A Gig Business No One Has Ever Heard About

I’m sharing this bizIDEA because I own and operate Teslas for a business and I need this service. I don’t want to build this business, I don’t have the time or money. But, I would certainly use it if it existed! Maybe this is YOUR next gig opportunity? If it is, get ready to move fast!

So what’s the new gig bizIDEA?

Create a new type of business dedicated to providing services for electric cars. It does for EVs what gas stations and mechanics do for cars today, sort of , but with a few twists. And those twists are why gas stations cannot do what this business of the future will do. Read on.

bizIDEA: The Details

To understand what this new Gig business is, and how you can start one, you need to know about a few things you may not have considered before.

  1. People will be running electric cars in rideshare fleets. Why? The simple reason is that they are the cheapest (read, most profitable) way to run a rideshare car. Cheap fuel, cheap to maintain, lasts longer, better resale.
  2. Rideshare fleets are going to become autonomous. That’s right. It’s happening, get over it and deal with it. You will be riding in one in 2 years if you live in an urban area. Eventually, everywhere there is Uber.
  3. Electric cars need to be charged to run. Here is the opportunity.

That last part is the new Gig business opportunity. Stay with me here.

Charging: what you need to know

If you do not own or operate an electric car, you need to understand the what, where, how, and why of charging. Charging is the key to this new business opportunity.

  1. Electric cars today can go well over 300 miles on a single charge. Soon, that will be over 500. A typical 8 hour driving shift usually consists of around 200 miles of driving.
  2. Electric cars can be charged anywhere. I mean anywhere there is electricity. The power of the charger is variable.
  3. Electric cars require time to charge. That means a place where they can be parked while the charging takes place. This is not an ‘issue’ in fact, it is the best thing about them.
  4. Electric cars do not ‘look’ for charging stations like you would a gas station. They expect to be charged while they are parked (read, not being used). That includes at home, at the store, at work. Electric car owners will never ‘go to’ a gas station. That is just not how it works.
  5. A rideshare driver using an electric car would expect that the car’s battery is fully charged at the start of every shift and will be low at the end of it. Never ‘filling up’ while driving but having a full tank anytime they get into it and enough battery charge to drive the entire shift.

Charging devices: there are two types

AC Chargers. This is could be a heavier 220v wall outlet (used to power ovens, dryers, etc.) at home. Just plug the car into a 220v socket and the car will recharge overnight. About 99% of all current public chargers are this type, except for Tesla Superchargers. These are called Level 1 or Level 2 chargers.

DC Fast Chargers. These chargers can charge a car fast. Like, from 0 to 100 percent charge in an hour fast. Tesla superchargers are this type and there are new private company fast chargers coming online. These are called Level 3 chargers and are usually reserved for long distance travelers. They require lots of equipment and space. They’d be very expensive to install if someone would even sell you one. Which they won’t.

TaaS: the changing world of transportation

Here’s the big picture. As the world moves from us owning cars, to simply using them as a service when we need them, Transportation as a Service (TaaS) will create new Gig Economy business opportunities. Click to read more about what’s ahead for TaaS.

An electric car that’s used for ridesharing, whether with a driver (e.g., Uber, Lyft) or as a robot (autonomous car), needs to park somewhere and routinely be charged.

In fact, this is reality for everyone who owns an electric car. They need a readily available, convenient place to park it and charge it.

How are needs being met now?

An individual driver can do this very economically just from their own home. Problem solved… as long as the car is driven no more than 8 hours a day and the rest of the time it’s charging on a 220v outlet.

A business that runs a fleet of cars, or an individual that simply owns a robotaxi, needs this to happen too. As does anyone who rents out their EV car through peer-to-peer sharing sites like Turo.

For EV owners living in an apartment building, a big city high rise, or a house with no available 220v outlet, it’s tough to make this very simple management task happen. But, this is a requirement for EV ownership. Owners have to solve this problem.

So, there is the potential market for a new gig business designed to meet the specific needs of these EV owners. It has huge growth potential, as the demand for EV charging services grows, as more and more EVs are on the road.

Can you build a business model to meet TaaS-generated market needs?

What does this business do?

Let’s take a look at the customers, who they are, where they live, and what they need.

The electric cars we’re talking about servicing are being operated for a profit, or, they’re private cars that need a place to park and charge so they’re ready for personal use the next day.

Here’s the list of EV owners that comes to mind.

  • City dwellers, who need the car ready to take them to work tomorrow.
  • Turo hosts, who need the car charged and ready for the next rental.
  • Rideshare drivers, who need the car ready to drive the next shift.
  • Robotaxis, operating 24x7x365, whose owners want the car on the road as much as possible.

What services does this business provide?

