Category: Messages from the Founder

Answers Tomorrow!

Hello fans and customers,

Tomorrow is a day I have been looking forward to for quite some time. As Founder & CEO of Fēnix Power, I have invested years working to solve some of the biggest obstacles to electric vehicle adoption. While I love the growth and energy we see today in electric vehicles, I believe there is still a better way.

We’re all aware of just how much the battery is center to the challenges that EVs face. The cost of cells raises the price of the cars above their ICE competitors, and as all of our Leaf owning customers can attest to, the cost of replacing those batteries as the vehicle ages has been largely ignored by the manufacturers. And contributing to this challenge, the manufacturers aren’t motivated to help owners after the warranty has expired.

In building Fēnix I have spoken to hundreds of you along the way, and I have heard story after story from Leaf owners feeling their worlds get smaller and smaller as their batteries age. Yet each of you has a passion for your cars and for EV that is truly inspiring. Many of you took a risk on one of the first truly affordable EVs before the world had begun to accept the inevitable EV future we can all see today.

It is through learning from each of you and your stories that we are driven and focused on bringing the help you’re looking for. Tomorrow evening we take a big step forward in delivering on our commitment to each of you. And tomorrow, I will personally tell you all about what 2020 brings for Fēnix Power and how we’re going to change your battery stories for good.

Until tomorrow evening…

John Bysinger
Founder & CEO of Fēnix Power

All the answers you seek.

A message from our CEO, John Bysinger:

The three most common questions we get are:

  • When are you starting customer installations?
  • When will I get my installation?
  • Are you going to be able to add more range?
  • How much range can I add?
  • My Leaf lost another bar, I’m getting nervous, are you close?
  • When are you going to start installing in [customer home town]?
  • Can I get into the beta testing group? I really want mine sooner!

These are all great questions, and we know our answers haven’t been as clear as they could be. Answers like “We’re starting installs in early 2020.” Or “We’re hoping to get around 40kWh in the stock battery location.” And while both of these answers are true, we know all of you want more clarity. You want to see us really commit to a release date. And many of you just really need to get some help for your Leaf, and quickly, those bars keep going away!

Well, it’s time to clear up all of that haziness. Mark your calendars, this coming weekend, the weekend of December 14th and 15th we’re going to try to answer all of those burning questions!

As the CEO, I’ve decided that I’m going to record our announcement on video, I will be able to share what’s going on with our progress, discuss product testing and production release schedules, share some of our recent big wins here at Fēnix as well.

And on top of all of this news, we actually have some very surprising news to share that will make a very real difference for many of you! We believe this to e a really big deal, and can’t wait until our customers learn about it.

We will be sharing the video on our YouTube channel, converting it into a podcast format if you prefer to listen over watching, publish the full text for people to read, and we will be blasting out links to everything to get the word out. So if you’re already on our mailing list or following us on social media somewhere, you’ll definitely hear about it.

I seriously can’t wait to share the news. I am a bit nervous about being on video, especially in such a long recording! But I think it’s important that you hear the news directly from me. I’m going to try to get the rest of the team into the video to say hello as well, but we’ll see if we can pull that off with Fēnix Power employees working coast to coast!

I will talk to you soon!

John Bysinger
Founder & CEO of Fēnix Power

400!!

Actually, as of the writing of this post, we’re at 402, and this is huge! Both for us and for our ability to raise capital to deliver on our commitment to all of you, our customers. When we started going after funding several years ago, we were told we needed to prove the market demand or no one would invest or lend us even a dime. So our goal for 2019 was to do exactly that, show proof that all of our research was right. One investor that has been a mentor of mine going on four years now gave me two great pieces of advice:

“A customer is someone who has given you actual money in exchange for either an actual product, or the commitment to deliver a product later. If all you have is a list of people who say they would buy your product, but haven’t paid anything to be on that list, you don’t have customers, you have a fan club.”

I took this to heart and set about developing a product that people would actually want to buy. My first venture into this space was still based on our modular battery architecture but applied in a kit to convert Ford F-series pickups to electric vehicles. I got a lot of interest, and as he said, even had a fan club, but when it came time to get deposits, it just wasn’t converting. I also designed a product that would fit into the trunk area of a Leaf, to add more range, which again earned a lot of interest, but very few willing to pay a deposit. It wasn’t until 2018 when Nissan started raising prices on replacing their battery that it started to make sense for us to compete with their stock battery pack. I spent the first half of 2018 working through some of the design challenges of adapting our product to fit the stock pack location, and then at the end of September 2018, we made our announcement.

