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«The range of electric cars used to be a big issue»

Andreas Uebelbacher is one of Mobility’s most prolific electric drivers. In this interview, he reveals why he’s never owned a car of his own despite the fact that he loves driving – and why a holiday in the UK in an electric car turned into a stress test for the whole family.

Text   Daniel Schriber


  • Lifestyle

Andreas Uebelbacher, we’re impressed: you’ve covered more than 12’000 kilometres in Mobility electric cars. That’s more than any other private customer!

Yes I was a bit surprised at that (laughs), though I’m well aware that I use Mobility a lot. The mileage I’ve covered is something you could view critically, too. But I’m quite happy to be at the top of the electric rankings.

In what kind of situations do you use car sharing?

I don’t have my own car and I always use my bicycle or public transport in Zurich, which is where I live and work. But I regularly travel to Engelberg to visit my mother. If I take a car on this trip, it saves me about half the travel time.

You’ve been a member of the Mobility cooperative since 2006. How did that come about?

I was rather late in deciding to get my driving license. I was already living in Zurich at that time, a long way from my parents. As I didn’t have access to a car myself, I used Mobility go on learner trips with my colleagues. One advantage here was that I learned how to handle different types of vehicles right from the start.

We didn’t have any electric vehicles on offer at that time. How did you get interested in electrically powered driving?

When Mobility launched its first electric cars in 2013, I was hesitant at first: I had the same preconceptions and uncertainties as other people. I work in IT and I’m always interested in new technologies – and lo and behold: once I tried it out, I caught the bug right from the word go. E-cars are easy to handle and reliable – and the ride feel is fantastic.

Do you rent electric cars because they’re fun to drive?

That’s one of the reasons. Even though I don’t own a car, I enjoy driving. For me, the vehicle is more than just a means of getting from A to B. I do admit that I enjoy accelerating and a good torque surge. You can leave many a powerful petrol car behind you – even in a little Renault Zoé or the VW ID.3 So there’s no need to miss out on a great driving feel, even though you’re getting around carbon-free (at least to a large extent).

There are lots of clichés about electric vehicles. You weren’t reluctant yourself at first?

I had my doubts at the beginning of course. One major issue was range. Can I get to my destination by car – and in particular, can I get back again? When I would visit my mother a few years ago, I always had to charge the car in Engelberg. Today, the battery easily gets me there and back (editor’s note: approx. 170 kilometres in total). A great deal has happened in this area.

So you’ve never had a negative experience in an electric car?

Oh, there have certainly been some situations. In 2019 I went with my family to the UK for two weeks. I decided to rent the fully electric Jaguar I-Pace, to some extent despite my family’s concerns. It’s a really nice, cool car that gave us a lot of pleasure. But the search for charging stations proved difficult and tedious. You needed a different app for each charging network provider, for example. The overall experience was interesting, but at times the trip did turn into a bit of a stress test for the whole family. There’s been the odd incident with Mobility, too.

Do tell us.

It has happened in the past that the car I reserved wasn’t charged. Fortunately, this virtually never happens any more nowadays.

What do you do if there isn’t an e-car available at your Mobility station?

I go electric as much as I can, and I certainly don’t mind going a bit further to pick up an electric car if necessary. If that happens, I get on my bike and ride to the next station where an electric car is available. And it’s a nice bonus to know that I’m getting a little bit more exercise, too. 

You like driving but you’ve never owned a car yourself. Why is that?

If I had my own car in the garage, I’d automatically do more driving. As human beings, we tend to take the path of least resistance. That’s why I made the conscious decision not to get my own car – I only use one when I really need it. Since I live and work in the city, it actually works very well.

Mobility aims to fully electrify its fleet by 2030. How do you rate the power turnaround?

It’s certainly a good thing, but a change in power source alone is hardly going to save us. Based on what we currently know, electric vehicles have an environmental benefit over petrol-powered cars, but they still fill up the roads and increase our footprint. In my view, we need not just a turnaround in the source of power we use but also a change in behaviour. A lot people have a car of their own even though they don’t need one, and this automatically means they’re out on the roads more. That’s why it’s all the more important for Mobility to continue to be a pioneer in car sharing.

You’re a believer in electrical technology. Do you value an environmentally conscious lifestyle in other ways, too?

The older I get, the more preoccupied I am with the issue of waste. So I try to use the available resources as consciously as possible. But of course I’m no saint either. Last year we went a bit further away for our summer holidays, to America. And more than ten years ago I rented an Aston Martin for a few days – that was a fascinating experience. So I don’t exactly qualify as an upholder of moral standards. I just think it’s important that people are aware of what they’re doing. Everyone is responsible for their own behaviour and should try and reduce the ecological footprint on earth as best they can.

You’ve been a Mobility user for many years. Are there things we could improve on?

Certainly. I know you’re proud of the new app, but I can’t run it on my mobile without Google services, which is a no-go for me when it comes to data privacy. There are also various things on the website that need to be optimised – such as the annoying video on the home page, or entering the time when you book a vehicle. And the website isn’t barrier-free either. But I must add here that in my job I’m very much focused on user experience (UX) and accessibility, so I possibly tend to be a bit more critical in this regard. All in all, however, this is just minor nitpicking. For almost 20 years now, Mobility has allowed me to be mobile without having to own a car – and that’s something I very much appreciate.

Want to try out an electric car but aren’t sure? We can help you around the clock: click on the car model you have reserved in our vehicle instructions and find out how to remove the charging cable or charge the electric car at the charging station, for example. You can find the instructions not only on the Mobility website, but also in your app. Select “Trips” on the start screen and scroll down a little. Click on the “About the vehicle” button to access all the information about the reserved vehicle around the clock. Have fun trying them out!

Photos: Patrick Besch

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