UFODRIVE is on the move. The all-digital, all-electric car rental service, founded by Aidan McClean and Renaud Marquet, is entering the US market, starting in San Francisco. The company has also announced plans to open a global eMobility Tech Hub and Innovation Center in Dublin, Ireland.
Auto Futures recently caught up with CEO, McClean, who has also authored a book called ‘ELECTRIC REVOLUTION Myths & Truths about Electric Vehicles and Climate Disaster’.
“UFODRIVE has ambitious growth plans driven by a vision for the future based on electric vehicles,” says McClean.
Its European fleet spans 20 locations in 8 countries including London, Paris, Dublin, and Berlin.
“We keep our fleet numbers confidential but can say that it’s in the hundreds today and doubling by the end of this year. We have a preference for Tesla vehicles given the advanced capabilities, but in order to offer a variety of vehicle types and price points , we work with multiple brands,” he explains. When it started, one of our UFODRIVE’s biggest objectives was to make people comfortable using an EV and minimising removing or anxiety throughout the rental – not just at pick-up.
“From day one, our platform was built to identify issues before they happen. The team are notified if a customer hasn’t completed any of the pick-up stages, fails to start the vehicle, is driving with a battery level below 30% , struggling to charge at a station, etc. In those situations, our team can proactively reach out to make sure the customer is ok if they haven’t already reached out to us. As a result, we have never had a range or charging issue in over 20 million kilometres driven,” says McClean.
“Once onboard, we guide the customer to the exit, route them to the nearest chargers on their chosen route, walk them through the charging procedure, etc. The result is an incredible level of support and our industry-leading Trustpilot ratings are full of examples of how the team help.”
In addition to the rental operation, it has also been expanding, developing, and refining its UFODRIVE SaaS platform which helps supports fleets transition to electric or helps existing electric fleets with lower energy costs, charging connectivity and advanced analytics.
Funding and Expanding
In February, 2022, UFODRIVE announced it had raised $19 million in Series A funding, co-led by the car rental giant Hertz and the private equity firm Certares.
In the related press releases, Mark Fields, Hertz interim CEO said: “Our partnership with UFODRIVE is yet another major step in Hertz becoming an essential component of the modern mobility ecosystem. Together, we will pilot ways to make renting an EV even easier using UFODRIVE’s digital platforms for both the rental experience and fleet management. For customers, this partnership will help us create the future rental car experience that is all-digital and EV-centric.”
“Firstly, the company is investing in the UFODRIVE mobility platform, building out the technology which forms the basis of both the rental and eMobility businesses, adding additional features and creating an even more seamless customer experience,” McClean tells us.
“Additionally, UFODRIVE have invested in rapidly expanding their team across all business functions from tech to operations, marketing and more. This injection of talent is key to achieving UFODRIVE’s ambitious growth targets. As well as the team, the company has also invested in the opening of an all-new, Dublin based Tech and Innovation Hub.”
“Finally, the funds have also been put towards expansion of the business in terms of fleet, locations and, pivotally, entry to the US market. Expanding the service offering both in new and existing locations is a key element of UFODRIVE’s growth strategy, and Hence, is attributed a respective allocation of funds,” he adds.
The Switch to Electric is Underway
McClean’s passion for electric vehicles took him from a career as a senior investment banker to a cleantech pioneer. His book sets out what the future will hold for energy storage and battery technology for what he calls ‘Generation Electric’. However, one mobility development thats he’s scathing about is hybrid vehicles, which he says are outdated and are hindering the transition to zero-emission fully electric cars.
“If we truly want to build a net-zero world as soon as possible, then they should be banned. Back in the 1990s, hybrid cars had a purpose. They demonstrated the potential of electric technology and e-vehicles, and how a future free of fossil fuel consumption truly was on the horizon. Cut to 30 years later, with the advancement of full-electric vehicle technology, hybrids have become an obstacle to the electric revolution.”
“Currently, they stand as a roadblock, slowing the changes in infrastructure needed for fully electric cars and distracting consumers with the allure of an alternative type of vehicle that ultimately isn’t worthwhile,” he adds.
On the subject of safer driving, the company believes lane assist, adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance and autopilot are some of the many features already contributing to safer and more autonomous driving for EV drivers.