A relatively new service that aims to gas up your car at your workplace is launching in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Yoshi is an app-based system that promises to figure out how often you need to fill up. Then it basically does it for you. The caveat is that you have to pay $20 a month for membership — it's not a one-time, on-demand service — and it requires about four members per workplace.
But the gas prices are competitive, CEO Nick Alexander said. And founders argue that the $20 membership can be offset at least partially by the miles you save shopping for gas. Members end up saving as many as 10 hours per year in fuel shopping time and as much as $150 each year in gasoline costs, according to the company. Local traffic will be reduced if enough people sign up, too.
"L.A. is by far the No. 1 spot we've had for requests for our service," Alexander, who launched the first Yoshi fuel deliveries in the Bay Area last year, said.
Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for gas station comparison site GasBuddy.com, said via email that he believes Yoshi won't replace the good ol' gas station anytime soon. "My belief is that many gas station visits aren't just solely for fuel but for a trip to the convenience store to pick up items," he said.
"There's a lot of annoyances with some of the business models — like leaving keys or providing access to your car — that some won't find worth it," he added. "Over a decade ago we were told robots would replace fueling our vehicles, and here we stand today still doing it ourselves. It may come down to control: Motorists want control of their pump price, their vehicle, their experience."
Alexander said Yoshi wanted to prove itself in smaller American markets before trying it out in the freeway city, Los Angeles. "We wanted to prove this can work anywhere in the country," Alexander said. "So we went to places like Nashville, Atlanta and Austin, Texas, first."
The sheer breadth of the Greater L.A. market, which includes Los Angeles and Orange counties, means that members must have three other Yoshi customers at their work parking lots before delivery can begin, he says. The platform uses artificial intelligence to predict when a member will need to fuel up.
"We essentially look at patterns, filling them up, say, on a Monday and Thursday and figuring out what you use for a weekday and weekends," Alexander said. "Then we figure out, what's the best route for our schedule" for efficient deliveries.
The company wants members to "set it and forget it." "Our idea is it kind of works in the background," Alexander said. "We own our own trucks and manage the whole operation."
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Members also can receive air and tire checks, car washes and oil changes for à la carte prices, Alexander says. Firestone/Bridgestone USA is a partner.
Yoshi was developed under the lauded Y Combinator investment incubator. Earlier this year Yoshi raised $2.1 million in venture capital.
The startup is part of the delivery revolution that recently saw Amazon buy Whole Foods with the expected promise of organic groceries at your door. But some critics have noted that in places like Los Angeles County, where the individual median income is only about $28,000, such elite tech services serve to highlight the growing gap between rich and poor.
"One of the things we take pride in is we want this service to be accessible to everyone," Alexander says. "It's not just for top executives. Our user base is extremely diverse. One longtime customer in Atlanta is a pizza delivery guy who fills up three times a week."