Skift Take

Hertz is now in a pole position among rental car brands in the race to adopt electric vehicles. Separately, it's notable that private equity firm Certares has begun placing venture equity bets in early-stage companies.

Hertz Corp. and one of its major owners, Certares, have co-led a $19 million Series A financing round in UFODrive, a rental service for electric vehicles.

Knighthead Capital Management and other investors also participated.

The U.S.-based rental car giant intends to deploy UFODrive’s digital rental and fleet management technology to enhance its electric vehicle offering. In October, Hertz ordered 100,000 Teslas as part of a long-term switch away from vehicles with combustion engines to anticipate changing consumer preferences.

“Together, we will pilot ways to make renting an EV [electric vehicle] even easier,” said Mark Fields, Hertz interim CEO, in a statement.

UFODrive, based in London and founded in 2018, uses artificial intelligence to determine how to route vehicles for optimized charging. Its system promises to handle rental fleets cost-effectively. It also offers a fully digital experience for customers accessing their cars, and its onboard computers help guide drivers to the nearest charging station via live telematics.

The technology can have ancillary uses for a company like Hertz, which in recent months began working with Uber to make Teslas available for rent via Uber’s mobile app in selected markets.

Certares — a private equity firm whose investments include American Express Global Business Travel, Liberty Tripadvisor, and Latam Airlines — has been developing a “venture capital strategy” to supplement its much larger private equity investments.

Tom Klein, senior managing director of Certares, told Skift CEO Rafat Ali at the Skift Megatrends launch event that Certares has been doing a bit of venture capital investing because it had gotten tired of passing on many interesting early-stage deals to other players.

Certares’ venture lead strategy is led by Chantal Noble Haldorsen, who will join the UFODrive board.

“We are proud that we are helping to accelerate the transition to zero-emissions mobility,” said UFODrive CEO Aidan McClean. His startup had previously raised $6.9 million, according to Crunchbase.

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Tags: car rentals, certares, corporate venture capital, european funding, fundings, hertz, investments, mobility, startups, travel startups, venture capital

Photo credit: Inside a UFODrive vehicle rental. Source: UFODrive.