Published on September 14th, 2019 | by Chanan Bos0
UFODRIVE — The Tesla & EV Rental Company Of The 21st Century (CleanTechnica Review)
September 14th, 2019 by Chanan Bos
This is a short overview of a standard car rental story that you have probably experienced yourself more than once with varying degrees of severity: We went on vacation and landed at the destination airport after midnight completely exhausted. After the security check and baggage claim, we started looking for the signs leading to the car rental desk. It turned out to be on the other side of the airport and on a different floor. When we got there, we found a line of around 6 other people, and for some reason only one person working behind the desk. When it was finally our turn, they needed to print the paperwork in the back, which was taking forever. We needed to make a decision on what insurance options we want and then put our signature on at least 6 different pages not even knowing what on earth we were signing. Then we needed to go pick up the car and we found out that the car parking lot was 5 km away and there was a shuttle/minibus that would take us there. When we finally got there, the guy with the keys was not where he should have been. Eventually, we got the key and went looking for the car, which was at least another 5 minute walk away. Then, we couldn’t seem to find the car because … they had given us a different model than we ordered.
One man has had enough, and his name is Aidan McClean. After enduring a story similar to my story above for the 50th time, while on the airplane ride back home, he wrote a business plan that will one day revolutionize the industry. That is the story of how UFODRIVE came to be. The short summary is: He and others at the new company wanted to create a rental service that was out of this world, and they succeeded. Most importantly, they made an app for it.
The experience is entirely app based. Whether you order in advance or just arrive and see what’s available, its very easy to “arrive and drive,” as the company likes to call it.
People who are trying the experience for the first time have to register, which in some ways is similar to the registration of a new generation of banks, like Revolut and N26. In the app, you use the camera of your phone to take a picture of your ID and driver’s license and then fill in some basic info. They validate it within the next 24 hours — although, from what I have seen, it usually happens within an hour or two.
In the app, you choose a city, the car, and the dates and times and you want to go. There are also some very intuitive options, like adding 3 additional drivers for free or choosing between free insurance or an insurance option without an excess fee that costs €24. There’s an option for lowering the price if you know how many kilometers you will drive throughout the trip — although, the differences are not huge since it’s electricity we are talking about, not petrol or diesel.
So, in any case, you ordered the car, and the app is your key. The company has a bunch of EV models available. (For our review, they gave us a 2019 Tesla Model S Standard Range.) You unlock it with your phone, you disconnect the charger the car is connected to, and you get going. The only person involved in the process is you. Aside from the coolness factor and the tech, there is one little detail that I really loved. It’s a really nice gesture — there is a free bottle of water waiting for you when you get in the car. This is really like no other car rental experience I have experienced before.
What is interesting is that UFODRIVE has several additional business cases that regular car rentals don’t have. A lot of people who rent their vehicles simply want to experience a Tesla (or another EV) for a day or for a weekend. In the Netherlands, the waitlist for getting a Tesla test drive that will last for all of 15 minutes is 3 months long. By renting a Tesla like the Model 3, you can experience the car for a whole day, or even a week.
At first glance, UFODRIVE’s prices may seem slightly higher than the competition, but that is until you deduct the cost of traditional fuel. A full tank of gasoline can cost as much as €100, while charging the car at a Supercharger is less than €15. Also with a regular car, you need to return the car fully refueled or incur a ridiculously high surcharge. With UFODRIVE, you can return a totally depleted car since by the time it’s cleaned and ready for the next customer it will be fully charged again anyway.
UFODRIVE gives you a handy universal card that you can use to charge the car at almost any public charger. Also, if that card doesn’t work — for example, if your trip takes you to a neighboring country — there are a couple of extra ones in the glove compartment and at least one of those should work. (In my experience, the main one never failed me.)
The way UFODRIVE operates is really impressive. They try to do everything in a green way, and that even includes cleaning the cars. They are cleaned in the bay either using a special green process that doesn’t use water at all or a steam method that uses almost no water, depending on the country you are in. You also get bonuses like credit for CO2 saved, and the company is now trying to help offset CO2 in other ways, like donating a percentage of earnings from each rental to a sustainable energy fund. It really is remarkable how much the startup resembles Tesla in mentality. Just take a look at the email I got from them after the rental was closed:
This is not to say that UFODRIVE is entirely perfect. It has a few minor limitations that might pose a problem for some use cases, and in the case of non-Tesla EVs, there could be a bit of a challenge for the EV uninitiated. While their handy card does let you charge at any charging station, finding those stations is an entirely different matter. There are a couple of handy online tools that help with this, but if you are just driving and need the nearest location, you are not going to have a great time looking for one on a nearly depleted battery. The other issue is that you can’t pick up the car in one place and drop it off in another — you need to return it to the same place. To their credit they say that both are things they are working on and some might even be fixed in an update coming “soon.” Update from UFODRIVE on this:
“With our latest app release we now show nearby chargers directly through the app; no need to download or browse other websites. And if someone ‘forgets’ to charge and the battery level drops below a certain level, we’ll proactively contact the customer to advise and guide them towards a nearby charger. We saved a few customers like that. And after thousands of journeys, we can proudly report we had no single battery breakdown.”
One thing is for sure: the company is still new and is pushing out software updates even faster than Tesla. When I was originally doing the review, there was no way to see the charging status of the battery from the app, and they have since already updated it with that exact function. I really see a lot of potential in this company and the very capable people who run it.
So, whether you are looking to try the Tesla Model S, Tesla Model 3 (Long Range or Standard Range Plus), Hyundai Kona EV, Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-PACE, or Nissan LEAF, you for sure might want to give UFODRIVE a try.
While the company did not share its exact expansion plans, we should for sure see it enter many new European markets in the next few years, and it is definitely also interested in a US expansion.
The competition is totally left in the dust, but if they do manage to catch up to UFODRIVE, the whole world will be all the better for it.
Make sure to watch our UFODRIVE review video and our interview with CEO Aidan McClean, who provides a lot of interesting information about the company.
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