Electric vehicles will make up nearly 6% of new cars sold in the US in 2022, up from 3.1% a year ago, and that number will continue to grow in the coming years. While still a young industry, the ecosystem around EVs – from EV charging and installation to insurance products and parking – is becoming disconnected and somewhat complex.
So say the founders of Bluedot, a banking and rewards platform for EV owners that aims to enhance the after-sales experience. Here’s how it works: Individual owners or fleet managers sign up for a Bluedot debit card, which they use for all auto-related purchases, but mostly for EV payments. Bluedot is currently offering customers a flat rate of $0.30 per kilowatt at participating EV charging stations and 20% cash back at non-participating charging networks. Customers search for sites and pay directly on the Bluetooth app with partner charging companies, eliminating the need to download multiple apps.
Bluedot users get 5% cashback on all automotive spends and another 2% cash back on all spends. In addition, the company offers rewards to users at nearby shopping and dining locations. So a customer can get 10% cash back by going to the local Starbucks for a coffee while waiting for their car to be paid off, or another 15% cash back by doing some shopping at Whole Foods.
The startup, which will join Y Combinator’s summer 2023 cohort and recently closed a $2 million pre-seed round, initially focused on charging stations, an industry poised to explode thanks in part to federal and state funding. The inflation-reduction legislation signed by President Joe Biden in August 2022 provides more than $1.5 billion in funding to all states to facilitate EV charging projects. That might seem like a big push to install infrastructure without much coordination.
Bluedot doesn’t say which charging companies it works with, but the startup says customers can begin charging at 60 percent of U.S. charging stations with the Bluedot app, adding that Bluedot is setting a lower target to grow its partner network. New charging companies may not have the resources to create their own app and payment platform.
“New EV charging companies are looking for solutions like ours to increase driver visibility and accessibility, streamline payment processes, and improve charging station utilization rates,” Bluedot Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Celine Phyllis Parlak told TechCrush. “Bluedot is working to integrate financial technology to help these companies make their charging stations more affordable and accessible to drivers.”
Currently, the usage of most charging station networks ranges from 5% to 8%. Bluedot aims to increase this amount to more than 15%. We started with small charging station companies, but our goal is to bring all brands with financial technology to consumers,” continued Parlak.
Today, Bluedot’s primary customers are individual drivers who have gotten their start in partnership with auto dealers and ride-share companies. Parlack says Bluedot’s next target is to help fleets manage costs and payment processes and find better deals.
“For example, one of our partners is a company that leases cars to multiple delivery drivers managed by a fleet manager,” Parlak said. “They want to provide a large charging station ecosystem, which is easy to charge and then recover costs, which we provide. And they want to get better deals around electrification.”
In addition, BlueDot is manually pulling data for customers about their charging habits, how much they spend, how much energy they use, their top charging points, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions they avoid using EVs, and more. In the future, the company wants to automate that work to make it smarter and more scalable.
During YC, Bluedot wants to focus on growth and product development.
Bluedot CEO and co-founder Ferhat Babakan told TechCrunch, “Our goal is to create partnerships and make deals until the show day. In particular, we aim to secure partnerships in auto dealerships, charging networks and auto-related expenses.” Additionally, we plan to start pilot tests for the Bluedot Fleet Card.