And the market responded! Since that first weekend, not only have we shown that there is demand, but that we can organically grow our product interest without expensive advertising or product hype. We’ve purposely kept much of the design under wraps and kept our performance capability claims restrained and realistic because we needed to prove to lenders and investors that our measurement of the market demand isn’t influenced by hype or by promising over-the-top capabilities. Consumers truly want an answer to their needs, and they’ve shown they have confidence that we will be the ones delivering that answer.

“You can show me a stack of market research, charts, graphs, and expert opinions, and paint a very good picture of what your market looks like, but until you can measure that demand with actual money and commitments, all you’ve done is paint a picture.”

Thanks to each and every one of you that is holding a reservation, we’ve done exactly that. We are showing that the demand for Fēnix Power’s solution is more than just a picture, this is a very real, and growing market need. And we have shown that our demand is accelerating! Every quarter for 5 straight quarters since the announcement, we have seen reservations double! To achieve that for Q4 of 2019, we predicted we will get to 500 reservations by the end of the year, and expect to see us break 1,000 by the end of March 2020. I have no doubts that we will see exactly that.

But even better than just your deposits, I and my team have been talking one on one to quite a few of you, and we’re learning so much about the impact that battery degradation has for our customers. This isn’t just an aging car part, people are feeling their world slowly shrinking by a more and more constrained ability of their cars. Many are feeling trapped by the weight of a car they can’t get out from underneath. And the worst one, many are feeling betrayed by an industry that they have, very vocally, been supporting for the batter part of a decade.

I personally take that last lesson to heart. Of course, I’m here to build a business and to make a product, but if I were to somehow forget all but one of the lessons that 2019 has taught me, this is what I want to remember the most: Our customers are coming to us because someone else has failed them. A manufacturer failed them by building a product that aged much too quickly. A salesman failed them by promising that their car would make everything about their world better. A business responsible for servicing their car failed them by making their only answer too expensive to be within reach.

I know we at Fēnix Power may not get everything right in the coming years, but the one thing I will be reminding my team over and over again is we’re going to start everything we do with this: By designing our solution as a service and selling it through a subscription, we aren’t just making sales and selling products, we are building a relationship with a person. And these people are putting their trust in us that we’re participating in the relationship too. That we will be there to stand behind our products through the entire length of their subscription. From day one through year 10, it’s our job to make sure they feel like Fēnix made their world better.

-John Bysinger
Founder & CEO

Note: The image attached to this post does NOT mean we’re sold out of Nissan reservations, but it does mean that, after Cyber Monday, we shift to the next pricing group for our pre-order customers. Once this weekend’s sale has passed, reservations will see a smaller reduction in the balance due at the time of install. Instead of $150 due later, that will go up to $600 due at the time of install. If you haven’t reserved yet, be sure to do so before 5:00 PM PST as that’s when the Cyber Monday sale ends!

Bollinger’s Prototypes

Another thing we saw at the Los Angeles Auto show was Bollinger’s latest prototypes. At their booth, they had both the pickup and the SUV versions.

We got a good look at the interior, suspension, and cooling systems, but couldn’t get many good photos because the trucks were swarming with YouTube personalities all trying to film at the same time.

What we did see was a nice, simple truck that’s designed to be a truck. There were no fancy displays, extra features, or creature comforts. There wasn’t even carpeting, so you can simply wash mud and dirt out with a garden hose if needed.

What it lacks in luxury, it has in terms of bare off-road capability. We saw a simple suspension with Hummer-like portal gears at each wheel to keep maximum ground clearance.

Another interesting thing we noticed was that the cooling system draws most of its air through either side of the hood. Not only does this protect it from rocks and other off-road debris, but should make servicing the system a lot easier than on many other liquid-cooled EVs.

While the Bollinger shocked a lot of people with its upcoming $125,000 price tag, it’s definitely a no-nonsense truck that’s designed to do one thing and do it well.

EDITOR/FOUNDERS NOTE:
Some of you may notice we have a new contributor on the team with posts like these, Jennifer Sensiba has joined us and will be bringing both Fēnix news, and articles like these to share exciting things going on in the EV industry. We’re excited to have her on board as a content contributor and helping spread the word about what we’re doing at Fēnix Power.

