Apple confirms hiring of Ulrich Kranz, former CEO of EV company Canoo

Apple has hired the former co-founder and CEO of electric vehicle company Canoo to help with the development of the Apple Car, Bloomberg first reported, citing unnamed sources. Apple has confirmed to TechCrunch it has hired Kranz, but did not provide further details into his job responsibilities or title.

Kranz resigned his position at Canoo in April after steering the company toward public listing and a new leadership team, and he is reported to have been scooped up by Apple within weeks. The news comes a couple of months after Apple CEO Tim Cook dropped hints that the mysterious Apple Car would include autonomous vehicle technology as a key feature. Hiring an executive with decades of experience at the cutting edge of the auto industry is a clear sign that Apple is moving ahead with its vehicle manufacturing plans.

Apple is keeping a tight lip on its plans for its vehicle. According to a Reuters report from December, Apple intends to produce an electric passenger vehicle with “breakthrough battery technology” and automated vehicle technology by 2024. Other than that, no one knows what the car will look like or who, if anyone, will be the manufacturer, although it’s not outlandish to imagine Apple creating both the hardware and software.

#apple, #apple-car, #automotive, #canoo, #electric-vehicles, #personnel, #transportation, #ulrich-kranz

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Widespread electrification requires us to rethink battery technology

The global economy’s transition to widespread electrification has increased the demand for longer-lasting and faster-charging batteries across industries including transportation, consumer electronics, medical devices and residential energy storage. While the benefits of this transition are well understood, the reality is that battery innovation hasn’t kept pace with society’s ambitions.

With reports forecasting a 40% chance that the world’s temperature will rise over the next five years beyond the limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius laid out in the Paris climate agreement, it is clear that there’s little time to waste when it comes to creating next-generation batteries, which can easily take another 10 years to fully commercialize.

To meet the increasing pressures to electrify, a completely novel approach to building batteries is the only way to scale rechargeable batteries quickly enough to curb greenhouse-gas emissions globally and avoid the worst-case scenario for the climate crisis.

The challenges to battery innovation

Over the last few decades, battery experts, automakers, Tier 1 suppliers, investors and others looking to electrify have spent billions of dollars globally on creating next-generation batteries by focusing predominantly on battery chemistry. Yet the industry is still grappling with two major fundamental technical challenges that are stunting the proliferation of batteries:

  1. Energy/power tradeoff: All batteries manufactured today face an energy-to-power tradeoff. Batteries can store more energy or they can charge/discharge more quickly. In terms of electric vehicles, this means no single battery can provide both long range and fast charging.
  2. Anode-cathode mismatch: Today’s most promising battery technologies maximize the energy density of anodes, the negative electrode of the pair of electrodes that make up every lithium-ion battery cell. However, anodes already have greater energy density than their positive counterpart, the cathode. Cathode energy density needs to eventually match that of the anode in order to get the most energy storage capacity out of a certain battery size. Without breakthroughs in increasing cathode energy density, many of today’s most exciting battery technologies will not be able to deliver on their full potential. As it currently stands, the most commonly used lithium-ion battery cannot meet the needs of the wide-ranging applications of an all-electric future. Many companies have tried to address these demands through new battery chemistries to optimize the high-power-to-energy-density ratio to varying degrees of success, but very few are close to achieving the performance metrics required for mass scale and commercialization.

Ultimately, the winning technologies in the race toward total electrification will be the ones that have the most significant impact on performance, lowered costs and compatibility with existing manufacturing infrastructure.

Are solid-state batteries the holy grail?

Battery researchers have championed the solid-state battery as the holy grail of battery technology due to its ability to achieve high energy density and increased safety. However, until recently, the technology has fallen short in practice.

Solid-state batteries have significantly higher energy density and are potentially safer because they do not use flammable liquid electrolytes. However, the technology is still nascent and has a long way to go to achieve commercialization. The manufacturing process for solid-state batteries has to be improved to lower costs, especially for an automotive industry that aims to achieve aggressive cost reductions as low as $50/kWh in the coming years.

The other substantial challenge to implementing solid-state technology is the limitation of total energy density that can be stored in the cathodes per unit of volume. The obvious solution to this dilemma would be to have batteries with thicker cathodes. However, a thicker cathode would reduce the mechanical and thermal stability of the battery. That instability leads to delamination (a mode of failure where a material fractures into layers), cracks and separation — all of which cause premature battery failure. In addition, thicker cathodes limit diffusion and decrease power. The result is that there is a practical limit to the thickness of cathodes, which restricts the power of anodes.

New takes on materials with silicon

In most cases, companies that are developing silicon-based batteries are mixing up to 30% silicon with graphite to boost energy density. The batteries made by Sila Nanotechnologies are an illustrative example of using a silicon mix to increase energy density. Another approach is to use 100% pure silicon anodes, which are limited by very thin electrodes and high production costs, to generate even higher energy density, like Amprius’ approach.

While silicon provides considerably greater energy density, there is a significant drawback that has limited its adoption until now: The material undergoes volume expansion and shrinkage while charging and discharging, limiting battery life and performance. This leads to degradation issues that manufacturers need to solve before commercial adoption. Despite those challenges, some silicon-based batteries are already being deployed commercially, including in the automotive sector, where Tesla leads in silicon adoption for EVs.

The imperative for electrification requires a new focus on battery design

Advances to battery architecture and cell design show significant promise for unlocking improvements with existing and emerging battery chemistries.

