At the Chicago auto show this week, Hyundai announced its new Evolve + subscription program, which lets people drive an electric car for one monthly fee that includes 1,000 miles of driving, insurance, maintenance, registration, and roadside assistance. In a press release, the company says Evolve + is ideal for drivers who need a car for the short term. That could mean students home from college for the summer, retirees visiting Sunbelt states for the winter, or business people working in a new area temporarily.
It also is a way for people to ease into the electric car experience without making a long term commitment to a particular car. It’s a “cancel any time” plan that comes in one month chunks. Enjoy driving a new car one month at a time knowing you can walk away the end of any monthly subscription period if you choose.
“With no paperwork, no commitment and no long-term loan, Evolve+ is an optimal solution for the ‘EV-curious’ car shopper,” said Olabisi Boyle, vice president, product planning and mobility strategy, Hyundai Motor North America. “We’ve prioritized simplicity and flexibility with the subscription process, allowing customers to place orders and renew on their own terms on their own time all via smartphone. We are hoping that by offering a subscription-based option, we will increase EV adoption and awareness as customers transition into an EV future.”
Hyundai says the plan is now available in six US states (the press release didn’t say which ones, but we can be pretty sure California is one of them) with more being added soon. It seems a safe bet that the states that have agreed to follow the lead set by the California Air Resources Board will be the first to be included.
“As we know, living with an EV is really an educational process,” said Gary Rome, president of Gary Rome Auto Group. Gary Rome Hyundai in Holyoke, Massachusetts, is one of the first dealerships to participate in the new program. “Evolve+ gives our customers the opportunity to try an electric vehicle and see if it is right for their lifestyle. Evolve+ makes it really easy for a consumer to drive an EV in a more flexible way.”
Cool. So How Does This Work?
Prices start at $699 a month for a Kona Electric and $899 a month for an Ioniq 5. There is some fine print potential customers should be aware of. The subscriber must be at least 25 years old, have 3 years of recent driving history and a clean driving record, have a credit score of 650 or higher, possess a valid US driver’s license, and have a valid credit card in his or her name. Debit/prepaid cards are not accepted.
The 28-day monthly term includes 1,000 miles. If you exceed 1,000 miles in 28 days, your account will be automatically charged an additional $20.00 per increment of 100 miles until 1,500 miles. Thereafter, every mile in excess of 1,500 will be charged at a rate of $1.00 per mile. However, if you use less than your allotted 1,000 miles in 28 days, your unused miles will automatically roll over if you renew your subscription.
The subscriber can cancel at any time during each subscription period and there is no long-term commitment required. Hyundai points out that other subscription services require customers to lock into a minimum term of three to five months.
Consumers can find available dealers within the app. Here’s how the process works.
- Customers simply download the Evolve+ app from Google Play or the Apple Store to their smartphone
- Customers start by searching for a vehicle by price and zip code, then select a model from inventory and choose a monthly term that can easily be renewed
- The price is clearly displayed and there is no need for negotiation
- Next, they login to their account or create a new account
- The customer follows in-app instructions to qualify
- The customer then pays for the subscription using a credit card
- The payment via credit card reserves the vehicle
- A pickup time at the dealership is chosen
Easy-peasy, right? Yes and no. The company tells CNN Business the program does not offer support for installing a home charger or include access to public charger. A Hyundai spokesperson told the publication the company was “currently exploring ways to include the charging with the subscription.” You can see where this might be an issue. Hyundai is unlikely to want to provide for home charging if the customer only keeps the car for one or two months but potential customers will want to be able to charge at home. ‘Tis a conundrum, for sure.
Hyundai Evolve + And TCO
For some unknown reason, Americans aren’t all that interested in total cost of ownership calculations. Typically they only want to know what their monthly loan payment will be. But in many cases, the cost of fuel, insurance, maintenance, and depreciation total more than that loan payment, making the total cost of owning and operating a car more than double the monthly payment to the bank.
Maybe that $699 a month figure for a Kona EV or $899 a month for an Ioniq 5 seems high, but it includes a lot of things a loan payment does not. In the greater scheme of things, it is right in line with the average monthly cost of owning a vehicle.
According to Bankrate.com, the annual cost of car ownership in 2022 was $10,728 or $894 a month and you can’t just walk away from the car at the end of any given month like you can with subscription plan. In 2021, the yearly cost was $9,666 according to AAA. That increase is in line with the most recent Consumer Price Index report from The Bureau of Labor Statistics which shows an increase of 9.5% on all transportation costs (except gas) between June 2021 and June 2022.
Altering The Dealer Experience
Left unsaid in this announcement is how Evolve + alters the typical dealership experience. The company says Evolve+ offers consumers a unique digital buying experience, allowing them to select their vehicle and payment terms through a custom app. Then the customer can simply go to the dealership to pick the vehicle up. It is a no haggling, stress-free delivery experience.
“Hyundai Motor America has built Evolve+ in partnership with its dealers. That’s an important distinction, as it gives Evolve+ customers the benefit of working with a respected local business that’s responsible for the vehicle’s initial condition and maintenance.”
That’s not quite the same as buying a car online, but it is a step in that direction and it does eliminate the dealer markups that are so common today, especially for models that are in high demand like electric cars. It’s a subtle alteration of the normal car buying experience and one that is hard to put a monetary value on, but it’s a perquisite that is built in to the Evolve + program — one that customers will surely appreciate.
UPDATE: We asked Hyundai what locations Evolve + is currently available, to which Michele Tinson — Senior Manager, Communications, Midwest/Eastern Region — responded: Portland, Greater Denver – Boulder, Greater Denver – Westminster, Western Massachusetts – Holyoke, Greater Philly – Marlboro, NJ, Greater Baltimore – Clarksville, Greater Baltimore – Catonsville, and Florence, SC.
“We are currently in six states and we plan to add more by the year’s end. It is TBD at this moment as to which additional states will be added. We have proven the program through our pilot over the past year and a half and are now ready to bring this unique program offering nationwide.
“We are working closely on potential charging opportunities. More to come on this topic at a later date.”
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