Published on August 17th, 2020 |
by Johnna Crider
August 17th, 2020 by Johnna Crider
In an exclusive CleanTechnica interview, Slava Kozlovskii shares his story with me about how he founded Evee.
Recently, I wrote an article about my friend on Twitter, Nash, also known as Tesla in the Gong, and his contactless Model 3 delivery experience. In his video, Nash explained what his vehicle was for. He bought it to use for Evee, an electric vehicle sharing platform similar to Turo, but only for EVs and based in Australia. This led to an interview with Evee’s CEO and Founder, Slava Kozlovskii.
One key point from the interview below is that Tesla, despite its higher price in Australia, is dominating the electric vehicle rental space. Regarding the price, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has voiced his thought that he’d like the prices to be lower so that more people can buy a Tesla.
“The thing that bugs me the most is that our cars are not affordable enough. We need to fix that. We want to be slightly positive and maximize growth, and make the cars as affordable as possible,” Elon said at Tesla’s Q2 2020 earnings call just last month.
Interview with Slava Kozlovskii
JC: What’s your story and how did Evee come about?
SK: I came to Australia from Russia in 2011 and after completing my MBA at the University of Technology Sydney I became obsessed with starting a business. Tesla’s own mission was a huge inspiration for me. I was extremely excited about what they were trying to achieve and make electric vehicles not only desirable, but a default type of car a consumer would want. The problem was (and still is) the upfront purchase price. Especially in Australia, a base “entry level” Tesla Model 3 costs close to A$80,000. When evee started the only option was a Tesla Model S at $130,000. As inspiring as Tesla’s mission was, it was unaffordable for the majority of people.
I remember one day following a Tesla Model S in my then-petrol car in Sydney and thinking “there must be a way for more people to experience what it’s like and get them excited about the future.” This is how the electric car rental idea came about. It was very easy on the paper, a lot harder to implement. Australia is seriously lagging in terms of EV adoption. Even today if we take an optimistic estimate of 20,000 for all Australian EVs (including PHEV), that is 0.1% out of the 19.8m total fleet. When I started evee in 2015, there were probably 500 Teslas sold in Australia altogether.
I was inevitably met with a great deal of apathy from the insurance and other industries. It was through sheer perseverance that we could achieve a financially viable and rapidly growing business model now.
The main motivation behind evee is to encourage people to try EVs and ultimately transition to their own electric car. We also simplify the choice of buying an EV for many owners by providing them with a rental income stream from their car. Having this income makes it much easier to justify the higher upfront cost of buying an EV. Our owners have received between $5,000 and $20,000 per year depending on location, pricing, and availability. This greatly offsets the ownership costs.
We’ve now seen the full cycle close up, with some of our early renters buying a Tesla to share it with others and continue spreading the experience. This is the kind of community we want to build where people share experiences and knowledge of driving electric.
My personal motivation stems from feeling strongly about leaving this planet a better place for my children. I would have probably given up after a year of seeing very little progress if that piece of the puzzle wasn’t there.
JC: Evee is similar to Turo here, but Turo allows all types of vehicles. From the name and looking at your website, I see Evee is exclusive to electric vehicles. Do these include all types of EVs or only a certain type? Also, can someone with a hybrid EV apply?
SK: At Evee, we focus on BEV only, no hybrids — zero petrol. Although hybrids are good to have a taste of electric drivetrain, the ultimate goal is still BEV that can be charged from renewable sources. We have consciously reduced our market to BEV only. The niche is relatively small, is the fastest-growing, and is the most ethical thing to focus on. It also gives us a competitive edge, as we can provide more customized service specific for electric cars, such as trip planning, charging incentives, specialized support.
We want to encourage the uptake of all EVs regardless of the brand. At different times we’ve had Nissan LEAF, BMW i3, Hyundai Ioniq, but the reality is that Tesla is dominating this space and is attracting more rentals despite higher prices. We’re looking forward to having more variety available as the market develops.
JC: If an EV owner were to want to apply, how would they do it? Also, is it available outside of Australia or do you have plans to expand internationally?
SK: Interested owners can list their vehicles here. Owners choose availability, set pricing, location, and delivery options. After listing the car we send an insurance quote to the owner. This insurance covers owners’ personal use of the vehicle and when it’s rented out. It is part of our fleet policy and needs to be switched to once there is a confirmed rental coming up. More on insurance here.
We take 25% of each rental to cover our operational and marketing costs.
Overseas expansion is definitely part of our plan. In the carsharing industry, it is more complicated by insurance limitations. Unlike other marketplaces that don’t need motor vehicle insurance in each jurisdiction, dealing with cars is more complex. Turo and GetAround paved the way in this sense in the US, but the Australian carsharing market is less developed and limited by the types and market values of cars. No other carsharing company in Australia is currently accepting Tesla or vehicles over $70,000 market value due to the insurance limitations. And that is most of the new EVs.
JC: I noticed on your website you have a statement that said, “Make your next adventure electric.” Does Evee have adventure ideas for tourists who want to explore electric vehicles?
SK: There are so many places to explore in Australia, I don’t even know where to start. … For a long time, the places to visit in an electric car were limited by the charging infrastructure. Hotels and wineries were some of the first to pick on the opportunity of attracting EV drivers by installing chargers on their premises. As the charging infrastructure has grown recently, more routes are now available. About a year ago we helped one of our customers complete the Australian part of his world tour. Pierpaolo (president of Tesla Owners Club Italy) traveled over 5,000 km in a matter of 3 weeks using one of our host’s vehicles.
We are also collaborating with Jaunt Motors and Charged Garage to bring the EV conversion experience to more people. These projects are still work in progress, but I am very excited about bringing them to life!
JC: Is Evee hiring, and if so, what are the most needed positions?
SK: Unfortunately, having been directly impacted by COVID-19 travel restrictions, we are not actively hiring. When opportunities become available, we will publish them on our LinkedIn page.
JC: What precautions are you taking now for Covid-19?
SK: First of all, we encourage hosts and renters to comply with the Australian COVID-19 guidelines from health authorities. In mid-March, we published our response to the situation, advising hosts and renters to take extra precautions, and many of them have followed by providing extra sanitization and touchless handovers. Although renting a vehicle does not contravene the government’s guidelines on social distancing and mass gatherings, some hosts are extra cautious and are refraining from renting out their vehicles until the situation stabilizes. We are very understanding of their decision.
From our end, we are providing additional flexibility for cancellations. Our general refund and cancellation policy does not apply for booking directly affected by the COVID restrictions.
Initially, we got severely impacted by the travel restrictions in April–May. Our rental days went down by 85%. However, in June we reached 80% of pre-COVID rental volume and exceeded the pre-COVID level in July. There is still uncertainty ahead of us. For example, the State of Victoria has recently gone into lockdown and travel activity has plummeted again. However, as a global society, we are learning how to live in this time and will come out better and stronger on the other side.
JC: Is there anything you would like the world to know?
SK: We are now raising our first round of capital. We received an initial investment tranche at the end of March, but the momentum slowed down due to the pandemic. As the situation stabilizes and the business is recovering, we are now looking to finalize the round. Interested investors can get in touch with me via LinkedIn.
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