Probably the most notable from a mainstream perspective is Tesla’s “biscuit tin” battery cell that the company unveiled at its 2020 Battery Day. It’s still using lithium-ion chemistry, but the company removed the tabs in the cell that act as the positive and negative connection points between the anode and cathode and the battery casing, and instead use a shingled design within the cell. This change in design helps reduce manufacturing costs while boosting driving range and removes many of the thermal barriers that a cell can encounter when fast-charging with DC electricity.

Transitioning away from a traditional 2D electrode structure to a 3D structure is another approach that is gaining traction in the industry. The 3D structure yields high energy and high power performance in both the anode and cathode for every battery chemistry.

Although still in the R&D and testing phases, 3D electrodes have achieved two times higher accessible capacity, 50% less charging time and 150% longer lifetime for high-performance products at market-competitive prices. Therefore, in order to advance battery capabilities to unlock the full potential of energy storage for a range of applications, it is critical to develop solutions that emphasize altering the physical structure of batteries.

Winning the battery race

It’s not just performance improvements that will win the battery race, but perfecting production and cost reduction as well. To capture a considerable share of the ballooning battery market that is projected to reach $279.7 billion by 2027, countries around the world must find ways to achieve low-cost battery manufacturing at scale. Prioritizing “drop-in” solutions and innovative production methods that can be incorporated with existing assembly lines and materials will be key.

The Biden administration’s American Jobs Plan highlights the importance of domestic battery production to the country’s goal of being a leader in electrification while meeting ambitious carbon reduction targets. Commitments like these will play a key role in establishing who can maintain a critical competitive edge in the battery space and take the largest share of the $162 billion global EV market.

Ultimately, the winning technologies in the race toward total electrification will be the ones that have the most significant impact on performance, lowered costs and compatibility with existing manufacturing infrastructure. By taking a holistic approach and focusing more on innovating cell design while also fine-tuning leading chemistries, we can achieve the next steps in battery performance and rapid commercialization that the world desperately needs.

#biden-administration, #column, #electric-vehicles, #electricity, #energy-storage, #evs, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #lithium-ion-batteries, #opinion, #rechargeable-batteries, #tc, #transportation

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EV startup Fisker sets moonshot goal of making a climate neutral EV by 2027

Electric vehicle startup Fisker Inc. has set a moonshot goal of creating its first climate neutral car by 2027.

Fisker has yet to bring a vehicle to market — climate neutral or not — making this an ambitious target. The all-electric Fisker Ocean SUV, which is still on track to go into production in November 2022, will not be climate neutral, according to CEO Henrik Fisker who laid out the target as part of a broader update Tuesday to investors. Instead, this will be another yet to be announced vehicle.

Henrik Fisker, a serial entrepreneur who rose to fame as the designer behind iconic vehicles like Aston Martin V8 Vantage, the production launch design of the Aston Martin DB9 and BMW Z8 roadster, also provided a few other updates during the investor call. He said the Ocean will have an anticipated range of up to 350 miles, beyond the previously estimated 300 miles. The company has received more than 14,000 reservations for the Ocean as of March, according to an annual report distributed to shareholders.

Fisker, which went public via a merger with special purpose acquisition company Apollo Global Management Inc. in October at a valuation of $2.9 billion, aims to have four vehicles to market by 2025. One of those, Fisker hinted at Tuesday, could be a luxury vehicle which he called the “UFO” that will use the company’s FM29 platform architecture.

Fisker’s carbon neutral plan

Other companies across industries have made promises to hit that carbon neutral goal before. Henrik Fisker emphasized to investors that the company will not purchase carbon offsets to accomplish that climate neutrality goal. Carbon offsets are credits that companies can purchase to “claim” a reduction in CO2 toward their project or product. Instead, Fisker said they will work with suppliers to develop climate neutral materials and manufacturing processes.

The company lays out some of its proposed strategies on its website, where it splits the vehicle lifecycle into five phases: upstream sourcing, manufacturing and assembly, logistics, the use phase, and end-of-life. For each phase, the company lists a few bullet points, such as localizing manufacturing. Even with these plans, achieving climate neutrality in vehicle production will be extremely difficult. Vehicles use materials and components such as steel that are notoriously hard to decarbonize, for example.

Fisker said that the company’s manufacturing partners have climate neutral goals of their own, which is true for automotive contract manufacturer Magna Steyr. The company inked a deal with Fisker to exclusively manufacturer the Fisker Ocean in Europe. Magna set a target of climate neutrality for its European operations by 2025 and globally by 2030. Foxconn, Fisker’s other major partner for its second, lower-price vehicle dubbed Project PEAR, also has a net-zero emissions goal, but it is set for the middle of the century.

Moonshot goals such as this one could help push innovation in manufacturing processes and encourage other automakers and suppliers to reach for the same targets. Other automakers such as Polestar and Porsche have all made carbon neutral promises with deadlines of 2030, while Mercedes has said it will hit that target in 2039.

Fisker does seem to have a plan for how it might be able to recycle or reuse some of its EV batteries once they’re no longer useful in the vehicle. The company plans to extend its leasing program across the entire estimated 15-year lifespan of the vehicle, which would theoretically ensure that Fisker will be in possession of a number of its vehicles when they reach end-of-life.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #fisker, #fisker-ocean, #foxconn, #henrik-fisker, #magna, #transportation

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Ancient electric cars meet modern EVs at Amelia Island show

AMELIA ISLAND, FLORIDA—It’s rare to see an electric vehicle among the polished and restored vintage cars of a concours d’elegance. (That’s French for a very fancy car show.) And that’s despite the fact that electric power was a credible alternative to the internal combustion engine for the first few decades of the automobile. But this year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance went some way to rectifying that. Under the oppressive humidity, nestled between the usual concours fare of interwar phaetons and a wonderful assortment of Porsche 935s, there was an entire class of ancient EVs on display.

