Australian start-up makes a virtue, and a business, out of EV test drives
A Sydney-based electric car hire startup called Evee is making the task of choosing zero emissions transport when travelling as easy as, well, hiring a car.
Using a website with an interface as intuitive as major disruptors like Airbnb, Australian travellers can book and pick up an electric car, either for travel or to simply try one out.
Created by CEO and founder Slava Kozlovskii, Evee is a peer-to-peer network that also allows owners of electric cars to hire out their vehicles and make a return on their eco-friendly investment.
Kozlovskii has been growing Evee since 2016, when he saw an opportunity in offering Tesla cars on Autopilot as a service to run commuters between Sydney and Canberra.
“The idea was that you would commute between Sydney and Canberra, 95% on autopilot and pay less than flying on a plane. After taking a taxi to the airport and then from the airport it takes 2.5 hours, and the drive is 3 hours, so that’s comparable,” he tells The Driven.
But even as little as two years ago Kozlovskii was ahead of his time, and he found that most people just wanted to rent an electric car. Using his own private Tesla Model S, increasing interest meant that there were soon overlaps in bookings so he decided to expand Evee using a peer-to-peer model.
Evee now has several EVs available from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra and now Kozlovskii finds that there are two types of customers using the service: test drivers and travellers.
“We have two major types of customers, those who want to try what it’s like to drive an electric car so they would rent for a couple of days. 5 of the people who rented from us ended up buying one.”
“A fifteen minutes test drive just wasn’t enough for them, they wanted to try for two or three days before committing to buy.”
“The other type of customers are those who travel from overseas, say from the UK or California, they just don’t want to compromise anymore on renting an ICE cae. These customers go on road trips, travel from Sydney to Brisbane and back, to Melbourne and back, it’s mainly long distance travel.”
Kozlovskii say that keeping the cars charged on the road has not been an issue for customers, except for one time.
“So far out of 400+ rentals we only had one, when the car was returned with like 2km range left on it which was really tight,” he says, laughing.
With 95% of hires at the moment going to Tesla vehicles (which have superior range over other EVs currently available in Australia), the Tesla supercharger network services trips from Brisbane to Adelaide with ease.
“We haven’t really had any issues, we provide adapters where possible. Destination charging is growing as well, there’s several hundred of them now, soit hasn’t been an issue. When customers try the car for a few days they realise that charging is not such a big concern,” Kozlovskii says.
While many of the hires so far have been Teslas, Armidale-based Evee customer Matthew (who owns two electric cars at home, a Nissan Leaf and a converted Hilux) has used Evee six times now, at first hiring Teslas, but has found that Evee’s Nissan Leaf has been more suitable for getting around Sydney when he visits family.
Choosing the airport pickup option for an additional fee rather than meeting the owner at their location made it easy and just like using an ICE hire company, Matthew says.
“In the beginning we hired [a Tesla] just for fun but because we’re just looking at transport for a family, the Nissan Leaf option was cheaper and more practical, and comparable with going to Avis.”
“We did it at least three times because we went to the airport and it was just like going to Thrifty rent-a-car, the rate was really cheap and totally comparable,” Matthew tells The Driven.
Renting from Evee has also proven a better experience for customers because, says Kozlovskii, ICE hire companies haven’t in some cases trained their staff in how electric cars work.
In one instance, he says a customer rented from an ICE hire company and “the staff didn’t really know that much about the car, they didn’t know about the charging – the car wasn’t fully charged”.
“Then he rented from a private owner, met the owner and all the questions that he had were answered directly by the person who knows the car best! This personal interaction help resolve or lot of questions an issues,” Kozlovskii says.
For electric car owners, Evee presents an opportunity for those wanting to recoup some of the higher cost of buying an EV.
“Owners can get back about 5% of the market value of a car a year. A Tesla could earn anywhere between $5-15,000 a year,” he says (this is based on an average of 50 days a year hire).
With Evee now established in Australia (Kozlovskii admits they were a little ahead of the curve but now the market is catching up!), the EV rental company is now inviting new EV owners to come on board, and is also branching out into the USA.
With an official launch for the US in the final stages of organisation, there are also already 3 vehicles available in Los Angeles for hire.