Charging, parking, and most likely, cleaning as well. All handled for a price instead of direct management effort by the owners. Perhaps delivered in a unique environment, with WiFi that enables automatic software updates (Teslas). Perhaps with access to extended maintenance services (tire rotations, purchases, detailing, body work, etc.)

The writing’s on the wall and companies of all sizes, around the world, are seeing this rising opportunity. Some are beginning to respond. Iberdrola, a Spanish company, took out this info ad in the Financial Times.

Espen Hauge, president of the European Association for Electromobility and also of the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association, notes that “the next hurdle to be overcome [now that issues related to the number of EVs and battery range are resolving] is the lack of charge points. For the market to really take off from here, “we need more charging infrastructure,” says Hauge. “In Norway, which has one of the highest penetrations of EVs, it’s becoming a problem because we’re starting to have a lot more cars on the road. If we don’t have fast charging facilities, there are going to be queues.”

Coming: Big Company solutions

Some existing big companies are going after this market. Why would you bother, right? How can you compete? Well, it’s possible this service business sector will be done better by small organizations than large ones, or at least as well as services delivered by the big guys. Here is why.

Large Lot Service Centers

Delivering parking and charging could be solved by having a huge car lot, like a rental car lot at the airport. No doubt. You get economies of scale and re-use infrastructure for a new purpose (which you have to do because you won’t be renting very many cars in a Robotaxi world).

Car rental companies are scrambling now to manage the impact of rideshare competition. Who’s going to need an Uber with a person (if it even exists) or rent a car if the Robotaxi takes you where you want to go, probably for less cost?

Large lots can still have a play but they have one fundamental issue: they are not in the cities or suburbs, where most people are. They are at the airport, which is usually located some distance from the central business district. Their potential customers are arriving passengers. That’s it.

And currently, their customer base is limited to travelers who need to rent a car. What happens when most travelers who currently rent a car switch to Robotaxis. Can Big Lots provide the services efficiently that Robotaxis need and add a new customer base?

Even if big lots remain the staging area for Robotaxis, it will take a lot of time for the cars to return back again to the lots after they’ve completed their shifts. These lots will exist, don’t get me wrong, but it seems likely they will only serve FLEETS, not individual owners, of EV cars.

The exception would be Turo owners who could operate their assets from these lots if there remains the need for rental cars or there are other benefits to basing their autonomous car near the airport. In limited locations, there are lots today that cater to meeting the needs of electric cars and Turo owners.

Picking up a Turo car from Fine Airport Parking Lot today.

What about Small Lot Service Centers?

These would be lots located in and around urban areas. Sounds like any gas station, right? Am I right? Wrong.

Gas stations are located on busy street corners, usually with a convenience store in the same lot. They are built for high volume, high traffic, and virtually anyone can enter at any time. All bad for a scenario where the business is dedicated to meeting EV owners’ specific needs.

Parking lots are no better unless they can have designated areas set aside and dedicated for EV purposes. What would it look like?

You would need a safe location (fenced/with security) where cars can be parked for an extended period of time. A lot big enough to move cars around to the chargers as needed (after charging, most cars may park for some time). A car wash would be a nice touch, but not necessary. For someone looking for “a splash” of charge or a rideshare driver using an EV, a nice place to hang out while waiting would be great. These small lots would be located near where people live or where they go as a destination, but not along their driving route. That is critically important to understand.

Labor Requirements at Lots

There is labor involved in all but the most automated systems. Why? Well because the cars need to be cleaned, charged, and then moved to a parking spot. Other manual jobs will probably exist: minor maintenance, car check-in and out, monitoring car conditions, and reporting to owners. There is more I am sure.

Big Fleet operators will be doing this themselves, for their fleets, in big giant fleet lots. We are not talking about them; we talking about how you compete with them.

The number one labor requirement is, PLUG IT IN!

It’s worth repeating: the number one labor requirement is, PLUG IT IN! Fleet operators will be having robots do it.

Electrify America Robot Charging Station

This is Electrify America’s idea. They were created by a $2,000,000,000 fined levied against VW for the dieselgate scandal. They were allowed to start a new company with that ‘fine’ money, however, their CEO is in jail.

But here’s the problem for the Big Boys.

Within the next decade, companies and fleet operators face a serious logistics dilemma: if the future is autonomous and electric, as some major automakers now argue, the only way this works smoothly is if the charging is as well-automated as the driving itself. 

They see the problem, too, and they are gearing up.

Electrify America is partnering with Stable Auto to actually build the robo-chargers. An individual could never afford to own or operate one of these things, for sure, but what is interesting is that they understand the problem. You need to understand the same problems the Big Boys identify and come up with different, manual solutions that are cheaper and get the job done just fine.