And what a varied class it was. A marvelously named Electrobat IV 1895 was the oldest EV to take to the well-manicured golf course. They were still in the earliest stages of figuring out this whole automobile thing 126 years ago and the Electrobat IV, running on skinny buggy tires, still looks like it’s missing its horse. But the real innovation that Pedro Salem and Henry Morris came up with for the Electrobat was its electric powertrain, consisting of a 1.5 hp (1.1 kW) motor and a 350 lb (159 kg) battery. They went on to build a fleet of Electrobat taxis that operated in New York at the beginning of the last century.

The Waverley Electric from 1901 was nearly primitive, and again there’s the impression that it’s incomplete without an accompanying equine. But the 1901 Waverley rides on pneumatic treaded tires, it has headlights, and is powered by a 2.5 hp (1.8 kW) motor. A Waverley Four-Passenger Coupe from 1910 shows how far the Indianapolis-based company developed over a decade; while obviously an antique, the red two-door fits most definitions of a car.

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#amelia-island-concours-delegance, #cars, #electric-cars, #electric-vehicles, #electrobat, #vintage-electric-cars, #vintage-evs, #waverley

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Ford officially adds Maverick, a compact pickup truck, to its lineup

Ford is adding a new entry-level truck called Maverick to its lineup as the automaker seeks to offer pickups at every price level in this increasingly competitive market.

The company said Thursday it will debut the vehicle June 8, including on its new Tiktok channel. The automaker tapped actress Gabrille Union to do the official unveiling, which will largely occur on social media. Union will show-off the all-new truck on her own Instagram and TikTok channels, on Ford’s social channels as well as on Hulu.

Little was seen of the vehicle, just a one second glimpse of it in a teaser ad on YouTube. From the photo, it is obviously a Ford and a compact one. The rest of the details will have to wait until next week, unless they’re leaked between now and then.

In Ford pickup hierarchy, that means the Maverick will sit under the mid-sized Ranger and F series models. The Ranger XL, the most affordable of the trims, starts at about $25,070 before destination fees. That means the Maverick should start at least few thousand dollars below that figure.

The automaker didn’t provide any more details about if it would be a hybrid, electric or gas-powered vehicle. However, noting the direction Ford has taken recently with the hybrid F-150 and the recently revealed all-electric F-150 Lightning, it’s likely that there will at least be a hybrid version offered.

As a reminder, the Ford F-150 is the profitable cornerstone of the U.S. automaker’s business. By adding in an electric sibling to the lineup it seemed like perhaps all the boxes had been ticked. But Ford wants to capture that entry level market of customers who want a pickup that is affordable and more suitable for city living.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #tc

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Faction raises $4.3M to deploy 3-wheeled EVs for driverless delivery

Faction Technology founder and CEO Ain McKendrick didn’t have the $1 billion or the time that a typical automotive program might need to design and manufacture an EV that could be used for driverless delivery.

So, he turned to power sports to fulfill his vision of a micro-logistics service that can be used for driverless delivery or rented and operated by a human for jaunts around the city. Now, with prototypes built and an ambition to scale, McKendrick has raised $4.3 million in seed funding led by Trucks VC and Fifty Years.

“We keep doing the same things over and over again,” said McKendrick, who was previously VP of engineering at the now shuttered self-driving truck startup Starsky Robotics. “We keep taking legacy vehicles and trying to retrofit them for driverless technologies. Rather than do the same stuff over and over again, how about we do it a little bit differently?”

Faction, which launched last year and graduated this winter from the Y Combinator accelerator program, started with a three-wheel motorcycle platform. While the company is building the chassis from the ground up, McKendrick says it can be accomplished at a fraction of the cost of manufacturing an automobile. The vehicle costs about $30,000 in all, which McKendrick said has a payback period of two years.

These are motorcycle-class vehicles, which means they are legal for city streets and highways but don’t have some of the same requirements that passenger vehicles do.

The vehicles can deliver cargo, which is accomplished through a combination of autonomy and a remote worker using teleoperations to assist. Faction, which is about a 10-person team, is working with other companies for the autonomous vehicle stack. However, it has developed a core platform with safety features that will step in if the autonomous system fails.

“The core technology that we’re building for these vehicles is actually something we aspire to bring to other vehicle formats, as the company grows over time,” he said, adding that they have developed a digital vehicle architecture and a teleoperation system, which work together.

Image Credits: Faction Technology

Delivery, or micro-logistics as McKendrick calls it, is the first focus of the company. However, the founder also sees an opportunity to build out fleets of its three-wheeled vehicles and rent them out to people who want to use them for three- to five-mile trips around cities, or even longer distance from a city to a nearby suburb. These vehicles would be nearly the same with a few key differences, like a glass canopy for the human operator versions. The delivery vehicles would have an opaque canopy.

McKendrick envisions users being able to hail one of its vehicles through an app. The vehicle would then drive itself to the user. Once they step inside, it would be manually operated by the human driver.

McKendrick’s pitch is that users get all the convenience of a scooter or bike share, but have weather protection and highway capability.

