Josh Aviv wants to help you get over your “range anxiety” if you’re still not sure about electric cars.
That’s how electric vehicle owners and potential buyers feel when they worry that their car won’t have enough battery power to get where it needs to go. But what if you didn’t have to look for a charging station? What if you could call someone to meet you wherever you are and charge your car?
This is the idea behind SparkCharge, which Aviv started in 2017 in Somerville, Massachusetts. The company makes portable battery chargers that can be sent to your house or wherever your car needs a charge.
The company’s 30-year-old co-founder and CEO, Aviv, tells CNBC Make It, “You can choose the time, the place, the vehicle, and how much range you want, and with the push of a button, it comes to you.” “So, you can now get fuel delivered to your car the same way you order food from Uber Eats or GrubHub.”
There are more electric cars on the road now than ever before. In 2021, a record 6.6 million electric cars will be sold, which is twice as many as were sold the year before.
But range anxiety and worries about where to find charging stations are still the top two reasons why more people don’t buy EVs, according to a report from Ernst and Young that surveyed more than 13,000 people around the world and came out in May 2022.
A lot of people agree with Aviv’s idea. SparkCharge has raised about $30 million from investors like Mark Cuban, Tale Venture Partners, and the rapper Pusha-T. In 2020, Aviv pitched SparkCharge on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” Cuban and Lori Greiner both put in $1 million for a 10% stake in the company.
Aviv says that the investments have made SparkCharge worth about $110 million right now. Aviv says that the company has already made deals with big companies like Kia Motors, Hertz, and Uber and is on track to make $10 million in sales this year.
How things work
Subscribers to SparkCharge in 121 U.S. cities can schedule a charging time with the click of a button.
Even if you don’t subscribe, you can still pay $39.99 for a one-time charge that the company says will be sent to you within 90 minutes.
In either case, a technician brings portable Roadie charging units to your car, whether it’s parked at your home, office, or just about anywhere else. The app’s FAQ page says that you can’t call the service if your car dies on the side of a highway.
You don’t even have to meet the technician at your car, as long as they can get to the charging port.
Aviv says that the Roadie units can add up to 100 miles to a car’s range in less than two hours. They charge at a rate of about one mile per minute. SparkCharge is counting on the convenience of the service to make up for the fact that it can only charge your car to 80% of its capacity.
Packages for subscriptions cost anywhere from $5 to $30 per month. At the cheapest level, $0.69 per kilowatt-hour is what you pay (kWh). With the most expensive plan, that price goes down to $0.51 per kWh.
AAA says that the average price of 16 gallons of gas is now close to $50. At SparkCharge’s highest price, it would cost $22.08 to charge a 40 kWh EV battery to 80% of its capacity.
“We can put energy all over that whole city.”
In 2014, when Aviv was an economics major at Syracuse University, he came up with the idea for mobile EV charging. During an environmental economics class, his teacher told the class, “If you want to solve a big problem for the whole world, solve the problem of infrastructure for electric vehicles,” Aviv remembers.
The teacher told any students who were interested to meet after class if they wanted to take him up on the challenge.
Aviv says, “I was the only one who showed up to meet with him.”
Aviv was able to get into Syracuse’s Blackstone LaunchPad innovation program because of his idea for a portable charging system. In 2017, he won $4,500 in a college startup pitch contest to build prototypes of what would become the Roadie charging units. This was the first time someone gave him money to help him with his idea.
After a year, SparkCharge won $1 million at the annual tech accelerator 43North pitch competition.
The company spent the next few years making improvements to Roadie’s designs. The first shipments began in the middle of 2021. It says it is on track to give customers battery power for more than 1 million miles this year.
In 2023, Aviv wants to open up in more cities, such as San Diego, Phoenix, and New York City. Because the company is mobile, it can set up shop in a new city in just a few weeks, he says.
Aviv says, “We can be up and running in a city in less than 14 days.” “We can put energy all over that whole city.”
This story has been changed to say that non-subscribers can pay $39.99 to schedule a one-time SparkCharge appointment.