With this post, I’m a bit jealous of Jennifer! I’ve been following the progress of Bollinger quite closely and am one of those who had a reservation in for their original 2 door concept. My interest in Bollinger comes from both my own long-time interest in off-road exploration, having owned more Jeeps than I care to admit, but in the EV space, they represent something I think the industry as a whole seems to forget: That a vehicle being electric doesn’t mean it must also be a small/compact economy hatchback. You can electrify any vehicle class and see the impressive performance and usability gains associated with EV. Bollinger gets this, and I hope others will follow suit!

-John Bysinger

Modern Classics

Black Friday Storytime?

Hello again!

It’s John here, Founder & CEO of Fēnix. With tomorrow being December 1st, I thought I would take advantage of a quiet morning to reflect a bit on 2019, and share a bit of the vision for Fēnix Power for 2020 and well beyond. So find your comfy chair, get a fresh cup of your favorite Saturday morning beverage, for me that’s a cup of medium roast with a little sugar-free vanilla creamer. I’m going to share a bit about what the near-term future looks like here in Charlotte, and then tell a story of a slightly more distant future. This is the one we’re aiming for here at Fēnix Power, and as our reservation count grows, I’m more certain of achieving this vision each and every day.

First, it IS Thanksgiving weekend, surely we have some kind of promotion going on right? Well, we do, but it’s not entirely obvious what the deal is unless you’re following us closely. You see, something big is going on with our reservations today, right now we’re only THREE reservations away from our 400th Nissan Leaf battery replacement deposit! And with the pace of reservations over this long weekend, I have no doubt that we will get to and pass 400 in just a matter of hours. And that’s a pretty big deal for us! And in some ways, that’s a very big deal for each of you as well. You see, in 2020 we will be making a big transition away from building everything basically by hand. One part at a time, one assembly at a time, one car at a time, and with our (soon!) more than 400 customers in line and waiting for us? One at a time just won’t do. And it’s these 400 customers, that have been on-pace to double reservations every 3 months for five quarters in a row, that has provided our investors with real measurable proof of just how strong our first-product market really is. This is key to give us access to the capital we need to achieve our 2020 goals.

In 2020 we’re changing everything about what we’re doing. A short while ago you saw us share our newest location here in Charlotte, and a great location it is, with space for growing our engineering team, in the offices and labs, and space for testing manufacturing automation in the space in the back. And this facility could see us scale to building a full pack assembly every day so we could ship them out for installs to our (almost!) 400 very patient customers waiting in line by the end of the year. And that would be absolutely amazing if we could scale like that, but … we’re not.

We’re planning to scale more than that. You see, 400 isn’t nearly enough, we estimate with the Nissan Leaf alone and solely in the US, there are thousands of Leafs with seriously crippling range limitations, and thousands aging out of warranty coverage every year for nearly the next decade. 400 isn’t even close! By the end of 2020, we aim to prepare Fēnix Power for an even larger manufacturing pace capable of delivering thousands each year. In March of this year, Nissan put its 400,000th Leaf on US roads, wouldn’t it be great if we could keep most of them out of the recyclers? I think so, so we’re aiming to do exactly that!

Part of my vision for our future is that 30 years from now in 2050, 39 years after the original 2011 Nissan Leaf was sold in the US, that we are able to keep most of them on the road. They’re Instant retro-classics in this context, in 2050 they will have that quirky historical-futuristic styling people in ’50 are fond of. Much in the same way the styling of the 1964 Mustang is just as iconic in ’64 as it is in ’19. In 2050 the unique styling of our beloved 1st generation LEAFs makes a statement about a new kind of motor-vehicle classic car enthusiast.

in the summer of 2019, thousands of car buffs flock to car shows to see dozens of classic Mustangs, or perhaps Corvettes, though my personal favorites are classic Jeeps. But instead of looking backward from today, we’re going to imagine a classic car show that is Looking Back from the Future. (I couldn’t help myself, I had to say it!)