“So if you need to run from say, San Francisco down to San Francisco Airport, this is the perfect format of vehicle to do it for you, as opposed to trying to do more four-door sedans and larger-format vehicles.”

Under the driverless delivery applications, the user would be charged on a per-mile basis. McKendrick said they may charge by the hour for the vehicle rentals.

The company is working now to form partnerships with manufacturers of light electric vehicles to scale operational fleets, and plans to announce the first customer trials later this year. McKendrick said the goal is to deploy a small fleet of about 50 vehicles for the micro-logistics pilot and start some early rider trials by the fourth quarter.

#automotive, #autonomous-delivery, #autonomy, #delivery, #electric-vehicles, #faction-technology, #fifty-years, #recent-funding, #starsky-robotics, #startups, #tc, #transportation, #trucks-vc

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7-Eleven to install 500 EV charging stations by the end of 2022

Convenience stores are ubiquitous – and they sell the vast majority of gas purchased by consumers in the United States. But as more Americans transition to electric vehicles, a major reason people visit convenience stores will disappear.

Industry giant 7-Eleven is looking to capture this growing market of EV drivers. The company said Tuesday it will install 500 direct-current fast charging ports at 250 locations across North America by the end of 2022. These charging stations will be owned and operated by 7-Eleven, as opposed to fuel at its filling stations, which must be purchased from suppliers.

Many charging stations from some of the country’s largest providers, like EVgo, ChargePoint or Tesla’s Supercharger network, are located in a patchwork of parking lots adjacent to shopping malls or retailers like Target. But a major draw of convenience stores like 7-Eleven is that they’re already located in areas adjacent to highways or major roads – so they may have a leg up in attracting drivers.

7-Eleven may have another advantage in choosing to install DC fast chargers as opposed to slower level 2 chargers: The majority of convenience retailers are designed for quick, in-and-out service – around the time it takes to fill a tank of gas. Many don’t offer temperature-controlled places to sit, so a longer charging time would likely pose a problem for drivers. While older EV models are limited by the amount of kilowatt charges they can accept (so the output rate of the charger is inconsequential to how long it takes to charge the battery), newer vehicles can accept a wider range of charging rates.

As charging infrastructure – or lack thereof – remains one of the largest barriers to EV adoption, planned build-outs from mainstream retailers like the one announced by 7-Eleven could help reduce some consumer hesitancy over EVs.

The 500 charging stations will join 7-Eleven’s existing network of 22 charging stations, which are located in 14 stores across four states.

#7-eleven, #automotive, #electric-vehicle-charging-station, #electric-vehicles, #ev-charging-infrastructure, #ev-charging-stations, #tc, #transportation

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ChargerHelp co-founder, CEO Kameale C. Terry is heading to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

Thousands of electric vehicle charging stations will be built around the country over the next decade. ChargerHelp!, founded in January 2020 by Kameale C. Terry and Evette Ellis, wants to make sure they stay up and running.

The idea for the on-demand repair app for EV charging stations came to Terry when she was working at EV Connect, where she held a number of roles including director of programs and head of customer experience. She noticed long wait times to fix non-electrical issues at charging stations due to the industry practice to use electrical contractors.

“When the stations went down we really couldn’t get anyone on site because most of the issues were communication issues, vandalism, firmware updates or swapping out a part — all things that were not electrical,” Terry said in an interview with TechCrunch earlier this year.

After Terry quit her job to start ChargerHelp!, she joined the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, where she developed a first-of-its-kind EV Network Technician Training Curriculum. Shortly after, Terry and Ellis were accepted into Elemental Excelerator’s startup incubator and have landed contracts with major EV charging network providers like EV Connect and SparkCharge.

The company uses a workforce-development approach to hiring, meaning that they only hire in cohorts. Workers receive full training, earn two safety licenses, are guaranteed a wage of $30 an hour and receive shares in the startup, Terry said.

We’re excited to announce that Kameale Terry will be joining us at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, a one-day virtual event that is scheduled June 9. We’ll be covering a lot of ground with Terry, from how she developed her EV repair curriculum to what she sees in the company’s future.

Each year TechCrunch brings together founders, investors, CEOs and engineers who are working on all things transportation and mobility. If it moves people and packages from Point A to Point B, we cover it. This year’s agenda is filled with leaders in the mobility space who are shaping the future of transportation, from EV charging to autonomous vehicles to urban air taxis.

Among the growing list of speakers are Rimac Automobili founder Mate RimacRevel Transit CEO Frank Reig, community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler and Remix/Via co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu, who will come together to discuss how (and if) urban mobility can increase equity while still remaining a viable business.

Other guests include Motional’s President and CEO Karl Iagnemma, Aurora co-founder and CEO Chris Urmson, GM‘s VP of Global Innovation Pam FletcherScale AI CEO Alexandr WangJoby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt, investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman (whose special purpose acquisition company just merged with Joby), investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation FundQuin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct CapitalZoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson.

We also recently announced a panel dedicated to China’s robotaxi industry, featuring three female leaders from Chinese AV startups: AutoX’s COO Jewel LiHuan Sun, general manager of Momenta Europe with Momenta, and WeRide’s VP of Finance Jennifer Li.

Don’t wait to book your tickets to TC Sessions: Mobility as prices go up at the door. Grab your passes right now and hear from today’s biggest mobility leaders.

