The monetisation of peer-to-peer charging for electric vehicles, a concept that has quickly taken off in overseas markets, is now in Australia.
Sydney start-up Everty describes its online EV charger search and booking service as the "Airbnb of electric cars".
The start-up is not the first to offer an online tool for locating chargers both public and residential, though, with international service PlugShare already listing a number of Australian charging stations.
But, while PlugShare does offer the ability to pay for charger use, the option is not currently available to residential users in Australia. Instead, home chargers can only be made available for free - or at least for negotiation 'off site' - under the condition that hopeful users call or message in advance.
PlugShare also offers no official point of contact for the Australian market, with no business presence, making it more of an open-source map maintained by users.
No surprise then that Everty has announced itself as the first in Australia to offer electric vehicle owners a dedicated platform for listing and monetising their home charger to fellow EV drivers.
"Everty is different to Plugshare as you can reserve a charger and therefore are guaranteed it's available when you need it and it reimburses homeowners for the cost of electricity and in areas where parking space is in high demand, the homeowner can charge a higher hourly rate by renting out their driveway/garage," Everty CEO Carola Jonas tells CarAdvice.
The service operates through the desktop and mobile browser interface only, for now, and the booking process is carried out through a number of quick steps.
To test the service, I registered an account with Everty in minutes - using my personal Google account credentials - and selected a random Sydney charger. The homeowner had set his price at a generous flat rate of $1, so I registered my credit card - Everty uses third-party business Stripe for secure transactions - and booked out a block of charging time in the owner's driveway.
I invited the owner to give me a call, and he did. Marcus, an enthusiastic EV owner - there are two premium electrified cars in his family, in fact - said he is more interested in helping to build momentum for EVs in Australia than in monetising his charger. I wouldn't be surprised if that's true of most Everty users.
As for improving the search and booking process for EV owners desperate for a charge, Jonas says the company is planning to develop mobile apps once the user base ramps up. A chicken-and-egg situation, perhaps.
"Everty will build an app in the near future to make it easier for electric car drivers to find and access chargers. We will integrate a variety of chargers in our network, from private homes to businesses and potentially public charging infrastructure," Jonas said.
Jonas acknowledged there are limitations with the current generation of EV chargers, with most acting as 'dumb' systems unable to connect to the internet - restricting the potential for monetisation.
"At this point in time, standard home chargers are not connected to the internet, but we anticipate that this will change soon and it will open new opportunities to for cars and chargers to communicate and also to facilitate payments for the electricity exchanged," Jonas said.
Another obstacle for the growth of businesses like Everty is that most home EV chargers are installed behind locked gates or garage doors, making it difficult for 'customers' to access the space if the owner is not home.
Jonas believes this is no major impediment, but concedes it could prove a disincentive for some.
"Some charger owners will be at home to facilitate the access directly or potentially have a code or lock box that EV drivers can access," she said.
"Everty's private chargers may not be for everyone - it's the same as not every household opening their home as an Airbnb."
Jonas said Everty plans to expand its platform to accommodate larger-scale charging - both in capacity and in monetisation - so that businesses and owners of public charging stations can use the Everty service for booking 'customers'.
"We look forward to more charging infrastructure being installed so we can build a dense network that is convenient for EV drivers," she said.
It's unlikely Everty will be the only player in this niche market for long, but any headstart is a good one.