It’s now 2050 you’re with your kids and perhaps with their family and kids too, and you’re all walking into town one summer Saturday to see all of the “Classic electric cars”. There you find dozens of Leafs, cleaned up, detailed and waxed, many with their original 2011 metallic blue paint all shiny, but with one subtle difference from the Nissan OEM Leaf. A peek underneath reveals that many Leaf owners still use their Leaf as a daily driver, you can tell this by spotting the easy to service aftermarket modular battery made by Fēnix, with its distinctive removable panels protecting each stack of modules residing above from road hazards that threaten them from below. Many of these cars at the show also have the “Powered by Fēnix” badge on the sides and back, just below the now legendary “Zero Emission” badging on the doors and trunk.

Powered by Fēnix
A badge often found on “classic LEAFs in 2050

And like how the Leaf will be an iconic classic EV in 2050, passers-by at the EV car show will see that badge and nod at the owner knowingly, because it’s the same badge so many other Fēnix Power-ed new EVs wear at the dealerships. And as we look around this imaginary world demonstrating of my vision for what 2050 could bring, a local Fēnix service franchise owner sees an opportunity to chat up a Fēnix customer. He asks the owner sitting next to the well maintained Burgandy 2012 Leaf not far from the blue 2011 we were admiring a moment ago, “which generation of modules do you have in that thing? You know the new generation can get your car up to 380 miles indicated on the GOMYou should swing by the shop and check them out, we could have your whole subscription swapped out in about 20 minutes. In fact, yesterday my installer just finished a conversion of a classic Model S to Fēnix using this new generation! You should have seen the look on his face after he took it for a spin!”

2011 "Classic Car"
The “Classic Blue” 2011 LEAF

The Leaf owner nods knowingly and says “I’m still on the modules I installed back in ’42! As for your customer? I bet he still had the original Tesla cells in there, didn’t he? Hard to believe cars used to use batteries that heavy back then… I mean I get it, Tesla did get their batteries to last a really long time, but why would you keep those heavy things in there for 30 years? Everyone knows after the first decade you move them into your house or your business! I would have switched to Fēnix a decade or two ago!

Modern Classics
The most well-known “Classic Car” Electric Vehicles on the roads of 2050

I hope you enjoyed my version of Story Time. Here at Fēnix HQ, we love to talk about and plan for our vision of an electric future. While my story might seem a bit ambitious, and when you consider even with the variety of EVs on the road today, very few have aged past their first decade on the road. The EV market is growing fast, but aging slow! What is important here, is that from a technology point of view there actually aren’t any technical obstacles that would prevent us from achieving that vision of 2050, the only obstacle is the time it takes to get there.

As for 2019, what are we to do about providing some savings for customers just finding us today? Well, that’s easy. We originally planned on raising our installation costs after customer 400, it is still the same $150 deposit but the balance due at install later does change. Before today, we were providing a huge reward for our customers who were reserving so early, 80% off of the planned $1,500 installation cost. And we were all set to lower the discount down to 50% after 400 reservations, with the balance due later jumps from $150 to $600. We simply couldn’t let that discount sunset in the middle of Thanksgiving weekend! So that’s our “Black Friday Deal”, we’re giving everyone 3 more days to get on board now and save $1,200 later!

So, for those that saw the title and skipped right to the end to find the deal , here it is: regardless of how many reservations come in over the entire weekend, we’re keeping our costs due at install on hold at $150, all the way through the end of the workday for Cyber Monday. That means until Monday, December 2nd at 5:00 PM Pacific time, we keep honoring that 80% off the install. You can find our original Turkey Day promo page here for the details of this deal, and some great other information.

Thank you to all of you who already hold reservations, and being patient with us while we raised the capital required to help as many of you as possible. Don’t forget to buckle up and hold on tight, 2020 is going to be one heck of an exciting year for all of us!

-John Bysinger, Founder & CEO of Fēnix Power.

Rushing for Fēnix Power battery reservations!
Rushing for Fēnix Power battery reservations!

Building a Startup

Hello everyone!

As the Founder of Fēnix Power, I thought I would take a moment to talk about what is going on behind the scenes here at Fēnix. I know many of you are excited about our progress, and we love sharing news with everyone, but unfortunately we can’t share everything. Instead I thought I could provide some insight into what it takes to do what we’re doing.

A quick bit of history, it has now been 4 years since I first started building Fēnix, and 3 years since I made my first investor pitch with a business plan. I learned a lot from that first pitch, and we haven’t stopped learning ever since then. While we knew we had an original idea that would certainly improve the EV space as a whole, we had to find the best place to prove our idea. That idea is our Battery as a Service solution, with it we address the high cost of the traction battery, and the high cost to replace it, along with effectively eliminating degradation concerns which in turn keep good cars on the road longer. We spent two years doing market, and customer research to find the right place to enter the market, one where customers truly need us. In that time, we had some successes, and we also had some failures. But those failures taught us more about our customers and the EV market as a whole, so we look at them as successes as well.