#alexandr-wang, #aurora, #automation, #automotive, #autotech-ventures, #autox, #av, #ceo, #chargerhelp, #charging-station, #china, #chris-urmson, #clara-brenner, #construct-capital, #coo, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicle-charging-station, #electric-vehicles, #ev-connect, #events, #frank-reig, #jesse-levinson, #jewel-li, #joby, #joby-aviation, #joeben-bevirt, #karl-iagnemma, #linkedin, #mate-rimac, #momenta, #motional, #pam-fletcher, #quin-garcia, #rachel-holt, #reid-hoffman, #revel-transit, #rimac-automobili, #robotaxi, #robotics, #scale-ai, #science-and-technology, #sparkcharge, #startups, #tamika-l-butler, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021, #technology, #tiffany-chu, #transport, #transportation, #urban-innovation-fund, #weride, #zoox

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The Station: Rivian rolls towards an IPO and Quantumscape makes a big battery hire

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox.

Hello and welcome back to The Station, a weekly newsletter dedicated to all the ways people and packages move (today and in the future) from Point A to Point B.

For my American readers, you might be traveling — perhaps for the first time in more than a year — because of the Memorial Day holiday. While Memorial Day is meant to honor members of the U.S. military who died while serving, the three-day weekend has become the unofficial kick off to summer. This year, those traveling by car, truck or SUV will be met by the most expensive Memorial Day weekend gas prices since 2014, according to AAA. The organization also estimates that 37 million Americans will travel by plane and automobile over the holiday — a 60% increase over the same period last year.

Be safe out on these busy roads, frens.

One story to highlight: Mark Harris dug into the contracts for the Las Vegas Loop System. He found that restrictions put in place by Nevada regulators are making it difficult for The Boring Company to meet contractual targets for its LVCC Loop, Elon Musk’s first underground transportation system. Shortly after publication, Steve Hill, president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), tweeted that a Loop test this week, with a few hundred participants, had demonstrated its planned 4,400 passenger per hour capacity, which could release $13 million in construction funds currently being held back. While this bodes well for TBC, the story lays out a number of other issues that could pose a challenge for the company. We will continue to dig into this story of tunnels and transport.


Now a request, dear reader. We’re a bit more than a week away from TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, a one-day virtual event scheduled for June 9 that is bringing together some of the best and brightest minds in transportation, including Mate Rimac of Rimac Automobili, Pam Fletcher of vp of global innovation at GM, Scale AI CEO Alexandr Wang, Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt, investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, whose special purpose acquisition company just merged with Joby, and investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital.

I’d love for you to join, and you can do that by clicking here and buying a ticket, which will also give you a months-free subscription to Extra Crunch and access to all the videos of the conference. But, if you can’t come, please reach out anyway and let me know if you have any questions or topics that you want addressed. I will be interviewing many of the folks coming to our virtual stage.

We just announced three more participants from automakers Hyundai, Ford and Toyota who will talk about their respective companies’ increasing interest and investment in robotics. Our three guests are: Max Bajracharya, formerly from Alphabet’s X and now vp of robotics at Toyota Research Institute, Ernestine Fu, director at Hyundai Motor Group who heads development at the new  New Horizons Studio and Mario Santillo, a technical expert at Ford who has been charged with helping lead the company’s efforts at a recently announced $75 million research facility at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, offer up opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

Micromobility rivals Bird and Lime have come out with news this week that they’re both marketing as sustainability initiatives. Let’s start with Bird.

Bird has unveiled its next-generation scooter, the Bird Three, that it will unveil in New York and Berlin this summer. It’s got a longer-range battery with 1kWh capacity and an improved diagnostic monitoring system to keep the battery lasting as long as possible. Bird says its better, smarter battery means it’s ultimately a more sustainable scooter because it has a longer life and needs to be charged a lot less.

Ideally, a better battery and better software will also help produce a longer-lasting vehicle so that Bird can cut down on depreciation and maintenance costs, which have really not helped the company in its push for profitability. Last week, Bird announced a SPAC merger with Switchback II. The regulatory filings that accompanied the announcement demonstrate just how difficult it is to turn a profit given the unit economics of shared scooters.

Lime is similarly positioning its updated subscription service, Lime Prime, as a sustainable initiative. With each new Prime member sign up, Lime promises to plant a tree through One Tree Planted. But more importantly, the subscription service helps the regular Lime rider perhaps save a bit of money. Members have access to waived unlock fees on any vehicle, and in markets with no start fees, the benefit will be 25% off the ride price. Additionally, riders can get free 30 minute reservations on any vehicle.

Two-wheel swag news

Zaiser Motors announced the launch of its Wefunder campaign to raise funds for development and production of its Electrocycle. It’s a good-lookin’ vehicle, charcoal-black with a design that breaks away from a super traditional gasoline-era style and looks more like something a small Batman might ride. All of the components are designed to be recyclable within the first 10 years of production, the company says. The Electrocycle has 300 miles of range, swappable batteries and is less than $25,000.

Meanwhile in scooter world, the Scotsman, a Silicon Valley-based electric scooter brand, has unveiled a scooter that’s 3D printed entirely in carbon fiber composite. And I don’t just mean some parts are composite. The whole frame, the handlebars, the stem and the baseboard are all made of this strong, sustainable, lightweight material. It also means the scooters are highly customizable, each frame printed depending on the owner’s height, weight, arm and leg lengths and riding position. At a starting price of $2,999, it’s not cheap, but that might be a signal from the industry that scooters are increasingly become viable transport options and not just toys. You can pre-order here.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

The march of IPOs appears to picking up pace. For instance, Full Truck Alliance, the Chinese digital freight platform known as Manbang Group, filed for an IPO. The filing didn’t specify the exact amount it was aiming to raise. Reuters, citing unnamed sources, reported that the company wants to raise up to $1.5 billion, which would give it a valuation of $20 billion.

