Canary Wharf: How Sixt now offers car rental deep beneath Wharfers’ feet

Worldwide brand expands to Canada Place’s Level -3 car park, offering a range of vehicles for hire

Sixt is located on Level -3 in Canada Place car park, Canary Wharf

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Those who don’t drive to Canary Wharf are unlikely to have made it to the glamorously named Level -3 of Canada Place’s car park.

But Wharfers who have recently descended so far via the lifts to the right of Waitrose may have been surprised to find a vibrant splash of orange in the deep.

Car rental firm Sixt has joined UFO Drive in offering vehicles for hire on the estate – and it’s created a glossy, disco ball of a space, all vibrant colour and shining LEDs.

In celebration of its arrival the company offered to lend Wharf Life a car for a couple of days to demonstrate the process. So I accepted.

Stepping through the glass doors of the brand’s richly kitted out unit – complete with bright orange desks, a sliver of bustling flatscreen and smiling staff – it was easy to forget I was in a car park.

Everything inside was clean, shiny and new.

Inside Sixt’s latest opening at Canary Wharf

Due to poor organisational skills, I’d managed to turn up a month early for my booking, but the patient staff simply made a few calls and sorted things out with minimal fuss.

I’d been expecting a lucky dip economy car – a VW Polo or similar – but was also offered an upgrade to Tesla’s long range Model Y.

A chunky all-wheel drive electric, it’s capable of zipping to 60mph in less than four seconds from a standing start.

The staff took me through the rudiments of the vehicle which, after some jerky pulling away, I managed to pilot gingerly out of the car park avoiding any bumps.

My plan was simple. First, survive the journey home. Then decide on a destination out of the smoke to find some winter fresh air – nothing fancy, just a jaunt.

Both went entirely to plan. The Tesla turned out to be almost too easy to drive.

Its lack of dials was a little peculiar at first, with a large touchscreen in the centre of the car handling all necessary read-outs.

Bristling with cameras to aid manoeuvring and a curious video game-like graphic of the position of other motorists, cyclists, traffic lights and traffic cones, it was a vision of the self-drive future yet-to-come.

The Tesla Model Y on its travels

Indeed, there was a sense of the car already becoming self-aware.

I felt it intervene at least once while driving on the motorway to prevent us wandering into another lane.

No bad thing, perhaps, but the wheel moving independently was a little disconcerting.

I opted to travel to Warley Place Nature Reserve as a fair test of a run just beyond the M25.

The Tesla – firm of ride – managed the country bumps well enough and I found myself rapidly delivered to a place less than an hour from London, but also worlds away.

Run by a voluntary, charitable trust, the reserve comprised the remains of the gardens attached to the long ruined house, the family home of Edwardian horticulturist Ellen Willmott.

It was a beautiful spot in the February sunshine, liberally coated in daffodils, snowdrops and crocuses.

While not completely impossible to access via public transport, the only alternative to a car would be to catch a train to Brentwood and arrange taxis to and from its location.

The Essex Wildlife Trust proved a welcoming bunch, albeit a little over sensitive on the health and safety front.

Cheery warnings were imparted as I walked through the gate about keeping to the path lest terrible peril befall the unwary.

This proved to be very much the theme of my visit as fresh terrors were regularly depicted by scary yellow signs flagging deep and dangerous water in every pond, unstable walls and the ever-present threat of CCTV surveillance.

A view towards London from Warley Place Nature Reserve

But despite a flash of hailstones and the fearful cacophony of the warnings, I was charmed by the place.

Clearly loved by its volunteer army, who keep its ramshackle beauty in good order – enough to attract a multitude of birds and other wildlife.

It was the ideal antidote to the formality of the city, although a view of a distant Canary Wharf did pop up from one vantage point.

As for the car itself, it was more or less effortless to drive after getting used to its curious lack of forward crawl.

Unlike standard automatics the Model Y doesn’t creep forward when the brake is released but waits until its accelerator is pressed.

It also brakes when it is released, more akin to a manual petrol car and a feature that essentially lends itself to one-pedal driving.  

This was my first experience of renting an electric and proved seamless enough with a full battery supplied on collection.

The only minor faff was having to ensure an 80% charge on return of the vehicle, which took about 15 minutes on one of Canary Wharf’s Level -3 Tesla Superchargers.

Then it was simple to park up, drop the key in the slot and go about my morning.

Sixt also rents petrol cars and hybrids – still its main area of business – with prices for the same length of hire starting at £32.66 per day for an entry level vehicle.


Cost: £74.66 per day (from Sixt)

Minimum hire: 3 days (from Sixt)

Range: 331 miles

0-60mph: 3.5 seconds

Top Speed: 135mph

Equipment: 15” Touchscreen

Seating: 5 Adults

Hire from UFO Drive of a Tesla Model Y Long Range was £102 per day at the time of writing

The walled garden at Warley

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com

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Canary Wharf: UFO Drive launches electric vehicle rental in Canada Square car park

Head of firm’s UK operation Jonathan Shine says firm is symbiosis between rental, digital and electric

UFO Drive's Jonathan Shine
UFO Drive’s Jonathan Shine – image Patrick Straub

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There’s no doubt whatsoever that electricity is the future mainstream source of energy for cars.

Petrol prices have reached record highs, London’s ultra low emissions zone (ULEZ) recently expanded to cover Tower Hamlets and Newham and world leaders are grappling ahead of COP26 to battle climate change.

Meanwhile the technology for low carbon personal transportation is already here, quietly accelerating past fossil fuel-powered vehicles as they belch out particulates into the lungs of the population and CO2 into the atmosphere.

Car designers have done a good job over the years of hiding the fumes away – directing the exhaust well away from the rarefied, filtered air breathed by those in the vehicles they sell. But, when placed beside the comparative cleanliness of a near-silent electric machine, the mask quickly slips.

