[Image above] Credit: DriveAutonomy, YouTube
For emissions-conscious drivers who are considering swapping their gas-guzzling vehicles for electric cars, two top concerns for potential buyers are the availability of public chargers and the cost of the cars themselves. While the United States government is allocating significant funds to address the first concern, the second concern remains a big hurdle.
According to Kelly Blue Book, the average electric car price in the United States hit $66,000 in June 2022, an increase of 13.7% compared to a year ago. Even with tax credits for buyers of electric vehicles included in the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, the requirements to qualify for credit are extremely limiting and will not help the majority of would-be buyers.
In light of this hurdle to ownership, a California startup is pitching an alternative vision for achieving widespread EV adoption—an electric vehicle subscription service.
Santa Monica-based Autonomy is the rebranded name of NextCar Holding Company, a vehicle subscription platform that originally launched in October 2020. In January 2022, NextCar founders Scott Painter and Georg Bauer officially rebranded the company after acquiring the Autonomy brand and IP brand library from Micro Focus.
Autonomy pitches the vision that its EV subscription service will allow anyone to drive electric without the long-term commitment of a traditional loan or lease. Subscribers need only pay a $500 security deposit plus a flexible initial fee and then will pay customized monthly payments to drive an electric vehicle of their choice from the Autonomy fleet.
The Autonomy subscription covers title, registration, routine maintenance (e.g., tires, brakes, and wipers), emergency roadside assistance, and liability insurance coverage common with leasing agreements. However, unlike leasing agreements, which typically require a minimum commitment of two or three years, Autonomy’s contract only requires a commitment of three months, after which consumers can deactivate their subscription at any time with 28 days’ notice.
Autonomy also just teamed up with Digisure, a provider of software for screening, claims administration, and insurance, to launch a month-to-month car insurance coverage option for subscribers.
“Being able to provide Autonomy subscribers with fully digital auto coverage that’s month to month, without them having to buy annual insurance and is tailored to their needs, is core to delivering on our promise of providing easy and affordable access to electric vehicles,” says Scott Painter, Autonomy co-founder and CEO, in a press release.
Autonomy’s fleet initially consisted of Tesla’s Model 3 sedan, but the company has since made deals with other companies including General Motors and Ford Motor Co., as well as expanded to other Tesla models. Currently, subscribers looking to switch to a different car in the fleet have to pay another initial fee, but North Bay Business Journal reports that Autonomy is considering implementing a $250 switching fee instead for those who want to try something different.
For now, Autonomy subscriptions are offered only in California. However, Autonomy aims to expand nationwide, and the company recently partnered with automotive retailer AutoNation to help support its geographic as well as electric vehicle product expansion.