Last week, mobile charging battery company SparkCharge announced a partnership agreement with AllState that extends the company’s reach to vehicle services, taking the company further down the road towards its goal of recharging from electric vehicles the next gig economy job.
The company, which has developed, designed and markets a mobile vehicle charger, is also closing a $ 5 million round led by Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban and others as it markets its new device. mobile charging station, called Roadie. .
SparkCharge’s 120 kilowatt fast charger can be delivered on demand through a partner network that now includes AllState and Spiffy, the vehicle services start-up from Durham, North Carolina. Customers can choose to charge anywhere from 50 miles to 100 charge miles using the Roadie, which is the hub of a larger charging network that SparkCharge founder Joshua Aviv envisions.
“You can tell I want a charge right now in this place and at such a distance,” Aviv said. “You pay and receive the fees in one single application.”
So far, the deal between AllState and SparkCharge covers four cities: Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, California, and the insurance and roadside assistance provider has ordered around 20 portable chargers.
Working with companies like Spiffy and AllState is one way to access the market, but the CEO of SparkCharge believes freelancers could start their own businesses by offering on-demand billing to customers.
The on-demand charge costs around 50 cents per mile, and a customer can get a sufficiently large fee for as little as $ 10, according to Aviv.
“We are fundamentally creating a whole new [charging] network, ”Aviv said. “This is not a network intended to be a stopgap. It is an always active network, always available and better and faster than [traditional chargers]… We don’t need a permit, we don’t need construction. With our device, you take it out of the box, plug it into the car, push a button and start charging. With us, every parking space, every location – it’s now a charging station. It’s a much better network than the old one. “
People who wanted to offer the charging services would pay around $ 450 per month for the equipment, which would give them the battery and equipment they would need to start their own on-demand electric vehicle charging business.
“It’s a business designed to empower people to serve electric vehicle owners,” Aviv said.
The Somerville, Massachusetts-based company was born out of Aviv’s fascination and frustration with the current state of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
As the Wall Street Journal noted, the lack of charging infrastructure is one of the main hurdles electric vehicles must overcome to achieve mass adoption.
In a survey of 3,500 electric vehicle drivers, cited by the Journal, which was conducted in September and October last year by advocacy group Plug In America, more than half of those polled said they had problems. with public charging. These problems are worse for drivers who do not own Teslas.
Regardless, of the EV built by Elon (with thousands of workers and a host of additional innovators and company founders), Tesla’s focus on charging infrastructure primarily adequate to support its customers paid off. And other automakers, retailers and autonomous charging service providers are only beginning to catch up.
Companies ranging from oil majors like Shell to automakers like Volkswagen, which have spent $ 2 billion to build an electric vehicle charging network as part of its diesel emissions chicanery settlement, have networks built or in preparation.
For Aviv, who has owned an electric vehicle since 2013 when he bought a Chevrolet Volt, the problem was clear. He started working for the company in 2014 while still a student at Syracuse University. A professor and university advisor had previously served on the board of directors of the Environmental Protection Agency and was a strong advocate for electric vehicles.
After college, Aviv continued to work on the business by developing a portable charging station, then building a distribution and sales platform and a network of service providers on top of that. This is how SparkCharge was built.
Initially, the company received help from groups like the Los Angeles Clean Technology Incubator and investors like Techstars Boston, Techstars, Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest fund and his Revolution investment firm, PEAK6 Investments, and the Buffalo, New York-based accelerator. 46North, with investors like Cuban.
“I saw that the current [charging] the infrastructure we have has a lot of flaws, ”Aviv said. They include the downtime between maintenance of the charging infrastructure, the time required to develop the charging network, and the lack of maintenance and support for chargers.
“There is tremendous pressure to move these chargers,” he said. “You don’t want these electric vehicle drivers driving around a city without any infrastructure guarantees. It’s an interesting tug of war unfolding that we’re going to see unfold and consumers might be more persuaded to drive an electric vehicle. [with SparkCharge] because not only can you offer autonomy, but you can request it on demand. “