Apposite, then, that UFO Drive recently parked up its Tesla Model 3s in Canary Wharf. The company offers electric vehicle hire in cities across seven European countries, and expanded to the UK, launching in London in January 2020. 

Almost entirely app-based, customers book vehicles for a minimum of a day’s hire. These can either be picked up from one of UFO’s locations at any time or delivered to the client for a fee.

Jonathan Shine is the man in charge of the firm’s operations in the UK as it continues to grow with more cars already planned for Canary Wharf and further locations in the pipeline.

“I’ve been working in the electric vehicle industry for 20 years now,” he said. “I was working as a computer programmer and somehow learned that on in September 2001, Hertz was launching its new electric car, so I went out and rented one for a week – it was £70.

“It was a little car by Ford, a really cool vehicle, like a Smart car, really chic, with a range of about 50 miles, unless you put the heating on.

“It was gorgeous. I got in and thought: ‘This is happening, it’s really possible to have a really nice electric car’.

“I love vehicles, but I hate the way they pollute and I thought this was the way forward. So I looked at opportunities to get involved.

“At one point I had the chance to be the importer for what became the G-Wiz, but I spurned it because the cars were just horrible. I got into one and thought: ‘This is bad for the EV world, sub-standard, uncomfortable and not particularly safe’. It wasn’t the future.”

It’s fair to say things have come on a bit. Having worked in many electric vehicle related roles over the years, Jonathan has also gone from owning the original Nissan Leaf with a 90-mile range to the Hyundai Kona, which can travel 300 miles on a single charge and cost £30,000. 

Some people are, of course, still nervous about the practicalities of owning and that’s – in part, at least – where UFO Drive comes in.

“I came across the company towards the end of 2019, contacted the CEO and said I liked the concept,” said Jonathan. “He was just about to launch in London, so it was right time, right place. 

“Aidan (McClean) is amazing. He’s an Irish man living in Luxembourg and is a little bit mad in a good way. You know he’s going to succeed because he’s so determined and energised – he brings everyone along with him.

“He’s travelled a lot, and wondered why, in this day and age, you still have to join a queue to rent a car, get a contract, get a key and sign hundreds of bits of paper.

“He created UFO Drive to revolutionise car rental and make it really smooth and sleek – so people can go from plane to car in five minutes.

“He realised, however, that if you’re going to start a new car rental company, it’s going to have to be electric and there would need to be a symbiosis between digital, rental and electric.”

That premise has resulted in UFO Drive, which now operates 18 locations in eight countries including Oxford Street, Park Lane, Westfield London in Shepherd’s Bush and Canary Wharf.

Rental fees are dependent on duration but can be as little as £70 per day for longer trips and include charging. Typically customers can expect to pay about £100 for a day. 

Tesla Model 3s ready to hire in Canary Wharf
Tesla Model 3s ready to hire in Canary Wharf – image Patrick Straub

Pretty much all aspects of the rental are handled digitally via the smartphone app including locking and unlocking the vehicle, which can be picked up and dropped off at any time at UFO’s bays. 

“Every car is cleaned and charged professionally after every single rental and that’s important,” said Jonathan. “When you rent one, you know the car will be prepared and ready to drive – it will be looking good and we’ll have checked it for any damage so you know you won’t be stung for that because it will have been recorded.

“When people rent with us, they see the convenience, they love driving the cars, even if they rent for the weekend, which is more expensive because of the demand.

“People really enjoy the flexibility of it, the experience of it and the ease of it. We also give loyalty discounts and it’s great to see people come back again and again. 

“We have one customer who has completed 27 rentals with us and that’s the record at the moment. 

“We also do deliveries and, once we expand here, we’re going to offer those across a wider area.

“Customers love that – it costs a bit more, but you can start your journey from outside your house and you don’t have to be there to receive the key – it’s all electronic, all done via the app. You don’t have to sign any paperwork – you just start it.”

While the company is primarily focused on Teslas at present it will be expanding its offering of other electric vehicles as charging networks improve – something Jonathan expects to happen rapidly in the near future. It will also be boosting its Canary Wharf bays from four to eight in order to keep pace with demand.

“Something else that’s really important is that we’re a small company so you get a good, personal service,” said Jonathan. 

“The idea is that it feels like a family business – we’ll sort it out if you have a problem. We take really good care of our customers – that’s our focus and it’s at the heart of everything we do.”

Customers hire UFO drive cars via a smartphone app
Customers hire UFO drive cars via a smartphone app

While holidays and longer trips are UFO’s niche, there is another reason people hire its cars and, despite a forthcoming pop-up in Glasgow for COP26, that’s not just to show off their eco-credentials. 

“We are all electric and one of the pleasantly surprising aspects of the business is the demand for that,” said Jonathan. 

“Hiring electric vehicles is already something people just Google for environmental reasons.

“But it’s also a way to try them out before you commit to buying one yourself. With petrol prices at record highs everything points to hiring an EV where charging is included.

“At present it’s a niche part of the market but that makes us really stand out and we’re the only ones doing it really well because of the digital operation we have.

“There are other companies up and down the country but they’re comparatively expensive.

“With us, you are driving a premium vehicle, we can deliver it to you, there’s 24/7 flexibility and we’re affordable. If you add all those things together, it makes sense.

“We think Canary Wharf is very promising for us and could be one of our best locations. Many of the people who work here or live locally have no parking and don’t have a car because they don’t need one for what they do every day.

“But when they need to go away for a couple of days they now have the option of renting an electric vehicle and everything that means as well as the sheer fun of it.”

UFO Drive’s fleet of Tesla Model 3s is located on Parking Level 3 in Canada Square car park in Canary Wharf.

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