Full Truck Alliance’s S-1 provides a number of interesting details, including the how much money can be captured by effectively connecting truckers with shippers. The company reported that about 20% of all China’s heavy-duty and medium-duty truckers fulfilled shipping orders on our platform in 2020. (More than 2.8 million truckers fulfilled shipping orders on its platform last year.) Full Truck Alliance said last year it facilitated 71.7 million fulfilled orders with a gross transaction value of RMB173.8 billion (US$26.6 billion).  The first quarter number show it is growing. In the first quarter, the company had  22.1 million fulfilled orders, a 170.2% increase from the same period.

Full Truck Alliance raised $3.6 billion in private funding, most recently last fall at an $11.7 billion valuation, from firms like SoftBank Vision Fund (22.2% pre-IPO stake), Sequoia Capital China (7.2%), Permira, Tencent, Hillhouse Capital, GGV Capital, Lightspeed China Partners and Baillie Gifford.

The IPO about six months since the company raised $1.7 billion in a funding round that included backing from SoftBank Vision Fund, Sequoia Capital China, Permira, Fidelity, Hillhouse Capital, GGV Capital, Lightspeed China Partners, Tencent and Jack Ma’s YF Capital. A look at the S-1 shows that the principal shareholders are Softbank with a 22.2% stake, followed by 8.9% held by Full Load Logistics, a limited liability company owned by Full Truck Alliance CEO Hui Zhang. Sequoia has a 7.2% stake and Master Quality Group Limited, another organization controlled by Zhang, hold 6.6% of shares.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

E2open Parent Holdings Inc. said it will acquire logistics execution platform BluJay Solution, Freightwaves reported. The deal could be valued at $1.7 billion, consisting of $760 million in cash and 72.4 million shares.

First Move Capital, the Boulder-based venture firm that has invested in used car marketplaces Frontier Auto Group and Vroom as well as mobility-as-a-service startup Via, has closed a new $150 million fund that will focus on the automotive and transportation sectors. Proceeds from the round will be exclusively allocated to new investments; seven have already been made, including into autonomous vehicle startup Gatik, cloud-based automotive retail platform Tekion and e-commerce startup Revolution Parts.

Hydra Energy received CAD$15 million ($12 million) from Just Business to expand beyond pilots and deliver hydrogen-powered trucking, the company announced. This funding is to support the further development of Hydra’s initial waste hydrogen capture plant in British Columbia, its fueling infrastructure and conversion kits. The Canadian company has raised CAD $22 million (USD $17.2 million) to date. One other update worth sharing, Hydra’s flagship hydrogen-as-a-service project, is scheduled to break ground later this year.

Miles, the German car-sharing service has received investment from Delivery Hero CFO Emmanuel Thomassin, HelloFresh CFO Christian Gärtner, Chargepoint CFO Rex Jackson as well as Norwegian top manager Stine Rolstad Brenna. Thomassin has joined the company’s advisory board. The company disclosed to TechCrunch that it generated 20 million euros ($24.39 million) of revenue in 2020, quadruple the amount from the previous year. The results helped the company achieve profitability in October 2020. Miles is now focused on expansion. In the first four months in 2021, the company launched electric vehicles and expanded its car fleet to Munich. Miles intends to grow beyond Germany and is currently examining the best markets to launch in.

MotoRefi raised another $45 million in a round led by Goldman Sachs just five months after investors poured $10 million into the fintech startup to help turbocharge its auto refinancing business. While the company didn’t give me specifics on its revenue — CEO Kevin Bennett cited a 7x growth year-over-year but didn’t provide the baseline — it did disclose it’s on track to issue $1 billion in loans by the end of the year. That’s a fivefold increase from the same period last year.

Smart Eye, the publicly traded Swedish company that supplies driver monitoring systems for a dozen automakers, acquired emotion-detection software startup Affectiva for $73.5 million in a cash-and-stock deal. The startup, which says it developed software that can detect and understand human emotion, spun out of MIT Media Lab in 2009. Since then, it has landed a number of development and proof of concept deals as well as raised capital, but it never quite reached the mass-scale production contracts.

That’s where Smart Eye comes in. Smart Eye, which has won 84 production contracts with 13 OEMs, including BMW and GM, is keen to combine with its own AI-based eye-tracking technology. The companies’ founders see an opportunity to expand beyond driver monitoring systems — tech that is often used in conjunction with advanced driver assistance systems to track and measure awareness — and into the rest of the vehicle. Together, the technology could help them break into the emerging “interior sensing” market, which can be used to monitor the entire cabin of a vehicle and deliver services in response to the occupant’s emotional state.

Tritium, a Brisbane-based developer and producer of direct current fast EV chargers, announced a merger agreement with a special purpose acquisition company Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corp. II. The deal is expected to value the company at $1.2 billion. The transaction is expected to generate gross proceeds of up to $403 million. Tritium will be listed under the ticker “DCFC.”

