By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNN Business
For those who really don’t want a long term commitment but who may try out living with an electric vehicle, Hyundai is starting a car subscription service. Hyundai’s new Evolve+ program is designed for the “EV-curious,” or for those who only need a car temporarily, like “snowbirds” who move to southern states just for a few months.
Customers can reserve a Hyundai Ioniq 5 EV for $899 a month using a smartphone app, or a Kona Electric for $699, a price that includes insurance, maintenance, and 1,000 miles of driving. It’s different from leasing because, in addition telecto the fact that leases don’t usually include insurance or maintenance in the monthly fee, Hyundai’s subscription plan is open-ended. Drivers can stop the monthly payments and give the vehicle back at any time.
Car subscriptions are not a new idea. General Motors experimented with a subscription service like this back in 2017. Using “Book by Cadillac,” people could subscribe to Cadillac vehicles and even switch between, say, a Cadillac sedan and an SUV whenever they wanted, for $1,500 a month. As with Hyundai’s Evolve+, Cadillac’s monthly price also included insurance and maintenance. The experiment lasted less than two years, though, before GM suspended it.
Other companies have taken on the idea, though. Volvo offers its Care by Volvo program in all but a few US states. Users can cancel or change vehicles after five months, with prices starting around $900 a month.
Porsche also has a car subscription program available in 14 cities, according to Porsche’s web site. Participants can either choose a single Porsche model for a monthly fee ranging from $1,700 month to $3,200, or have access to a fleet of different Porsche models for $3,600 a month. Free2Move, a subsidiary of Stellantis, the company that owns the Dodge, Jeep and Fiat brands, also has a car subscription service currently offering access to Jeep and (surprisingly) Tesla models in seven cities.
There are also independent car subscription services run by startups such as Finn, and car rental companies like Sixt which offer access to a variety of vehicles from different of brands.
Program designed for the EV-curious
Hyundai’s program is unique in that it only includes electric vehicles. One of the goals, according to Hyundai, is to act as a sort of test for those who may be curious about electric vehicles. However, the Hyundai Evolve+ program doesn’t include any support for charging such as help installing a home charger or included access to public chargers. Usually, people who own an electric vehicle will charge it at home.
“We’re currently exploring ways to include the charging with the subscription,” Hyundai spokesman Miles Johnson said in an email.
Hyundai’s Evolve+ is available through eight dealership locations in six states.
Cox Automotive, the company that owns Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader, used to also offer car subscription services. That stopped as “macroeconomic factors,” including production problems that reduced vehicle inventories, made it difficult, spokesman Mark Schirmer said.
“An alternative to traditional vehicle ownership, subscription may offer some consumers more simplicity, variety and flexibility in their transportation choices,” he said. “It also could be a way to help drive the adoption of electric vehicles, providing EV intenders a platform to test electric vehicles without the long-term commitment.”
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