We are living at the dawn of the age of the EV. Demand is high, supplies are limited and electric vehicles have done a good job of retaining their value. But this won’t last. As the various major conflicts come to an end, supply will ramp up and EVs will follow the same pattern as other products: They will depreciate as soon as you buy them. Given that the vast majority of cars sit parked at the side of the road or in a garage for the majority of their lives – how long will our habit of buying them continue? Companies like Virtuo believe they have a solution to this issue. We met up with Virtuo’s General Manager for the UK, Mario La Pergola and test drove one of the company's new Teslas.
Mario told us that Virtuo was founded in 2016 and that it aims to reinvent the car rental market using a single app to replace paperwork, rental counters and queues. Right now, their fleet is 40% electric, which will grow to 50% in the coming years and eventually be 100% before 2030.
The concept is simple: If you offer EVs on demand, for collection or delivery, from 1 to 90 days with everything concentrated into a single payment – and with no queuing at counters or additional paperwork to complete – then maybe (over time) there will be a change in what society means by ‘having a car’.
Up to 1.8 million cars remain parked on our capital's streets (relatively unused) from Monday to Friday. There must be a better model for our personal transport needs.
Install the Virtuo app and you can now pick up an immediate/flexible rental car in 25 cities across 6 countries. The app itself is simple enough to use and if the car you want isn’t available at the exact location you’ve chosen on the date you need it, the software will list the nearest locations where you can find what you want – alternatively you can also choose to have your car dropped off/picked up from your preferred location.
Once you have your car, you can travel abroad at no extra cost and the app even lets you add mileage or extend your contract – without having to interact with the company. Electric vehicles are available and you can choose to reduce your footprint further by paying a small charge to help a variety of certified carbon neutralisation programmes.
We chose a Tesla Model 3 Long Range on the app and it showed that there were cars available at Marble Arch.
Booking the car and getting to Marble Arch were relatively simple, but actually finding our car was a little trickier. The underground car park itself was vast, had no wi-fi or mobile data signal and there were literally hundreds of vehicles parked there. But this will only be an issue the first time you pick up from this location. Once you understand the layout, you’ll find the Virtuo cars are all parked together.
The car itself was immaculate and, being familiar with the controls, we were off and running in no time. If you’re not familiar with driving a Tesla, Virtuo has a quick introduction video available.
Access to the Tesla Superchargers network is included in your rental price. The baseline range for the Model 3 was plenty for most journeys and (in perfect conditions) you can replenish up to 186 miles of range in 15 minutes with a Supercharger.
Mario explained that for people living in the city, owning a single car can be difficult.
He told us that there will be times when a city-dweller needs ‘something chunky’ to pick up furniture etc from Ikea. Other times you might want a car with enough space for a family weekend down on the coast. Then there might be special occasions where you want something cool looking for an event. Virtuo aims to cover all of those situations with a variety of cars – available from 1 to 90 days. Going over 90 days for this kind of rental (in the UK) changes the kind of contract that you’ve entered into – hence the (artificial) limitation.
Buying a Tesla Model 3 Long Range can set you back over £50,000, but with Virtuo you can rent them from £65 a day (based on a minimum five-day rental period).
Mario told us to expect many more ‘gaps in logic’ becoming apparent with our traditional model of car purchase/ownership. For example, the school run is tempting when you have a car parked right outside your home all the time. But if parents walked with their kids, then the average household could save up to £640 a year in direct costs – while also reducing pollution from idling cars. Then there is the improvement to personal fitness, for parents and children, if they opt to walk to school.
At the same time, recently published research shows that 84% of Londoners believe that having a car increases their travel opportunities (especially when it comes to weekend escapes from the city), but you need to balance against the 42% of Londoners who believe that the days of personal car ownership are over.
The main Virtuo centres in the UK are located in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol and Brighton. Overall, there are more than 70 locations where you can pick up/drop off here.
Internationally, you can use a Virtuo membership in these countries:-
Every ownership/rental model has its pros and cons. Comparing Virtuo to a service like ONTO, you don’t have the commitment to have a specific car for at least one month. On the other hand, comparing to Zip, you can either return to a major car park or have Virtuo organise a collection.
There is no cost or commitment for membership, so if you’re thinking about using an EV for a few days, it’s worth exploring the Virtuo services available in your area. It’s as simple as downloading the app, registering and then unlocking a car when you need it.
Right now, these short-term rental options are unusual/pioneering (depending on your perspective) – but there is a very real chance that this is how our car-usage model will evolve over the next decade or so. That will certainly be true once autonomous vehicles become more prevalent.
You can find out more about the UK’s relationship with ownership, you can get more data here.