rentE hires out electric cars to Uber drivers at low rates, by basing the business at an energy park near the city of Birmingham and tapping into locally produced clean electricity.

 

According to the company’s website drivers can rent an Uber-ready private from £89 (€102)/week, including fuel and private hire insurance.

Zipping in and around the city between pick-ups eats up the miles. Providing drivers use the rentE’s own rapid charging locations, the firm covers the cost of charging.

rentE is one of the first businesses to set up at the Tyseley Energy Park. It’s a good location for a vehicle hire business, as the park sits between Birmingham city centre, to the west, and the airport and National Exhibition Centre (NEC) to the east.

rentE is building its EV private hire fleet with BYD’s electric cars (Courtesy BYD)

But that’s not the only reason. rentE’s fleet consists of electric vehicles (EVs) made by BYD, a Chinese automotive manufacturer and lithium ion battery producer. Each car in the rentE fleet has a range of up to 180 miles.

Electricity is the biggest ongoing cost of EVs, which have far fewer maintenance needs and associated costs than petrol or diesel engine cars, making them ideal candidates for taxi and courier fleets, which rack up mileage.

 

Private wire electricity source

rentE buys electricity at a cheaper price than through an energy supplier thanks to a private wire arrangement that has been in place at Tyseley Energy Park since 2016. The electricity source is a 10MW biomass plant that produces heat, as well as power, from waste wood that would otherwise end up in landfill.

Electricity on tap, so to speak, that is locally generated can be supplied to users such as rentE at below-tariff rates. Rapid chargers if recharging during peak electricity demand periods, normally evenings, can incur higher energy costs in the form of peak demand charges, which cover the cost of using the local distribution network and grid.

A reliable electricity supply that’s low-cost no matter what time of day rentE’s cars plug in will be crucial in enabling the company to expand its fleet of clean taxi vehicles with minimal running costs that will likely see more demand in the coming years.

 

Clean up act

Canada’s Nexterra supplied the gasification system for the biomass (waste wood) plant installed at the Tyseley Energy Park (Courtesy Nexterra)

Birmingham is a densely populated city where lots of cars, vans, trucks and public transport, not to mention industrial

activity, have all contributed to some of the highest air pollution levels in the UK.

The council is implementing a clean air zone by 2020, which can only be achieved if all types of vehicles and transportation become emissions-free. So a variety of low carbon transportation infrastructure needs to be built, including electric car chargers and refuelling stations for fuel cell vehicles.

However, the city itself lacks available space for installing this infrastructure.

In response, Energy Capital, an energy development initiative for the west Midlands, Tyseley Environmental Enterprise District, as well as local councils, businesses and academia joined forces to redevelop a 10-acre industrial site into the energy park.

 

Sweet home, to clean energy

Local manufacturer Webster & Horsfall, which owns the site, has consolidated its operations to create space to host different processes that will produce clean energy for the city centre and local communities, as well as clean transport fuel sources and infrastructure.

As it develops over the next five years, the Tyseley Energy Park will act as a hub for businesses and academia at the forefront of cleantech innovation.

Future plans include wind turbines and solar panels, a biomethane plant, plus a bio-battery that’s based on thermal catalytic reforming process being jointly developed by the University of Birmingham and Fraunhofer UMSICHT.

Over time rentE could be one of the first of many businesses and research initiatives all seeking to exploit and deploy the park’s clean energy, fuels and heat output.