An innovative and disruptive entrepreneur, Slava Kozlovskii is the founder of evee, Australia’s largest EV rental platform, based in Canberra. Owners of Tesla’s and similar electric cars can recoup their costs by renting them out whenever not in use. The traveler has a wide choice of electric cars to choose from in most major Australian cities.
Owners list their electric vehicles, mostly Tesla Model 3 or Nissan Leafs, state when available and how much their charges are, and pay a percentage to evee. If you want to hire, you have to register and allow time for your license to be validated. I have seen evee described as an Airbnb for cars.
Slava studied for a BA in Engineering in St Petersburg. His family had always planned on leaving Russia, and when at 15, Slava spent three weeks in England, he went back home convinced that his future lay in another country. Slava arrived in Australia in 2011 and continued to study at the University of Technology in Sydney, gaining both a Master’s in Engineering Management and an MBA in Business Administration. Slava loves his adopted country and says he is hugely grateful to be in Australia.
Slava’s first venture was founding Tapnlike, a mobile app that makes products more interactive. He says it was a learning experience. As a founder, he loved the product and had so much faith in it that he fell into the entrepreneurial trap of failing to plan out a viable business model for it.
Two years in, he founded evee in 2015 to make sustainable electric transport available, accessible and affordable for everyone. It gives people a chance to try them out when they might otherwise not have thought to do.
What makes electric cars so good?
Slava’s enthusiasm for electric cars may be primarily because of the green advantages, but they also spring from a love for the vehicles themselves. He says they are far quieter, give a much smoother ride, and are incredibly responsive in comparison, be they driven at high-performance or pottering around. With fuel engines, you buy a car for one or the other, while the electric vehicles deliver on both. Running costs, too, are low.
The Tesla Model 3 is the market leader, and Slava feels it is so exceptional partly because it was designed as an electric vehicle. Other manufacturers are coming up with designs that will adapt to various fuels, and therefore there is always compromise involved.
Price is a continual objection when people view electric cars and particularly true in Australia where there are only 8-9 electric cars you can buy and most average above $80,000, with many around $150,000. Salva says he saw an article in Fully Charged, which estimated there would be as many as seventy models to choose from in 2021 in the UK.
A high number of people who rent the EVs from evee will buy them afterward. One of the most common concerns is how far they will go, how long they will take to recharge, how easy one can find somewhere to recharge. A test drive doesn’t take away those fears. Renting one for two or three days does, and they can then fully appreciate the EV.
The original premise was to have 2-3 electric cars. The only one that went any distance was the Tesla but at $140,000 was outside the majority of people’s price range. Slava was determined to see what he could do to change the face of the electric vehicle industry and make them more available and, in the long run, more affordable.
He started by buying one Tesla. The major challenge was and still is the insurance on renting an electric car. It is a new thing, and all insurance companies are averse to new things and unknown risks. Even with just insuring his personal one, the prohibitive cost and lack of flexibility practically put the whole business at risk of not surviving.
The company went through the EnergyLab Accelerator in Sydney that helps cleantech start-ups get off the ground. They found an investor but were still plagued by the problems of getting insurance on a rental EV. Slava decided not to take up the finance deal.
The first plan was to run a city transfer system for the trip to and from Canberra to Sydney. It is a 300k trip on one of the busiest strips of highway in Australia. With the time it takes to get to an airport and check-in, wait for a flight, and so forth, it is as quick to drive.
Slava offered a deal that let three or four people share the trip’s cost, making the price comparable and with the luxury of a ride in a Tesla. He quickly found it didn’t meet market demand. People wanted to rent the car but wanted to go wherever they wanted for a day or more at a time and to experience that freedom.
Within six months of launching, the business model changed to allow them to do that, and inquiries went through the roof. Slava quickly had to raise finance for a second car, and within a year, the car-sharing idea was history. They remained at between three and five EVs for the first three years, held back by insurance difficulties.
The hard slog to get this sorted seemed insurmountable. At one point, Slava had become so frustrated he decided to try and launch in California. In 2018, they were a finalist in the California Climate Cup run through a Los Angeles accelerator. He met another company competing who were also doing EVs and spent six months discussing joining forces as they had complementary strengths. However, it came to nothing, and magically, at that particular point, the insurance problems in Australia cleared.
Slava says it has been a real case of “Quitters never win and winners never quit” but adds that his curiosity on what might have happened if has always kept him going.
Slava finds that he has some of the greatest satisfaction when people who rent end up buying a Tesla of their own and then renting it out through evee to recoup some of the costs. With depreciation, it doesn’t, of course, cover all the capital outlay but makes a considerable difference for the owners. They have no detailed research but believe about 10% of their customers later buy an EV of their own.
Slava has managed to stay self-funding throughout, which is a massive achievement, but he is quick to admit it took a toll on his family. When he started, he and his ex-partner had just had their first child and soon afterward had their second. He survived with help and support from his family back in Russia. The business and the team are now consistently growing, financially viable, and attracting outside investment.
What next for evee?
In 2019, once that problem was at least semi-solved, they quickly soared to twenty and are now adding five or six a month. In 2020, evee tripled both cars and rental numbers.
Part of this year’s plan is to cement that growth and their position as the leaders in Australia’s market.
Slava is also looking across the sea at New Zealand, which Slava feels is the first logical expansion place with possibly South East Asia to follow. Local regulations, in particular around rentals, will dictate where is possible within the world.
Another area for expansion is also on his horizon, knowing that they are the entry gate for many to purchase an EV. Once people have researched and test-driven, the next decision is which model to choose, and then there are associated decisions such as which is the best charger of the best electric service to use, best insurance.
To Slava, it will make sense to diversify into meeting these market needs and offering a more comprehensive service to their clients.
What drives Slava?
Slava says that is a question that can lead to you having an in-depth conversation with yourself. He wants to build something that makes the future better for his children. If he can get people excited about doing something greener, then this gets closer.
Slava is 31 now but says if he dies tomorrow, he will know that he has put some little things in motion that he is happy to have achieved towards that.