‘Tesla Left Some Really Good Sites On The Table’: How Revel Aims To Fill A Charging Vacuum

By automotive-mag.com 8 Min Read

It’s hard to find a silver lining to Tesla’s recent cuts to the team behind its well-regarded Supercharger network. But Frank Reig, the CEO and co-founder of New York City rideshare and EV charging upstart Revel, is pretty confident his company can find one. 

In a recent interview with InsideEVs, Reig said that as Revel expands its fast-charger network across New York and beyond, it is looking to potentially build at several sites that Tesla has stepped away from. And if that’s happening with this one company in New York, it is likely happening in many other places, too. 

“Tesla has left some really good sites on the table in New York,” Reig said. “They’re power-ready, have good landlords and are in the right locations to get a lot of use, particularly from rideshare drivers. Those kinds of sites are super rare. We’re definitely interested in filling that opening.”

Serving rideshare drivers first is how Revel aims to become a charging superpower that can serve everyone later. The company has had an interesting trajectory; it launched in 2018 as a provider of app-activated, curbside electric mopeds, but then grew into a kind of all-electric Uber and Lyft competitor. It has since phased out its moped business after a number of high-profile crashes. Today, it remains fairly unusual in the rideshare space because it leases and directly operates its vehicle fleet and pays drivers as employees instead of independent contractors.

And increasingly, Revel is becoming a power player in the charging space to serve its rideshare drivers, as well as anybody else who needs a quick range boost. Revel now has two fast-charging “superhubs” in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg neighborhoods and one in Long Island City, all serving NACS and CCS-equipped cars. Each has at least 14 stalls good for 150 kW of power. More are coming, including sites in Manhattan, Red Hook, and near LaGuardia Airport and Red Hook, Brooklyn. Revel is also building locations in Oakland, California and San Jose, California, both in the San Fransisco Bay Area. After that, it’s envisioning expansions into other large EV markets, like Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles, Reig said.  

Here’s the thinking: by getting to market early with lots of DC fast chargers, Revel basically guarantees a support network and revenue stream for its own rideshare service. Plus, it can serve anybody else who wants to charge there, as the stations are open to everyone. Revel is happy to step up as Tesla recedes, Reig said.

“There’s no question Tesla has been the leader in charging infrastructure nationwide,” he said. “It’s unfortunate to see hundreds of people who contributed to that—who truly created the EV landscape we have today—left in the lurch. That said, this industry has evolved in the last couple of years and there are a lot of smart, capable companies out there doing this work, Revel included.”

He added, “There might be an initial slowdown just because of how aggressively Tesla was able to move. But long-term, the need for it still exists and this is now an opportunity for other fast-charging providers to grow and do more.”

Business is already booming for Revel, Reig said. It now runs 550 neon-blue Tesla and Kia EVs, is on a “path to profitability,” is expanding into California and has seen a massive uptick in charger usage just in the past few months.

That’s because late last year, New York lifted a longstanding cap on rideshare licenses for services like Uber and Lyft, provided the new licenses go to EVs—all part of a push for all-electric taxi fleets by 2030. About 10,000 rideshare EVs have hit the road since, Reig said. For Revel, that has meant 10 million kilowatts of electricity sold just in New York, good for millions of EV miles driven.  

In other words, Reig thinks Revel is in the right place at the right time. 

Revel Tesla Rideshare

“What that’s done is increase our charge utilization across our public stalls by over 10x in the last 120, 150 days,” he said. “It’s been insane.” While the charging uptick also coincides with the rise in EV sales in the New York region, Reig estimates “about 90% of our usage is rideshare drivers.”

By any estimation, New York could use the help. While driving in the Big Apple is seldom advisable, the Empire State saw EV registrations nearly double in 2023, much of that concentrated in or around America’s biggest city. But New York is a city where building anything is hard, let alone high-voltage EV charging hubs.

Power availability, open real estate, an obtuse permitting process, complicated negotiations with landlords and utilities and the city and state’s infamous bureaucracies can all make building charging a nightmare. But without proper charging infrastructure, all those new EV rideshare and civilian drivers will be out of luck; something we still see regularly at places like Coney Island’s Tesla Supercharger station. 

However, things are getting better here quickly with options like the new Gravity charging superhub near Times Square and homegrown startups like itselectric offering innovative curbside options. And Reig said Revel is taking advantage of the city and its utility’s interest in accelerating charger adoption to match all of this demand. 

“I really have to give a lot of credit to folks like Con Edison, I think especially in the last 12 months,” he said, referring to New York City’s power and gas company. “Con Edison has an incentive for fast charger owner-operators like us, where they help cover some of these very high [capital expenditure] costs. That incentive essentially doubled six months ago.”

Still, Reig doesn’t sugarcoat the countless challenges of building a fast-charging network and leasing and operating a fleet of EVs. Some can have higher repair costs than conventional cars, especially when subjected to the abuse of New York ride-hail duty. 

“In terms of our service costs per mile, they are a bit elevated from, let’s say, a Toyota Camry,” Reig said. “I can’t argue it’s hard to source aftermarket Tesla parts.” But he added that more than just the Model 3, Model Y and Kia Niro EV may be in Revel’s future.

“Maybe the hint I’ll give you is Toyota is on our board, so maybe something is coming there in the future,” he said. 

But at a time when pessimism feels easy in the EV race, Reig says he feels good about things—especially in New York, where nothing ever feels easy. 

“I think New York City, just in the last six to 12 months, has become probably the best place to be as an owner-operator of infrastructure,” he said. “We have an exciting couple of years ahead of us.”

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