Stable Auto notes…

The challenge is that unlike refueling a gasoline car, it takes time and energy to charge an electric car, and there aren’t nearly enough chargers.

A fast-charger can consume about as much energy in a single day that the average American household does in 6 months. And, most chargers that are placed in homes, offices, malls, and grocery stores, are not useful for fleets; they’re too slow or inaccessible.

To operate efficiently and effectively, electric fleets need chargers along their main routes to stay close to the action, with the ability to access large amounts of power to charge quickly, and a guarantee that a charger will be available precisely when they need it.

All of these factors make the task of finding where to put chargers, and how to manage their load, very important and very hard.

The quote is absolutely correct, but they want to use a hammer to fix the problem when a screwdriver will do. Taxi companies were centrally managed to disperse, Uber is randomly dispersed. Which works better?

No exact location for the San Francisco station was provided (by Stable Auto), but the company said that it will be ready in 2020. The language used in the press announcement implies that the facility will likely serve commercial fleets like city- or utility company owned vehicles.

Electricity is about 1/5th the cost of gas. Anyone can get it, as much as they need. Install solar panels and you can actually make your own at home. You do not need to be a dealer or have connections with a big company or build out tanks and pumps. Your electrical plug or plugs (you are not limited) make you a ‘gas station‘. Really. How good of a ‘gas station’ you are depends completely on who you are selling to and what you are selling them.

Now to scale up, you need a beefier connection to the grid, but this is not a problem either. Every RV park you have ever seen has this capability built out already! Every one of them is ready-made to service hundreds of electric cars right now. Lot, parking, charge spots, location. RV OPPORTUNITY! If any RV park can do it, you can too.

Typical RV pedestal in a US RV park

This pedestal unit can be scaled up to charge any Level 1-2 type charging for any electric car made. Most ‘fill it up’ charge times would be 4 hours (for a Tesla) to 12 hours (for all others, e.g., a Chevy Bolt).

Why the difference in charging times? It’s totally depends on what the cars can take in, not what you can push out to them. For example: Teslas can take up to 350v at 50 amps. A Bolt can take 50v at 30 amps. A typical outlet works at 220 volts. What determines charge time is AMPS times VOLTS.

Small Lot Costs

This would be an asset-based business, in a sense. You could own (or long term lease) the lot and the charging infrastructure, and those assets would produce revenues. Labor requirements are minimal. This type of business could be scaled with multiple lots. It fits into Level 3 of Gig business types in that you (personally) can manage more than one at a time.

Costs include the land and improvements, charging ports and/or electrical connections. I am sure that there would be some level of marketing required to find customers, but I would imagine any customers that you do find would become recurring customers. You probably could only support a fixed number at any time anyway, so getting new customers once you are established would not be the highest priority. Not the typical gas station model at all.

Cost for electricity is varied by location and by connection type. But a typical amount is about $.11/Kwh (a Kwh is amps times volts delivered amount of electricity). An EV’s typical charge is usually about 40-70 Kw but a full charge from empty to full would be about 80Kw. Multiply the two and you get the cost for a charge. You take it from there… price accordingly.

Here’s an analysis from 2016 that’s still seems relevant today. Dig into these details.

They looked at a particular market, 100 mile by 100 mile grid over a simulated Austin, Texas, and they tried to figure out what it would take for a ‘Long Range Shared Autonomous Electric Vehicles’ (LRSAEV) fleet to take a 10% market share of all the trips in this grid. They estimated that you would need a fleet of 31,859 Tesla Model 3s and they even accounted for chargers. The study suggests that you would need 1,517 Level III chargers to support the fleet.

Here’s the structure of the rides in the market and different possible cost structures of the fleet:

And here’s the gold.

“Based on the mid-cost structure, the researchers arrived to a cost of $0.479 per mile plus an additional $0.184 per mile for general administration costs for a total costs of $0.663 per mile. That is significantly less than any other ride-hailing or car-sharing service in the same market and it is even competitive with private car ownership.”

The Many Types of Fleets

Many kinds of fleets will evolve in the new future. Let’s examine them.

  • Individual rideshare drivers/owners. The fleet of one.
  • Individual car rental owners. The small fleet. Think Turo hosts.
  • Robotaxis. The fleets of autonomous, artificially intelligent, robots.
    • The corporate fleets. This will be car manufacturers and rideshare platforms. GM will give you Cruise Automation, Ford will have Argo AI. Most of the other manufacturers are leaning towards Aurora. Uber will have a fleet and so will Lyft and Didi and all the others too.