Our first pitch was to build EV conversion kits for Ford F-series pickup trucks, we saw a gaping hole in the available EVs and wanted to address that with our solution. But 3 years ago investors were skeptical that an EV truck was something people would even buy. However you, and I, know better! Just a quick look at EV news lately, with Rivian and the soon-to-be-revealed Tesla pickup, the demand is definitely there. So we took a step back and decided to focus solely on our battery solution, and tried to find a good product to launch with. We tried something much smaller than a truck, an EV “gas can”, a few kWh and a charger connection you can keep in your trunk for when you find that dreaded turtle on the dashboard. And we pitched a battery pack expansion solution that could fit in the trunk of a LEAF, and got some great responses and interest back, but investors thought the market was too small. (We’re still working on that expansion solution, customers who have our replacement pack installed will be offered that later!)

But the real winning solution is what you find here today: A replacement battery pack for aging Nissan LEAFs. We have had so many people reach out to us about it that it absolutely confirms we’re on the right track. And importantly, every reservation is proving to our investors that there is real demand for us in the market! Over the last several months, we have listened to each of you and your feedback on what we’re doing, and it all helps us fine tune our service.

Ok, so what does this all mean now? Where’s the peak behind the curtain? Well here is how all of that is important to our progress. I spend muchof my days contacting other businesses in the EV space, talking about what we’re doing and seeing if there are ways we can work together. I also reach out to investors to raise the capital needed to convert this growing startup into a full fledged business and all of the things associated with that: Supply chain, manufacturing, facilities, engineering, marketing, and everything else that makes a business function. In between all of those conversations, I’m working with our advisers and engineers to fine tune our solution and our business model. Modifying financial models, shaping our marketing plans, developing a social strategy, tweaking the physical and software architectures, and refining our message to each of you.

I want to look at that last point for a moment, refining our message. We have encountered a bit of confusion about our solution since it’s so different. So quite a bit of time is being spent on how to clarify it all before we begin a much heavier marketing push later. And if I could sum it all up into one key idea it’s this: We’re applying a Netflix model to your energy storage needs by building a cellular network for your batteries. This may sound strange, but for a moment, look at the device you’re likely using to read this post. Over the last decade we have turned phones into an amazingly powerful platform that enables new and exciting solutions and makes them available to everyone. We’re doing that with energy storage, making batteries smarter, and building the tools to take that data and make them work better for you. And like your smartphone that gets software updates, and every few years, hardware updates, so will your batteries. You’re not just buying a battery pack, you’re subscribing to a service that grows and improves over time.

We believe this is a very big idea in energy storage, one that goes beyond just packaging a bunch of cells into a box that fits in a car. To borrow again from that cell phone analogy, think of it like this: Batteries in EVs today are “1G” phones, the old flip phones that only made calls. We’re building a solution to bring the next generation and doing so in a way that more generations will follow. 2G, 3G, 4G, etc. So today it may look like we’re a LEAF battery business, tomorrow we’ll look like so much more.

Thanks to each of you who have reserved with us, and each of you who have subscribed to our mailing list or followed us on social media. It is YOUR numbers that are convincing investors that this vision needs to become reality.

-John Bysinger
Founder & CEO of Fēnix Power

Our first 100!

I just want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you who have placed a reservation.

As of today, we have 100 reservations for our LEAF solution!

While our early adopter reservation discount is now gone, we’re still offering an 80% reduction on installation for people placing a deposit going forward. So the first 100 are SOLD OUT, but we’re still taking reservations!

This is a huge milestone for us, since we’re in the middle of raising funding from accredited investors, two of their biggest asks from startups like us is to first, show real customer interest, a reservation with a deposit does exactly that. And second, to show that the customer interest scales beyond just a few interested people.

Thanks to you, our conversation with investors changes in a very good way today. When we begin installations, I want you all to remember that your early interest is a big part of making all of this happen.

So, at risk of sounding repetitive, from all of us to each of you, thank you for your support!

-John Bysinger
Founder & CEO of Fēnix Power