The home-stretch in a marathon is always difficult. You shift your strategy from keeping pace to focusing on every stride you make that gets you to that finish line. And after keeping pace for so long, new obstacles can start to feel like impossible mountains to climb.
For Fēnix and our home-stretch to get to our long-overdue installations, we’ve had some surprise mountains rise up between us and the finish line. Covid-19 has thrown us some really challenging curve balls. The strain of the delays has taken a toll on our team, we lost our COO, and had to trim our contract staff. We had an investor who had been committed to us since last summer give in to the shift in the market these last few months and pull out. And the various lockdowns around the world have created some unexpected challenges for us, some still persisting.
Despite what seems like a finish-line that keeps moving away from us, we’re still keeping our eye on the prize. We’ve learned some hard lessons through these delays, lessons that are turning into strong pivots with real positive benefits. Our need to re-think our capital plans to carry the weight of our subscription after the investment loss has led is into talks with a great new potential capital partner. One with more experience with business models like the Fēnix Battery as a Service model. The loss became a win.
And similarly we’re pivoting into a wider energy system solutions play that will bring in more great product like our home storage solutions. We’re in discussions with an EV charger partner, and looking into reselling some home energy products our customers will need to pair with the home batteries.
I also want to take a moment to address the many questions we received about our fixed storage products. Most understand that a home battery can provide a variety of benefits, but how to set it up and what other hardware is needed to achieve those goals is still a bit confusing. So we’re putting together a few solutions to provide those answers, and we hope to start listing the companion products you’ll need in our store as well. Soon you’ll find a section of our website dedicated to explaining all of their possibilities complete with wiring diagrams and recommended configurations. That will also host a spreadsheet you can download that will allow you to simulate your goals and help you understand how to size your home storage to best fit your needs and goals.
And finally updates to the biggest question everyone has been asking through all these delays: When and where are installs starting?? To answer that I need to address the three biggest challenges we’re working on still to get there: Capital, tools, and Canada. We had hoped to include British Columbia and Ontario in our launch markets, but shipping lithium and selling EV batteries internationally complicated things a bit. We’re going to have to include a provincially variable tax on our Canadian batteries, similar to the Value Added Tax that we don’t have here in the US, but the good news? EV batteries are exempt from border tariffs! We expected a high cost at the border, and the taxes are reasonable, if I recall right, around 5%? We’ll share more information there once our shipping broker gets all the ducks in a row for us.
Capital I’ve discussed above a bit, our new capital partner will help us offset the weight of the asset and get to installs much faster than if we had capital in the bank and were going it alone! We should see first installs locally here in Charlotte in the next 30 days. Other markets are impacted by tool related delays thanks to Covid.
Depending on the car we either need one or two tools for our Certified Nissan pack swap installs. Every install will require a computer programming tool from EVs Enhanced to pair the battery with the car. We’ve been testing their tool here in Charlotte and are thrilled with how simple it makes the install. And the second tool is actually an adapter. There were a couple of physical connector changes over the years of Leaf production, the data plug changed, and later they added a high voltage connection for the heater for better efficiency. When needed we will provide the adapters for our customers. And when we start to offer the ability to swap to larger Nissan packs (currently supply limited!) those will require their own adapter. All of these tools and adapters ship from New Zealand, and currently we’re seeing that take as long as four weeks to ship!
This delay is thanks to restrictions in customs prioritizing outbreak-related medical equipment and we hope to see that delay drop in the coming months, but this is a significant challenge for spinning up new installers! But we’ve already been working on a solution here, started before we even knew about the shipping delays.
All of this unfortunately means installs will likely start around the end of June or early July for most markets, but we’re working on scheduling installs for customers local to the Charlotte area to get those installs completed in June. We have an installer here ready to go, the tools needed, the programmer, and only need to get batteries in transit to get that in motion. So if you’re within about 200 miles of Charlotte, expect to hear from us soon to see if you’re interested in scheduling your install!
One last item, we said we would be ending our installation discounts last week, but with these delays pressing on, we didn’t feel right about raising the installation for new reservations to the full install price just yet. So as of today instead of raising the install cost from $750 to full, pre-order install costs will be $1150, retaining a $350 savings over the full $1,500 installation cost.
Thanks as always for your support, my inbox constantly gets messages of encouragement from so many of you. I and my team thank each of you for your continued patience and truly look forward to crossing this marathon’s finish line and get fresh batteries into your cars very soon!
-Founder & CEO
Correction: This post has been edited, in an earlier version of this post, I over-stated the progress towards our business partnership efforts with EVs Enhanced. I mistakenly implied that we had already secured an exclusive representation relationship with them. While we will be absolutely thrilled if they do indeed agree to such a relationship, and are continuing our conversations with them, we are not there quite yet. I let my excitement about the prospect of working with such a great team to influence me and I got a bit ahead of myself in this post. If and when we do get such an agreement in place, we will share a more formal announcement.