European electric vehicle rental startup UFODrive launches in San Francisco – TechCrunch

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UFODrive, an electric vehicle rental company based in Europe, landed in San Francisco on Thursday, marking the startup’s expansion into the United States

The startup, which offers users a simple, contactless way to rent and subscribe to electric vehicles, arrives in California at a time when gas prices are still low incredibly high at $5.56. While that number has dropped in recent weeks, it still exceeds the national average. Combine that with an ongoing rental car shortage and a cultural zeitgeist that encompasses all things electric, and UFODrive has itself a potentially winning fit in the product market.

UFODrive’s US launch follows the company’s rapid growth in 16 cities across Europe, including London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and Dublin since its inception in 2018. The startup is also planning separate launches for New York and Austin in October.

Other companies have sprung up around the world to provide a similar service. For instance, On and I am moving offer monthly EV subscriptions in the UK and Norway, respectively. Where UFODrive differs is that it offers a combination of classic daily or weekly rentals and monthly subscriptions. That said, the San Francisco launch will initially offer pure rentals.

Reservations can be made on the UFODrive app, where each customer is guided through the entire process – check-in, identity verification, vehicle location, damage check, contract signing and departure, according to Adain McLean, CEO of UFO Drive.

Bay Area customers can visit one of two downtown San Francisco vehicle bays on either side of Market Street, where they can then use the app to get keyless access to their vehicle .

UFODrive worked with Inspiration, tthe EV asset finance company that provided New York-based Revel with its own set of Teslas for the ride-hailfor launch purposes, to get approximately 20 Tesla Model 3s and Model Ys on hand for the launch. As the startup has done in Europe, UFODrive plans to lead with Tesla’s dazzle for early locations and expand its lineup based on customer feedback and availability, according to McLean, who noted that UFODrive is also pleased to include Ford in this lineup.

In Europe, the fleet is consisting mainly of Tesla Model 3, Model S and Model Y with Volkswagen ID3, ID4, Hyundai Kona EV, Cupra Born, Polestar and others, McLean said.

A software platform designed to minimize the angst of electric vehicles

Customers can unlock rented electric vehicles through the UFODrive app. Image credit: UFO Drive

“One of our biggest concerns when we started UFODrive was to make people comfortable with an electric vehicle and to minimize or remove anxiety throughout the rental, not just when picking up. charging,” McLean told TechCrunch. “From day one, our platform was designed to identify issues before they arise. The team is notified if a customer has not completed any of the support steps, fails to start the vehicle, drives with a battery level below 30%, has difficulty charging at the station, etc. In these cases, our team may contact proactively to ensure the client is ok if they have not contacted us already. As a result, we’ve never had a range or charging issue over more than 20 million miles traveled.

UFODrive’s platform is also designed to guide drivers out of the bay, direct them to the nearest charger and explain how to charge their vehicle. If a customer has a problem, they can use the app to contact 24/7 one of the startup’s customer service agents, who can unlock or turn on a car remotely, use cameras to check unreported damage, perform system updates, perform identity checks and add drivers, McLean said.

It is this software platform that UFODrive also hopes to sell as a SaaS product, particularly to legacy rental companies to help them transition their rental models to electric vehicles. In fact, the car rental giant Hertz and travel-focused investment firm Certares led UFODrive Series A in Marchsignaling the potential for greater partnerships in this space. Hertz seems particularly keen on switching to electric vehicles – in October 2021, the company said it was investing in a fleet of Teslas and is committed to offering the largest electric vehicle rental fleet in North America.

How does the price compare?

UFODrive has yet to release its rates for San Francisco, but in Amsterdam, for example, renting a Tesla from the startup for the weekend could average around $200, depending on the model. A quick search on Kayak, an aggregator of flights, hotels and car rentals, shows a similar price for internal combustion engine vehicles, and that doesn’t include the cost of gas or additional drivers.

UFODrive rental prices include things like additional drivers, most tolls and free charging, according to McLean.

“No energy costs for the rental, regardless of your mileage or distance,” he said. “It used to be a good deal, but with today’s gas prices and the price gouging of old rental companies, it’s really good.”

McLean also pointed to UFODrive’s loyalty reward program, which can help reduce rental costs.

“In order to achieve our goal of moving people to sustainable rental, we need to be competitive, but the EV model is inherently more efficient so we can be competitive and profitable,” McLean said.

While UFODrive is starting with a consumer push, the company sees itself long-term as a solution for delivery drivers and last-mile transportation as well, according to a company spokesperson.

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