless cresting the nationwide common. Mix that with an ongoing rental automobile scarcity and a cultural zeitgeist that’s embracing all issues electrical, and UFODrive has received itself a probably successful product-market match.  

UFODrive’s U.S. launch follows the corporate’s speedy development in 16 cities throughout Europe, together with London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and Dublin since its founding in 2018. The startup can also be planning separate launches for New York and Austin in October.

Different firms have cropped up world wide to offer an analogous service. For instance, Onto and imove present  month-to-month EV subscriptions within the UK and Norway, respectively. The place UFODrive differs is it provides a mix of basic each day or weekly leases and month-to-month subscriptions. That mentioned, the San Francisco launch will initially supply pure leases. 

Bookings will be made on UFODrive’s app, the place every buyer is guided by your entire course of – registration, identification verification, finding the automobile, harm test, contract signature and driving away, in line with Adain McLean, UFODrive’s CEO.  

Prospects within the Bay Space can go to one among two automobile bays in downtown San Francisco on both aspect of Market Road the place they’ll then use the app to be granted keyless entry to their automobile.

UFODrive labored with Inspiration, the EV asset financing agency that equipped New York-based Revel with its personal set of Teslas for ride-hailing functions, to get round 20 Tesla Mannequin 3s and Mannequin Ys on web site for the launch. Because the startup has accomplished in Europe, UFODrive plans to guide with the dazzle of Tesla for the primary places and develop its vary based mostly on buyer enter and availability, in line with McLean, who famous UFODrive can also be trying ahead to together with Ford in that lineup. 

In Europe, the fleet is predominantly made up of Tesla Mannequin 3, Mannequin S and Mannequin Y with Volkswagen ID3, ID4, Hyundai Kona EV, Cupra Born, Polestar, and others, mentioned McLean. 

A software program platform designed to attenuate EV angst

Prospects can unlock rented electrical autos by way of the UFODrive app. Picture Credit score: UFODrive

“One among our greatest issues once we began UFODrive was making individuals snug utilizing an EV and minimizing or eradicating nervousness all through the rental – not simply at pick-up,” McLean informed TechCrunch. “From Day 1, our platform was constructed to determine points earlier than they occur. The staff is notified if a buyer hasn’t accomplished any of the pick-up levels, fails to begin the automobile, is driving with a battery degree beneath 30%, struggling to cost at a station, and so forth. In these circumstances, our staff can proactively attain out to ensure the client is okay in the event that they haven’t already reached out to us. Because of this we’ve got by no means had a spread or charging concern in over 20M kms pushed.”

UFODrive’s platform can also be constructed to information drivers to the exit of the bay, route them to the closest charger and stroll them by learn how to cost their automobile. If a buyer is having a problem, they’ll use the app to achieve out 24/7 to one of many startup’s customer support brokers, who can remotely unlock or swap on a automobile, use cameras to test for unreported harm, do system updates, conduct identification checks and add drivers, McLean mentioned. 

It’s this software program platform that UFODrive can also be hoping to promote as a SaaS product on the aspect, significantly to legacy rental firms to assist them transition their renting fashions to EVs. In actual fact, automobile rental big Hertz and travel-focused investment firm Certares led UFODrive’s Series A in March, signaling the potential for bigger partnerships on this area. Hertz appears significantly eager on making the swap to EVs — in October 2021, the company said it was investing in a fleet of Teslas and dedicated to providing the most important EV rental fleet in North America.

How does the worth examine?

UFODrive hasn’t posted its charges for San Francisco but, however in Amsterdam, for instance, renting a Tesla from the startup for the weekend may common out round $200, relying on the mannequin. A fast search on Kayak, an aggregator for flights, inns and automobile leases, exhibits an analogous worth level for inner combustion engine autos, and that doesn’t embody the price of gasoline or further drivers. 

UFODrive’s rental costs embody issues like further drivers, most tolls and free charging, in line with McLean. 

“No vitality value in anyway for the rental no matter your mileage or distance,” he mentioned. “It was deal earlier than, however with present gasoline costs and worth gouging by legacy rental companies, it’s actually good.”

McLean additionally pointed to UFODrive’s loyalty reward program, which can assist carry the prices of leases down.

“With a purpose to obtain our purpose of transitioning individuals to sustainable rental, we’ve got to be aggressive, however the EV mannequin is inherently extra environment friendly so we will be aggressive and worthwhile,” mentioned McLean.

Whereas UFODrive is beginning with a shopper push, the corporate does envision itself within the long-term being an answer for supply drivers and last-mile transportation, as nicely, in line with an organization spokesperson.

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