Drivers that may be on the electric car fence can try out the option from AW Rostamani Shift Car Rental, which has become the region’s first car rental firm to add green cars to its fleet.
The company said on Wednesday that it will lease and rent the Renault Zoe, a fully electric vehicle (EV) that can travel 300 kilometres on a single charge. Currently the start-up fleet of 10 is only available in Dubai, but there are expansion plans on the horizon.
“We just want you to try these cars - it’s a totally different experience,” said Ashish Nanda, senior general manager of Shift Car Rental. He said that the goal was to stop the “mental block” with Shift offering special incentives to entice drivers.
To purchase these eco-friendly cars can cost up to three times that of a standard petrol-fuelled vehicle, one of the many obstacles that cut into the green mobility takeoff. Shift will charge Dh180 per day to rent the vehicle while a standard car is priced at Dh100 per day. However, Mr Nanda said that the fuel savings make up for the price differential.
“A standard car will provide about 10 kilometres to every 1 litre, so you need 10 litres for every 100km,” he said adding that with UAE fuel costs, that typically averages Dh20 per 100km.
The other obstacle for the EV movement is the time it takes to charge - sometimes three to four hours when a petrol stop could be two minutes. Shift wanted to make it easier for users who may not have time to spare for a charge and set up an option to allow any Zoe driver to exchange the rental car at a nearby Shift branch for a fully-charged vehicle, dubbing it a “swap station”.
The EV sector is growing as many car manufacturers plan to introduce new eco-friendly cars to their lines. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) expects EV sales globally to more than triple to 3 million by 2021 from 700,000 last year. And by 2040, they will make up 54 per cent of new car sales worldwide, displacing 8 million barrels of transport fuel per day.
Colin Mckerracher, a BNEF transport analyst, said that Shift’s green moves are the type of initiatives that help catapult the industry. “People who drive EVs tend to really like them, so programmes that increase exposure to EVs - from car sharing to taxis and rental cars - can play an important role in driving adoption,” he said.
This is also driven by government initiatives like those offered from Dubai Electricity and Water Authority and the Road Transport Authority. The two organisations partnered in September to offer four incentives to help increase the number of plug-in cars, including free public parking and charging to toll-fee exemption and discounts on the car’s registration.
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These factors have helped Shift shape its EV strategy, looking to increase its green fleet five-fold over the next year and venture into Abu Dhabi. The company is targeting people who are looking for a courtesy car, or an alternative when a driver’s primary vehicle may be in for maintenance. “We’ve started the rentals and have done about six so far,” he said.
Mr Nanda added that its ultimate expansion plans will require an adoption rate of about 60 per cent - or six cars out of the total 10 to be continuously rented. In order to help meet this target, Shift has started discussions with multinational companies as well as hotels.
“Multinationals have expressed an interest to use these cars over the long-term, for about two to three years,” he said.
Mr Nanda added that this was just the path of the near future. “Tomorrow it’s simply going to be intelligent to go green,” he said.