      They will own and maintain their own cars. They will not sell you one. They will not let you run one. They will not let you service them. This is Monopoly, and you own no properties in this game. If you cannot play, you cannot win. You’re out.
    • The private fleet. Only one car manufacturer will sell Robotaxis to the public. One. Tesla. They will have millions on the road in the next 2 years and they own over 80% of the electric vehicle market. They will win by being first, biggest, and most geographically dispersed. This is your only play, whether you own or build a business that services them. The only cars that will be able to come to your small lot gig will be privately owned EVs, the majority of which will be Teslas.

      But Tesla also fits into the big corporate fleet category too because they will be running their own fleet as well. So, they’ll likely be providing some services to this fleet, public or private, I would imagine. Elon’s already talked about starting an insurance company. He’s given details about the Tesla Network platform he’s building to run it all.
Tesla Autonomy Day presentation of current and future self driving

It’s a given that the Tesla Network is going to be the platform that Tesla owners will use instead of Uber. See here why the Tesla Network is better than Uber and Lyft. Studies show this technology would only cost @$.60/mile which is well below the cost of running any other form of transportation.

bizIDEA: Your New Gig?

Money can be made by charging for services. These include parking, washing, maintaining, and the physical act of plugging and unplugging a car. Plus, provide and charge for any other product or service that supports your customer base and helps make their life easier.

The pass thru cost is the charging itself. Figure out what your charge rate is (over time) and charge to park an EV accordingly. Say $5/hour includes a parking space (or $ competitive to a parking space near your location). Buy solar panels to reduce your electricity costs and make even more. Give monthly customers unlimited charging/parking for one fee.

Run a peer-to-peer car rental business. Turo car owners own the car, but your lot manages all check in, check out, fueling, parking, delivery and maintenance for remote owners. See this example.

Run ‘Ubermobiles’ out of your lot. Think Getaround. Cars (owned by others) monetized through rideshare–cars are rented by the hour/day/week to vetted rideshare or other professional drivers. See this example.

Support electric car rideshare drivers. If an Uber driver has decided to use an EV for their business, but does not have a place to park/charge it, they could use your lot to recharge during a shift or as their home base (next example).

Provide parking/charging for EV owners without garages. Provide a safe and convenient place to keep personal vehicles. Not in their private garage or parking lot (if they have one), but in yours. Deliver the car, let them pick them up, or eventually the cars will go directly to them if they are autonomous.

Most of your customers will be recurring. Once you have a customer, you can probably keep that customer. This lends to making the business based on charging a fixed monthly fee for all customers. Whatever that is to create a competitive solution, cover your costs, and make a decent profit.

Manage personal fleets of autonomous cars for owners. Even if they only do it sometimes, Tesla owners have the option to put their personal cars into the Tesla Network and make some money on the side. I’m betting (and Elon is too) that many will.

Other incidental income could come from specific one-time sales to non-monthly customers. Somebody needs a quick charge while visiting a friend. Someone wants a wash. Somebody wants a quick coffee while waiting for a charge. Up to you as to what services and environment you provide that supports your core business and adds to your bottom line.

What’s next?

So, the competition to service this coming fleet of cars is going to come down to who can do it best and cheapest. ‘Best’ for some will be local. ‘Cheapest’ for some will be local. Only individual operators can be local at the start of this revolution. How it ends, is anyone’s guess.

Can it be done? Well, Uber started less than a decade ago with two guys on street corner who jokingly asked, wouldn’t it be nice if you could just push a button and your taxi would show up!

They did not invent the tech, it existed. They did not invent new regulations or even wait for them, there were none. They did not ask if people would get into a stranger’s car, or ask who would let a stranger into their car, as a reason to say it would or would not work. Nope, they just did it anyway.

They created 24 million business owners and a market capitalization greater than all three US auto makers (GM, Ford, Chrysler) plus every taxi company in the US, combined. They only service 1% of the total transportation market today and they have those numbers. They are now out to build autonomous fleets.

What do you think tomorrow will bring? How about the next decade? Can it be done? Wrong question. It is being done.

And here’s the important bit for you as a gig entrepreneur. The big fleet operators and their infrastructure (major auto makers) will not be open to competitors, so everyone is frozen out of that opportunity. That is how they roll. They will do what they always do: build big, centralized, monopolized organizations. Your only play in their game is to be one of their vendors or employees.

Elon’s readying to offer Tesla owners and fleets a new unique business opportunity using the Tesla Network, and that opportunity may not last forever.

Again, here’s why I’m sharing this bizIDEA, beyond I think the world’s a better place when we share information and create solutions together. I own and operate Teslas for a business and I need this service. I don’t want to build this business, I don’t have the time or money. But I would certainly use it if it existed! Maybe this is YOUR next gig opportunity, but if it is, jump on it! Get local quickly!

If you need more information or would like to chat about this concept, contact me thru this web page.

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