This particular SPAC deal is unusual in that it does not include private investment in public equity, or PIPE — a fundraising round that typically occurs at the time of the merger and injects more capital into the company. Tritium CEO Jane Hunter told us that the company didn’t need a PIPE because DCRN is a more than $400 million SPAC and its shareholder group agreed to a minimum cash closing of just $200 million, which significantly reduces redemption risk. “Also, our revenue has grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 56% since 2016 as we expand our presence in major markets where we have a significant market share, such as the U.S. and Europe,” Hunter said. “This revenue growth helps to reduce our reliance upon new funds to implement our growth strategy.”

Wejo, the connected vehicle data startup backed by GM and Palantir, plans to go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company Virtuoso Acquisition Corp. The agreement, announced in a regulator filing, will give the combined company an enterprise valuation of $800 million, which includes debt. There were earlier reports that the SPAC deal was imminent. The filing confirms the news and provides more detail.

The deal raises $330 million in proceeds for Wejo, including a $230 million cash contribution from Virtuoso and a $100 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE. Previous strategic investors Palantir and GM anchored the transaction, according to Wejo. The company did not disclose the amounts of those investments. Current shareholders will retain 64% ownership of the company, according to its investor deck.

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Senate Republicans released their response to Joe Biden’s sweeping $2 trillion investment plan, which would earmark $174 billion for electric vehicle investments. Their proposal would shrink it down to $928 billion. And that $174B for EVs? That would be reduced to just $4 billion, under the GOP plan.

It seems that the main point of contention between the President and his GOP colleagues is the definition of the word ‘infrastructure.’ Republicans are sticking to a more traditional definition, so their counterproposal still contains plenty of money for things like roads, the water system, bridges and broadband.

Biden’s plan aimed to provide consumer tax incentives and incentives for EV chargers, incentives to boost domestic manufacturing and enough funds to install at least 500,000 public charging stations across the country by 2030. A memo obtained by The Hill suggests Biden intends to hold firm to his proposal, so expect further negotiations in the coming weeks.

The Senate Finance Committee on May 26 marked up the Clean Energy for America Act, an important step before it hits the Senate floor for a vote. Among other things, the bill would remove 200,000 unit cap on tax credits for consumers buying EVs — that means the tax credit could be used toward buying a Tesla, a manufacturer that hasn’t been eligible for the credit because they’ve sold over 200,000 cars in the United States.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) added an amendment to the bill that would create an additional $2,500 consumer credit for vehicles assembled in the U.S. and another $2,500 for vehicles assembled in a unionized facility. If it passes, the additions would bring the maximum consumer tax credit for EVs to $12,500 — no small sum! The credits would expire in 2025. “Electric vehicles are part of our transportation future,” Sen. Stabenow said. “The question is not when they will be built, it’s where they will be built: in Asia or America?”

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm sold her holdings in electric bus manufacturer Proterra after Republicans criticized her for a potential conflict of interest. The GOP’s complaint arose after Biden made a virtual visit to a Proterra factory in April. The sale provided Granholm with a net gain of $1.6 million, DOE told reporters.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

I hear and see things, but we’re not selfish. Let me share.

This week, “a little bird” is all about big employment moves and departures and how one hire is connected to a potentially massive IPO.

Let’s kick things off with Celina Mikolajczak, the now former vice president of battery technology at Panasonic Energy of North America. You might recall that Mikolajczak recently took a board seat at solid state battery company QuantumScape. Welp, she is now taking a job at the company as vice president of manufacturing engineering, beginning in July. She has resigned from the board in connection with accepting the offer. In her new role, Ms. Mikolajczak will lead the transition of the Company’s tools and manufacturing processes from research and development to production, QuantumScape said in a regularly filing.

Mikolajczak has a long history researching and developing better lithium-ion batteries. Her technical consulting practice at Exponent focused on lithium-ion cell and battery safety and quality. She then took a senior management position at Tesla that was focused on cell quality and materials engineering. During her time at Tesla, Mikolajczak developed the battery cells and packs for Tesla’s Model S, Model X, Model 3 and Roadster Refresh.

After leaving Tesla, Mikolajczak went on to serve as director of engineering focused on battery development for rideshare vehicles at Uber Technologies. And in 2019, she joined Panasonic Energy of North America, where she is vice president of battery technology. While at Panasonic, Mikolajczak led a team of more than 200 engineers and other technical staff to improve lithium-ion cell manufacturing and to bring the latest cell technologies to mass production for Tesla at the Gigafactory facility in Sparks, Nevada.

Speaking of Tesla … it looks like Scott Sims, director of engineering, left the company this month. His title doesn’t quite capture his role. Sims was the person leading the design and engineering for vehicle user interfaces, streaming, video games and mobile applications. Importantly, he was responsible for cloud computing as it related to the Tesla mobile app, a critical tool for any owner.

Finally, the big news on Friday (via Bloomberg) is that Rivian has selected underwriters for an initial public offering. The company could seek an eye-popping value of $70 billion. I have confirmed some (but not all) of Bloomberg’s reporting. Obviously big news that I’ll be watching and digging into. I had heard rumbling about a potential Rivian IPO, but Bloomberg put together the critical deets.

To me, the biggest indication that Rivian was getting ready to make a move was Ger Dwyer taking the vp of business finance position at the company, which he posted about on LinkedIn. You might recall, that I scooped the news a couple of weeks ago that Dwyer was leaving his post as CFO at Waymo. I noted at the time that Dwyer’s departure comes at a time when the demand for CFOs has rocketed alongside the continuous string of public offerings, including those done via mergers with special purpose acquisition companies.

Got tips? Send them my way by email or DM me over at Twitter.

Notable reads and other tidbits

Loads and loads of news. Let’s get to it.

