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Burgeoning automotive tech is driving new streams of advertising-fueled options. Advertising can help provide free electric charging, gig economy money and free cars to drive. Auto Futures talked to three North American startups to find out how their business models work.

Volta Charging

In 2010, after graduating from college, Scott Mercer decided to sell his 1969 Jaguar XKE and move to Hawaii to set-up Volta. Mercer developed free charging for EV drivers with free installation for businesses supported by advertising. Since then, Volta has grown a network of hundreds of chargers throughout the United States and worked with major brands such a Jaguar, Nissan and Chevrolet.

“Our stations look like giant iPhones,” says Abdellah Cherkaoui, Senior Vice President, Government, Automotive and Utilities at Volta. “We put the chargers in public places that are most convenient and easy to see and use.”

Charger use is frictionless, there are no cards to use and there is no cost to the business. The 2’ x 8’ (.6m x 2.43m) digital signs are located close to grocery stores, department stores and shopping malls which helps bring EV drivers to the locale as well as promote EVs overall says Cherkaoui. Before buying an EV consumers, need to know that there are places to charge their vehicles.

“We leverage the media sponsored service model and are able to show the impact to the brands associated the message,” says Cherkaoui. “The response has been amazing.” He adds that Volta maintains the chargers, chargers are used most of the day and the brands that advertize reach their target.


In 2015, James Heller cashed out his retirement savings and sold his vintage BMW and racing Porsche GT3 to research his idea for wrapping cars to be part of the ‘gig economy’. With the help of funding (along with new wrapping film), Wrapify puts advertising on cars and uses technology to measure reach.

“We have over 150,000 drivers who want to earn hundreds of dollars a month,” says James Heller, CEO of Wrapify who was honored in 2017 by Forbes 30 Under 30

A Bluetooth beacon is installed in the cars that connects to the Wrapify smartphone app which logs the location of the vehicles. Drivers have to have a 2008 or newer car and pass background checks. The cars are wrapped in advertising by independent service operators. Using the data from the drivers, Wrapify can target specific geo-fenced areas for its advertisers.

“The misconception is that we’re a company that wraps cars. We’re really an omnichannel out-of-home ad platform in which the platform is on vehicles. The added advantage is our patented technology is we are able to measure impressions, reach and engagement,” says Heller.


In January 2015, Zoli Honig was living in an apartment building in Far Rockaway, New York with a very persistent neighbor, Isaac Deutsch who saw a billboard above a Zipcar and came up with the idea to combine the two mediums to ‘waive’ car-sharing fees, says Honig, Co-Founder of WaiveCar. At the time, Honig had already successfully launched and sold Chalkable, an education app store.

The partners launched WaiveCar in Santa Monica, California offering electric Chevy Sparks that were covered in advertising with a digital sign on top in January 2016. Drivers sign up to use the vehicles through an app which may show advertising. Approved drivers can drive the cars for free for two hours and pay $5.99 an hour after that with bonuses for charging the cars and fees for misuse. After reserving a car drivers have 15 minutes to wherever the last driver parked it.

“We met someone from Hyundai Ventures and realized that WaiveCar could be the ultimate test drive experience and they loved the idea,” says Honing. In 2016, WaiveCar and Hyundai formed a partnership to deploy IONIQ cars into the fleet. Drivers are asked to take a survey to provide feedback to Hyundai. WaiveCar received a loan from an appearance on the US reality TV show Shark Tank in 2017.

“The service is extremely popular, we have a waiting list,” said Honing. Drivers are required to take photos of where they park to ensure that car is parked legally. If drivers find dirty or damaged cars, they upload photos of the problem through the app. WaiveCars with less than 25 miles in battery charge have to be returned to headquarters.

Some drivers have been banned from WaiveCar. Honig, just before his 30th birthday, explained: “Our philosophy is don’t be a jerk.” He says, because it’s free, it needs the full support of the community.

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