Uber cars go electric with new private-hire fleet

S Dreams general manager Jeremy Ng (left) is confident his fleet of all-electric e6 cars will be attractive to drivers. The e6 can run up to 400km on a complete charge, which takes up to two hours. Mr Ng said the cars are also equipped with free Wi-Fi for
S Dreams general manager Jeremy Ng (left) is confident his fleet of all-electric e6 cars will be attractive to drivers. The e6 can run up to 400km on a complete charge, which takes up to two hours. Mr Ng said the cars are also equipped with free Wi-Fi for passengers, and a collision avoidance system to boost safety. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

They could be your dream ride next time. Greener. Safer. Electric even.

Local start-up S Dreams has teamed up with Shenzhen-based automaker BYD (Build Your Dreams) to wheel out an all-electric commercial car fleet to be used for popular ride-hailing service Uber.

Seven of BYD's e6 cars are expected to hit the roads here next week, with the fleet having up to 30 more cars by year end, and ramping up to 1,000 by 2018.

S Dreams general manager Jeremy Ng is confident that his fleet will be attractive to drivers, unfazed by the estimated tens of thousands of private-hire cars in the market.

While other fleet owners rent out private-hire cars for a fee, S Dreams will pay its drivers a fixed salary. But it will collect all the fare revenue a driver makes through Uber.

Under a one-year contract, drivers will earn a basic monthly wage of $1,800, which can go up to $3,000 through incentives for fulfilling more trips, driving safely, and good customer service.

"Drivers who work with us save on petrol, which is one of the highest overhead costs for Uber drivers... Our incentives also encourage our drivers to generate more revenue," Mr Ng said.

Drivers can charge their cars for free at S Dream's office in Ubi Avenue 4. The e6 can run up to 400km on a complete charge, which takes up to two hours.

Mr Ng said its cars are also equipped with free Wi-Fi for passengers, and a collision avoidance system to boost safety.

BYD Singapore general manager Nancy Mao hopes that as the fleet grows, there could be an option in the Uber app for customers to choose a BYD car. Currently, Uber customers can ask for cars based on only size and whether they want a limousine or a saloon model.

SIM University senior lecturer Park Byung Joon said it would be a challenge for an electric-car fleet business to compete with other companies using petrol-driven cars. "Although electric cars may have lower operating costs, the upfront costs of buying the cars are really huge," Dr Park said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2016, with the headline 'Uber cars go electric with new private-hire fleet'. Print Edition | Subscribe