Startup aims to make charging your EV easier than delivering

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If you’re on the fence about electric vehicles, Josh Aviv wants to alleviate one of your top concerns: “range anxiety.”

That’s the nervous feeling electric vehicle owners or potential buyers have when they’re worried that their electric vehicle won’t have enough battery to reach its destination. But what if, instead of looking for a charging station, you could call someone to assist you and charge your car wherever you are?

That’s the idea behind SparkCharge, Aviv’s startup based in Somerville, Massachusetts, which launched in 2017. The company makes portable battery charging units that can be delivered to your door or wherever your car needs charging.

“You can select the time, the location, choose your vehicle, how much range you want, and with the push of a button, it’s brought to you,” said Aviv, the company’s 30-year-old co-founder and CEO. CNBC do it. “So the same way you would order food from Uber Eats or GrubHub, it’s the same way you can now have power brought to your vehicle.”

There are more electric vehicles on the road today than ever before – with a record 6.6 million sold in 2021, double the previous year’s total.

But range anxiety and concerns about the availability of local charging stations are still the two main factors keeping more people from jumping on the EV bandwagon, according to a May 2022 report by Ernst and Young that polled more than 13,000 people around the world.

Aviv’s idea generated a lot of support. SparkCharge raised around $30 million from investors including Mark Cuban, Tale Venture Partners and rapper Pusha-T. In 2020, Aviv launched SparkCharge on ABC’s “Shark Tank”, where Cuban and Lori Greiner teamed up to commit $1 million for a 10% equity stake in the company.

Investments currently value SparkCharge at around $110 million, says Aviv. The company has already secured partnerships with big brands like Kia Motors, Hertz and Uber – and is on track to generate $10 million in revenue this year, adds Aviv.

How it works

SparkCharge subscribers in 121 US cities can schedule a charging appointment with the click of a button.

If you don’t sign up, you can still request a one-time charge of $39.99, which the company promises will be delivered within 90 minutes.

Either way, a technician takes Roadie Portable Charging Units to your car, whether it’s parked at your home, your office, or anywhere else. The service cannot be called if your car dies on the side of a highway, according to the SparkCharge app’s FAQ page.

You don’t even have to find the technician in your car, as long as he can access the car’s charging port.

Roadie units can provide up to 160 kilometers of additional range in less than two hours, charging at a rate of about one kilometer per minute, says Aviv. The service can only charge your car up to 80% capacity, so SparkCharge is banking on convenience being worth it.

Subscription packages range from $5 to $30 per month. At the cheapest tier, you pay $0.69 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). That price drops to $0.51 per kWh with the most expensive subscription.

The average cost of 16 gallons of gasoline is currently close to $50, according to AAA. Charging a 40kWh EV battery to 80% capacity would cost as much as $22.08, at SparkCharge’s highest advertised rate.

‘We can cover the whole city with energy’

Aviv first came up with the idea for mobile EV charging in 2014 when he was an economics student at Syracuse University. During an environmental economics class, his professor announced to the class: ‘If you want to solve a big problem for the world, solve the infrastructure problem for electric vehicles,'” recalls Aviv.

The teacher invited all interested students to take the challenge after class.

“I was the only person who showed up and met with him,” says Aviv.

The idea of ​​a portable charging system eventually landed Aviv a place in Syracuse’s Blackstone LaunchPad innovation program. In 2017, he received his first financial backing, winning $4,500 in a university competition to build prototypes of what would become Roadie charging units.

A year later, SparkCharge won $1 million in the annual competition hosted by technology accelerator 43North.

The company spent the next few years perfecting the Roadie’s designs, starting deliveries in mid-2021. This year, it says it’s on track to deliver more than 1 million miles of battery power to customers.

Aviv hopes to expand to more cities – including San Diego, Phoenix and New York – in 2023. The company’s mobility helps establish a presence in a new city in a matter of weeks, he adds.

“We can be up and running in a city in less than 14 days,” says Aviv. “We can cover the whole city with energy.”

This story has been updated to reflect that non-subscribers can request a one-time SparkCharge appointment for $39.99 USD.

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”

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