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Mobile EV charging can eliminate 'charging deserts,' SparkCharge CEO says

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SparkCharge Founder & CEO Josh Aviv joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss electric vehicle (EV) charging through the company’s ‘Roadie’ mobile app, growth, and the outlook for on-demand charging.

Video transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, about 4% of new cars sold last year in the US were electric. That's up 50% from 2020. And their popularity is only growing. But what do you do when you run out of juice? Our next guest has a solution in the form of portable chargers. Let's bring in SparkCharge founder and CEO, Josh Aviv. And Yahoo Finance's Pras Subramanian also here with us at the desk. Josh, it's great to talk to you. Let's start with the model that SparkCharge offers, because I think this is a really interesting one. We talk about stationary chargers. Yours is portable, but also includes a subscription service.

JOSH AVIV: Absolutely. Yeah, and thank you guys for having me on the episode today. At SparkCharge, we've basically created a way for electric vehicle owners to have their car charged any time and anywhere they want. And with our mobile app, currently, an EV owner can, with the push of a button, have range delivered to them any time and anywhere they want, at home, at work, on the go. It really opens up a brand new way of EV charging that makes life far more convenient.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: Hey, Josh, Pras here. So you guys announced some new funding today, $23 million. What are you going to do with that money? Where do you plan on expanding and things like that?

JOSH AVIV: Absolutely. I mean, we want to be in over 20 cities over the next couple of months. We're already in LA, San Francisco, San Jose, in Dallas, Texas. We'll be opening up Boston here pretty soon and another city a couple of months after that. But this funding is really to help us scale that network so that in every city, an EV owner can, with the push of a button, have range delivered anywhere they want.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: So would you say the business model is more about providing that service to communities that are underserved? Or is there also a secondary usage here, where people are sort of, they run out of juice on the road?

JOSH AVIV: Yeah, so our business model with the currently platform is really around opening up convenience. So I believe 60% of all the people who use our mobile app actually get range delivered to their house. Another 40% actually get range delivered to where they work, their job. And the beauty of that is the fact that you can schedule that charge. So you can be on your way out the door, push a button, and have range waiting for you at your office. You can be on your way from the grocery store and have range waiting for you at your home. And that really opens up the door to the flexibility where the EV owner doesn't have to worry about where, when, and how they charge their car.

One of the things that's come out of that is the fact that when we go into a city, we blanket it with energy. So we're not just putting one pole in the ground. We are literally putting a coverage of energy in that city. And what we found is that there's a lot of communities that sometimes get left out or what we like to call charging deserts, where, essentially, low income communities don't have access to EV charging and are barred from the green economy. But when we think about mobile charging, it removes all those barriers for every community and every EV owner.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Josh, serious question, but before I get there, I just want to ask quickly, I understand that you're a Syracuse alum. I am, too. You factually founded this idea from your dorm room? What dorm hall were you in?

JOSH AVIV: So when I founded this idea, it was Booth Hall.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Booth, OK. I was a Brewster guy. So I guess the juices weren't flowing, at least, in that dorm hall. But on a serious note, I want to ask you, obviously, the ecosystem of these types of charging infrastructures is very different now than perhaps when you were ideating this in your dorm room. How exactly do you feel you fit in within the universe of chargers out there? Because there are some that are targeting certain types of retail locations, some that are superchargers on the roadside along the major highways. How do you think you fit into that ecosystem?

JOSH AVIV: Absolutely. So I mean, when you think about it, as the electric vehicle market has grown, so has SparkCharge. So when you think about the fact that when you're talking about these retail locations, sometimes they're only putting one or two charging stations in the ground. And that's really not enough to service the amount of EV owners that are going to be hitting the roads.

On top of that, our technology is often, sometimes, 8 to 14 times faster than the infrastructure that's already previously been installed, especially with level 2. And when we think about where our technology is going, our charging stations are going to be faster than a Tesla destination supercharger, right? And they're going to be able to be delivered to you, regardless of where you're at. And when we think about how trends follow and how society moves, if you can make something more convenient and more cost affordable, then that's typically the route that people go. And we believe that mobile charging will be the dominant way that people charge their car going forward.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, Josh, you mentioned Tesla. I thought it was interesting you also have a partnership with Kia for these two-month subscriptions. And it seems like, increasingly, it's that-- those two pieces that need to come together. You purchase a car, knowing that the charging station is going to be there. You guys use lithium ion batteries to power the chargers. What does the supply look like for you right now? We've heard a lot about the huge demand in lithium, whether, in fact, that demand can be met. What are you seeing in your pipeline?

JOSH AVIV: Absolutely. I mean, really, what it comes down to is relationships, right? I think that's really what's going to be the biggest differentiator when it comes to lithium ion supply, making sure you have a relationship with that supplier. From the SparkCharge standpoint, we've been in this industry for a number of years. And what we've really seen is that back in the day, you could place an order for a pallet of lithium ion cells and maybe get it within a couple of months, right?

Now you really have to plan that a little bit further out, almost six to eight months out in advance, really trying to figure out your supply chains, that you always have product available. We manufacture every single product here in the United States in Buffalo, New York. We've manufactured here stateside from the beginning of the inception of the company.

And so, we've really been able to be fortunate where if someone wants our product, we can ship it out right away. We're not waiting for it to be put on a boat and brought over here. We manufacture it here directly. And so, that's something that we're proud of. But to answer your question, it's really about forecasting and getting ahead of supply chain. And that's how we've been able to stay ahead today.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: Hey, Josh, so you guys raised money from Mark Cuban, one of your early investors. What's it like working with him? And you actually went on "Shark Tank," too. What was that whole experience like for you?

JOSH AVIV: Absolutely. Yeah, working with Mark has been phenomenal. And the "Shark Tank" family has been absolutely great. When we think about it, going on "Shark Tank," our goal was to really bring the conversation of electric vehicles into the homes of millions of people. And we were extremely successful doing that, right? I mean, the outpouring that we've gotten from people supporting that episode, I think to date, it's one of the highest rated episodes. About 3.6 million people tuned in for that season opener, and I think we've got other millions that have been shared via social media with views.

So it's been absolutely phenomenal. And working with Mark, he's been absolutely great. I mean, working with him, his team, you send him an email, he always gets back to you. He's always there for advice. And he owns a couple of electric vehicles. So, you know, he truly believes in this market. So it's just been a pleasure working with him.

BRIAN CHEUNG: All right, SparkCharge founder and CEO, Josh Aviv, and Yahoo Finance's Pras Subramanian-- go Orange, by the way. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

JOSH AVIV: Go Orange, brother.

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