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 models, and even home charging is costlier lately.

As we wait around for enhanced tax credits to make EVs more accessible in the U.S., 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 more buyers 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 “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 U.S.) 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.

‘Tenet’ will get an international release before hitting U.S. screens in September

Tenet has long been expected to be a bellwether for filmgoers’ readiness to return to theaters. Director Christopher Nolan is a blockbuster machine, and if anyone can get butts in seats amid the worst pandemic in modern memory, it’s probably him. And to be fair, the film really has served as a kind of litmus test — just not kind Warner Bros. was hoping for.

After numerous delays, Tenet has a new release date. Not a final release date, mind. If there’s one thing that COVID-19 has taught us, it’s that things can always get worse. For now, however, the mysterious sci-fi thriller is slated to hit theaters in select North American cities on September 3, for the Labor Day Weekend.

Notably, however, the film will receive an international release in 70 territories next month. The list includes Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Russia and the U.K. While U.S. theater owners have eagerly been waiting the film’s arrival, shutdowns in too many key markets have continued to make a wide release untenable. Among other things, the move can be viewed as a kind of indictment of the United States’ on-going inability to curb the virus’s spread.

And while, as Variety notes, global day-and-date releases aren’t unheard of for these kinds of blockbusters, much of Tenet’s appeal has hinged on the film’s mysterious nature. The trailers thus far released for the film have remained purposefully obtuse. An international release ahead of the the U.S. will almost certainly go a long ways toward removing some of that mystery through piracy and online spoilers.

Other upcoming releases Mulan and A Quiet Place 2 have also seen further delays in recent days.