UFODrive is a car rental service in Europe that only offers electric vehicles and has a unique story born from an idea on how to provide better service in an industry that is inundated with long wait times and confusing paperwork. I spoke with CEO Aidan McClean, who shared a bit about UFODrive with me — the company’s goals and how he hopes to help advance the switch to driving electric. CleanTechnica has interviewed Aiden before (see video below), but it’s been a while and this is a new, fresh interview where Aiden shared some of his ambitions for the future as well as the inspiration behind the name UFODrive.
Inspiration Behind the Name, UFODrive
Aidan explained that he is a bit of a space geek, which was obvious from the space decor in his background. He wanted a name that was catchy and memorable. “It was almost a joke at the beginning to call it UFODrive,” he explained, but people loved the name and it stuck. “No one ever forgets it,” he said.
Types of Vehicles UFODrive Rents Out
The type of vehicles UFODrive rents out are electric vehicles only. Originally, the company started leasing Tesla vehicles and expanded to other EVs. “We started the company three years ago at our first location in Luxembourg and it was really just Tesla available. But in the last couple of years — particularly now — there’s a lot of new models coming onto the market,” he explained. UFODrive now has, along with Tesla, Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-PACE, Hyundai Kona, and Nissan Leaf vehicles. UFODrive plans to add both the VW ID.3 and ID.4 also.
An App-Based Rental Service with Its Own UFO Landing Bay
“But it’s only electric cars and completely on an app. There’s no queueing, no paperwork, and no human interaction whatsoever.” Aiden pointed it out that it takes less than 2 minutes to rent a car with UFODrive, as opposed to the lengthy process of traditional rentals. This avoids the common chaos and confusion that comes with renting a car.
“It’s a 40–50 minute wait on average at a queue, a line, a desk. Then you’ve usually pushed paperwork,” which Aiden explained included expensive insurance options that you probably don’t want or fuel options that you really don’t need. “You’ve gotta get a key. Then you’ve gotta take a shuttle bus to where the car is located. Then you’ve got to find that car, and then take it for a couple of days. Then you’ve got to return the car, and usually you’ve got to bring it back fully fueled. It’s a hassle experience.”
UFODrive solves these issues by taking almost every hassle away. “With UFODrive it’s completely on an app. You just arrive and drive in 2 minutes or less. It’s a simple as that. The phone opens your car and it’s only an electric car.”
The fuel, which for EVs is electricity, is included with the price. Even if you have to stop and charge the car, the cost of this is included in the rental price. “There’s no additional cost for the customer during their journey and there’s no hassle,” Aiden said. “Our software provides range and charging support so the customer can actually find a charger when they need to without worrying about range anxiety.”
Aiden explained that the software is connected to over 100,000 chargers, so wherever the customer is, the app will tell them where they can go to charge the vehicle.
UFO Landing Bays
I was extremely curious about the UFO Landing Bay, so asked about that as well. “The UFO Landing Bay is our own dedicated location for the collection of the cars. They are at locations in prime city centers and international airports. They’re really designed to be very pleasing, almost like a car showroom. So, really brightly lit, and the most important feature is our own chargers on site.”
“So, at every location, we implement our own electric chargers for the cars. There are nice signages, it’s nicely lit, and there are 4K cameras everywhere for security and facial recognition for the cars, and so on. It’s a pleasant experience and all of the UFO bays are in very prime locations.”
UFODrive Wants to Do More than Make Renting Cars Easier
We spoke about driving, and since I’ve never driven, I explained that I wasn’t really into cars until Tesla came along. I really had no need for a car and wanted to contribute less pollution over my lifetime. This is where Aiden shared another goal of his with UFODrive.
Not only does UFODrive exist to make the car rental easy, but it’s also because — 50% of the reason — he was just sick of only being able to hire a polluting car. Aiden has spent over 25 years cycling and racing all over Europe, and he’s had several instances of diesel exhaust blown in his face.
“There’s nothing worse than a big SUV going by and you’re sucking in the diesel fumes. We want to try to make electric mobility for shared fleets, for rental fleets, mainstream. And that’s what we’ve done.”
Aiden explained that many of his customers had never experienced an electric vehicle before. UFODrive was their first experience. “80% of our customers have never even driven an electric car before. And 97% after using our service said they would return.”
Aiden noted that his service is great for skeptics who want to try an EV before buying one. Many say, “Wow, I’ll never go back to the old way,” and Aiden pointed out this is exactly what happened to him. “I was driving a diesel car. I test drove a Tesla in Luxembourg, and that afternoon I went, ‘That’s it. That’s the end of the old way.'”
8 Countries And Growing
UFODrive is located in 18 locations across 8 countries in Europe. Aiden wants to expand to the US and told us he was in San Francisco planning to launch two locations in February of last year but then the pandemic halted those plans. “We’re going to resume that project shortly.” Aiden told me that they are completing a large round of funding and that he hopes to resume the launch in the US once that round of funding is complete.
One of the states he had in mind besides California was Florida. “The groundwork we did was in California in San Francisco and LA. We’ve also done some examination of Florida.” He explained why California and Florida were ideal. “In the US, those markets are more ahead, I would say, in terms of electric charging infrastructure than some other areas such as central states, but it’s getting there.” Aiden thinks that UFODrive will start in California and Florida and quickly spread.
UFODrive is taking its idea to new levels by providing its software as a service (SaaS) to other car rental agencies. “We’re providing our software platform to others who wish to shift their fleet to electric. For other carshare companies, rental companies, and other fleets that are looking to move to electric, our platform is end to end and helps them make that transition.”
Another thing UFODrive is doing is a crowdfunding initiative for customers who love their service and want to invest or be a part of the company. “We’ve decided to launch a crowdfunding initiative about 4–5 weeks ago. We launched a kind of small funding round to allocate our capital to the public. We launched that on a platform in the UK called Seedrs.” Seedrs allows customers to invest a small amount of money into UFODrive.
Aidan explained that they launched the initiative, set a target, and within 10 days the target was filled. “We’ve had almost 600 people invest already and we’ve actually extended out another two weeks because there are so many people interested. That will close around the end of February.”
Where does UFODrive expect to be five years from now? Global domination, of course! “I think with the acceleration of the electric revolution, with the traction we have, and with the technology platform we have, I think there’s a great opportunity for us to become the known brand in clean mobility and easy mobility, and if we get our footprint into the states — and we’re looking at other areas as well such as Australia and New Zealand and other areas as well — I think that we can have in five years time a truly global presence and something unique and truly EV brand. That’s what we’re hoping,” Aiden told me.
I suggested China as a great market for UFODrive, especially since China has been supportive of the EV movement. Tesla is a great example of this. He noted that UFODrive was working with a Chinese manufacturer to help bring one of their cars to Europe, but did not talk about entering China.
Another thing Aiden shared with me was that UFODrive doesn’t want to be just a net-zero carbon company, but wants to go even further. “We launched a unique partnership about three months ago with an organization called Ark2030.” Ark2030 is an organization that is on a mission to reverse the climate crisis and end the destruction of our planet.
UFODrive makes contributions to Ark2030 on its customers’ behalf. “Whenever someone’s done a 500-mile drive with UFODrive, they get a carbon saving statement saying ‘You’ve saved X [amount] carbon dioxide because you drove clean’ and we then double those savings. We make a contribution to biosphere regeneration projects around the world.” With this goal, Aiden hopes to go beyond net zero. “It’s going even further. It’s beyond net zero,” he said.
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