Sunil Paul, the chief executive of startup Spring Free EV, wants to make it easier for everyone in America to own an electric vehicle. Now, his company has a massive partnership with Cox Automotive to make that happen.
The two companies are starting with the small business owners operating fleets of cars for the gig and marketplace economy. These are folks who rent cars on Turo, own fleets of vehicles for Uber and Lyft drivers, and are making deliveries happen for Postmates, Seamless and others.
"This could be anybody from someone in Austin, Tex. that has 100 vehicles that are all gas powered, enabling them to scale up their electric fleet… Or someone who has a small fleet of electric vehicles who wants to expand," says Paul. "They go out and buy a small fleet of vehicles and then they run out of personal credit.. If you’ve got five vehicles and you want to grow to ten or twenty or fifty… its’ hard to do and hard finance."
Working with all of the Cox Automotive businesses, Spring Free EV wants to make that process easier. Through the deal, Spring Free EV is getting access to business units including Autotrader, Dealer.com, Dealertrack, Dickinson Fleet Services, Kelley Blue Book, Manheim, NextGear Capital, VinSolutions, vAuto, and Xtime,
"Cox has lots of elements to it," Paul says. "They have so many different arms fo the business, we’re specifically working with them on being able to acquire, condition, and inspect vehicles. Then we're taking delivery of vehicles to fleet managers. It was really around how do we make the experience of fleet manager as seamless as possible."
Spring Free EV makes the process seamless by buying the cars upfront and then providing them to fleet owners who pay for the cars based on the amount of miles driven.
"They can use this mileage purchase agreement that takes advantage of the fact that electric vehicles don’t cost much to operate but cost more upfront," Paul said. "We charge a small fee per mile to reduce the capital servicing costs."
As gig economy jobs expand, Paul expects more fleet managers to turn to its services -- and then get those EVs in the hands of more consumers.
Paul and Spring Free EV estimate that probably 20% of all operators on gig services are managing small fleets -- amounting to about 10,000 small business owners in the U.S. managing fleets through the gig economy.
"There’s a broader symbolism here that companies that have been mostly focused on gas powered cars are now increasingly focused on electric," Paul said. "They see the opportunity to extend their business to EVs."