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New Subscription Services Let Users Try Electric Vehicles

The Indianapolis subscription service, Motor Drive, allows users to drive Teslas, Nissan Leafs or Chevy Bolts for as long as they want, to show the benefits of driving electric vehicles by making them more accessible.

(TNS) — If you are curious about switching to an electric car but don't want to commit to buying one, a new option is available in Indianapolis.

Motor Drive, a monthly subscription service, will put you behind the wheel of electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt, Tesla Model 3, Audi e-tron and Tesla Model X.

There are three subscription tiers, ranging from $649 per month to $1,399 per month. Those monthly fees include insurance and routine maintenance. The service also requires a membership, which costs $400 upfront. If you like the car enough to buy one, the company will give you that $400 toward the purchase price.

That's because Motor, the company behind the service, wants to introduce people to electric vehicles and their benefits. Head of strategy and business development Mike Barg said 70 percent of people have never been in an electric car. "The whole goal of this is to let people get the electric car experience as long as they want," Barg said.

He said the service gives drivers a chance to try top-of-the-line electric cars while still keeping flexibility. Unlike many leases, the subscription service doesn't require a long commitment and doesn't have a mileage limit.

Motor is owned by the AES Corporation, which also owns Indianapolis Power & Light Co., but those local roots weren't the only reason why it launched the service here.

"Indianapolis is a car market unlike any other," Barg said. "People here own and drive cars, and the per-capita car ownership per household is typically higher. Cars are an integral part of the city."

About a dozen people have signed up for Motor Drive in the week since its launch, Barg said. A few dozen more are on a waitlist as Motor navigates what Barg called "the interesting supply and demand dynamic with cars in the U.S. right now."

"We're doing everything we can to meet everybody's interest on that waitlist," he said.

How Motor Drive Is Different Than BlueIndy

The service comes to Indianapolis several months after an electric car-sharing program shut down. BlueIndy stopped service May 21 after four years of allowing users to rent and return cars at any station around the city.

BlueIndy had a different price model: One-time users could pay $8 for 20 minutes and 40 cents per additional minute. Users could also buy an annual membership that cost $9.99 per month, plus $4 for 20 minutes and 20 cents per additional minute.  

The defunct service said in a December news release that 11,000 members took about 180,000 rides over the course of the four years. In a December email to members, BlueIndy said it "did not reach the level of activity required to be economically viable."

Barg and Praveen Kathpal, vice president of new business at Motor's parent company, said Motor Drive is very different than BlueIndy.

"It's a fundamentally different experience for probably a totally different customer than BlueIndy," Kathpal said.

The only overlap is that the two services were both in Indianapolis and both provided electric cars, Barg said.

"Motor Drive offers a tailored experience with higher-performance electric cars that are not the small BlueIndy cars," Barg said. "They're makes and models that ultimately feel a lot like the car you drive today."

How Motor Drive Works

Drivers interested in joining the waitlist must submit their name, email address, ZIP code and desired membership level. You must be at least 25 years old.

For now the service is available only in Indianapolis. Barg and Kathpal said Motor does not have immediate plans to expand.

When it's time to get a car, you will receive an invitation to download an app and select your car. The company will then deliver the car to you.

"We drop the car off, and it's like owning a car in the sense that you have the keys, it's yours, you park it at home, wherever you want — full access to it," Barg said. "The goal is just getting familiar with the lifestyle." 

Perhaps the biggest lifestyle change is remembering to plug your car in instead of seeking out a gas station.

The service touts more than 220 miles of range on a charge for each vehicle. Vehicles come with chargers that plug into a standard wall outlet.

Motor will install a fast charger in your home if you agree to continue the subscription for 120 days. Otherwise, the subscription is month-to-month, with one week of notice required for opting out.

For someone who drives about 40 miles a day, the vehicle will likely charge in full overnight. The faster charger could provide a full charge in just over an hour.

"It goes from something where you have to actively think about, 'My gas is low; I have to go the gas station in two days when it runs out,' to 'I plug this in like my cellphone every night.' It becomes part of your daily habit, and you wake up fully charged," Barg said.

The subscription fee covers routine maintenance that is needed to keep the car running, including tires. Barg said the company's support team is there to help with little things like looking for a particular button to bigger things like planning a trip while plotting charging spots along the way.

The vehicles are for personal use, so they may not be used by people who drive as a job, such as Uber or Lyft or delivery drivers. Barg said that's something they hope to change in the future.

There's no mileage limit, so you're free to take a Motor Drive car on that summer road trip to the Grand Canyon.

"Yep," Barg said, "And if you took it, we'd encourage you to take pictures and share them with us."

©2020 The Indianapolis Star. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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