Drive now, pay later: Startup makes EVs more accessible by putting off the biggest bill

The auto industry is banking on electric vehicles to slash planet-cooking emissions, but EVs are still too expensive to knock gas-guzzlers out of the game. For now, at least.

Sure, EV sales are up, maintenance costs are low, and gas prices are high, making combustion engines look all the worse. But on the flip side, EV supply is still limited relative to demand, automakers are busy prioritizing luxury modelsand even home charging is costlier lately.

As we wait around for enhanced tax credits to make EVs more accessible in the US, a fintech startup called Tenet is launching with claims that it can soften the upfront blow of EV ownership.

With $18 million in seed funding led by San Francisco-based Human Capital and London’s Giant Ventures, Tenet says its EV loan offering cuts monthly payments by $200 on average. It does so by letting customers “defer up to 10-25% of their loan amount to the end of their term.” If you’re accepted for a loan via Tenet, the company will point you towards eligible dealers and marketplaces. Tenet also expects its partners to point customers in its direction.

Tenet doesn’t actually lower an EVs sticker price, so buyers will still need to be able to afford one—a whopping $56,437 on average if they buy new, per Kelley Blue Book. But shaving the up-front price could help buyers more benefit from cheaper upkeep and lower refueling costs.

“Tenet exclusively works with sustainability and ESG-focused institutional investors and capital markets,” CEO Alex Liegl told TechCrunch. This apparently lets the startup “access cheaper cost-of-capital, which it can pass on to the end-consumer in the form of lower rates than those offered by traditional lenders.”

The New York-based startup declined to share specifics on interest rates, saying they are “vary significantly” depending on where customers are located. Tenet accepts FICO scores as low as 620, which means that many people (100 million or so in the US) won’t be eligible.

Other investors, including Breyer Capital, Global Founders Capital, and Creative Artists Agency co-founder Michael Ovitz, also chipped in on Tenet’s seed round. Down the line, Tenet says it may also get into financing “zero-emission home upgrades,” which could include EV chargers, heat pumps and the like.

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