Teslas may now be cheaper than your average gas-powered car, hitting a major tipping point for electric vehicle adoption in the United States, but most EVs are still an absolute pain to repair, not to mention incredibly expensive.
So expensive, that as a 2022 Forbes analysis shows fixing an EV can wind up costing more than buying a brand-new gas car, despite the price of new EVs decreasing. But why are EVs so difficult and expensive to fix?
As the CEO and co-founder of Santa Ana, California-based startup, Kinetic, Nikhil Naikal recently described for the blog for the Silicon Valley technology research and advisory firm Constellation Research, “If you strip down an electric car, half of it is what it used to be – brakes, tires, steering column — the other half isn't the same. The drive trains are different, there's more compute, more sensors, more self-driving.” He added, “The infrastructure that is needed for repair and maintenance is going to be rethought and reimagined just because of the makeup of these new cars.”
That’s why Kinetic is embarking on that reimagining.
Last week, the company not only emerged from stealth mode but announced it secured $10 million in Series A funding and is launching a Las Vegas EV service hub, adding to its first hub in Orange County, California, which launched earlier this year in May and has already turned a profit. Eventually, the company hopes to create an entire network of these hubs.
Using an engineering team, artificial intelligence, and robotics, Kinetic wants to be the go-to shop for EV repairs, especially when the repair in question is the EV’s sensors.
As Forbes breaks down, not only are they expensive to replace, but “sensors tend to be located in areas that are likely to be damaged in a collision, like the bumpers or exterior mirrors.” However, Kinetic says that it's developed software that repairs and properly resets the sensors within mere minutes.
“We're seeing a fundamental change in the cars we drive,” Rachel Holt, co-founder and General Partner of Construct, which co-led the round, said in a statement. “Cars went from being complex physical machines to advanced software on wheels, yet our existing infrastructure isn't set up to handle this transition.”
So, Kinetic is working to establish that infrastructure with its 5,000 square feet of repair shops that in addition to repairing the physical aspects of EVs, goes beyond under the hood and into the lines of code, proliferating sensors, and reprogramming and recalibrating systems.
As the International Energy Agency estimates, this year, one in every five new cars sold will be electric, and with a 35% year-end increase, EVs are one of the few sectors that the agency reports are on track to reach goals set by its Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario.
However, if EV repairs remain as expensive, if not more, than buying a new gas-powered car, the progress made by the electric vehicle industry, and ignited by the EV-related incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, will cease if buyers go back to gas.
Nevertheless, Naikal is confident in the startup’s process. According to Axios, in addition to building out its own network of hubs, Kinetic says it's working with repair shops and dealerships to integrate its software, and has plans to work with fleet operators in the future.
“Our AI-enabled solution is 10x better than anything in the industry and steadily improving with more data,” the CEO said via a LinkedIn post. “We have done hundreds of sensor calibrations at our Orange County facility, which we launched in July of this year,” he added, writing “This is just the beginning of a new Infra-as-a-Service for modern mobility!”
Co-led by Lux Capital and Construct Capital, the round also saw participation from early-stage venture funds including Haystack Ventures Automotive Ventures, and SHAKTI Ventures.