Autonomous vehicles

Aurora published a blog post that gives a few new details on its testing and self-driving trucks strategy in Texas. The autonomous vehicle company said its first commercial pilots will move goods on several “middle-mile” routes in Texas. A safety driver will be behind the wheel of these self-driving trucks, which will drive autonomously between hubs. The terminal or hub system is one that other AV companies have adopted — at least for now. The idea is that loads can be consolidated, which would theoretically make operations more efficient. Aurora did add, that “for shippers and carriers with existing hubs and large volumes of freight, we expect to ultimately drive the complete route with no need for an intermediate consolidation point.”

One other item that jumped out to me: the company is expanding into a second office in Texas, suggesting that they’re scaling up, at least in terms of people.

Germany’s lower house of parliament adopted legislation that will allow driverless vehicles on public roads by 2022, laying out a path for companies to deploy robotaxis and delivery services in the country at scale. While autonomous testing is currently permitted in Germany, this would allow operations of driverless vehicles without a human safety operator behind the wheel. The bill still needs to pass through the upper chamber of parliament, or the Bundesrat. Included in the bill are possible initial applications for self-driving cars on German roads, such as public passenger transport, business and supply trips, logistics, company shuttles that handle employee traffic and trips between medical centers and retirement homes.

PAVE, which stands for Partners for Autonomous Vehicle Education, piloted a workshop with local governments earlier this month throughout Ohio. The educational workshop, which was done in partnership with Drive Ohio, wasn’t open to the public. But my Autonocast podcast co-host Ed Niedermeyer, who also happens to be director of communications for PAVE, gave me the inside scoop on what went down.

PAVE says it doesn’t do any kind of policy advocacy; instead the aim is to arm public policymakers with the facts they need to make good policy. This pilot helped PAVE lay a foundation for a curriculum that can be used elsewhere; that might seem trivial, but the complexity of issues around AVs makes these workshops with elected officials potentially powerful tool.

Ed told me that one of the main challenges was educating on potentially controversial topics, like policy and regulation, “where we have to get facts across without imparting biases.” He noted that the organization’s public sector and academic advisory councils were both helpful as neutral authorities. Finally, he said that one of the most practical education PAVE did was around the best practices that its members and advisors have developed in early AV deployments.

Kodiak Robotics, the U.S.-based self-driving truck startup, is partnering with South Korean conglomerate SK Inc. to explore the possibility of deploying its autonomous vehicle technology in Asia. While Kodiak co-founder and CEO Don Burnette couched the initial agreement as a first step toward a commercial enterprise in Asia, the reach of SK shouldn’t be discounted. SK Inc., a holding company of SK Group, has more than 120 operating companies, including ones connected to the logistics industry.

The ultimate aim of the partnership is to sell and distribute Kodiak’s self-driving technology in the region. Kodiak will examine how it can use SK’s products, components and technology for its autonomous system, including artificial intelligence microprocessors and advanced emergency braking systems. Both companies have also agreed to work together to provide fleet management services for customers in Asia.

Electric vehicles

Ford Motor, fresh off its splashy F-150 Lightning electric truck reveal, announced it is pushing its investment in EVs up to $30 billion by 2025, up from a previous spend of $22 billion by 2023. The company announced the fresh cashflow into its EV and battery development strategy, dubbed Ford+, during its investor day.

The company said it expects 40% of its global vehicle volume to be fully electric by 2030. Ford sold 6,614 Mustang Mach-Es in the U.S. in Q1, and since it unveiled its F-150 Lightning last week, the company says it has already amassed 70,000 customer reservations.

Hyundai held the North American reveal of the upcoming all-electric Ioniq 5 crossover. One new detail that I found interesting: Hyundai developed an in-car payment system that will debut in the Ioniq 5. The feature will offer drivers the ability to find and pay for EV charging, food and parking. When the vehicle comes to North America in fall 2021, the payments system will launch with Dominoes, ParkWhiz and Chargehub.

Lordstown Motors’ cash-rich SPAC dreams have turned out to be nothin’ more than wishes, as Alex Wilhelm and Aria Alamalhodaei reported. The upshot: a disappointing first-quarter earnings that was a pile-up of red-ink-stained negativity. The lowlights include higher-than-expected forecasted expenses, a need to raise more capital and lower-than-anticipated production of its Endurance vehicle this year — from around 2,200 vehicles to just 1,000. In short, the company is set to consume more cash than the street expected and is further from mass production of its first vehicle than promised.

Lucid Motors revealed the in-cabin tech of its upcoming electric luxury Air sedan. I spoke to Derek Jenkins, who heads up design at Lucid, and he provided a detailed tour of all the tech in the vehicle. It goes far beyond the curved 34-inch display and second touchscreen, which received much of the attention. The user experience, particularly the underlying software, matters in all cars. But it can be the death of an electric vehicle model if not done properly.

It appears Lucid is on the right track. I won’t really know until I’m able to test the Air. Let’s hope that is soon.

Rivian has delayed deliveries of the R1T Launch Edition, the limited edition release of its first series of “electric adventure vehicles,” by a month. Customers who preordered can now expect to start receiving their pickup trucks in July instead of June, with Launch Edition deliveries to be completed by spring 2022. The one-month delay was due to a combination of small issues, including delays on shipping containers, the ongoing chip shortage as well as ensuring the servicing piece is properly set up. It’s worth noting that Rivian told me that it has been largely unaffected by the chip shortage compared to the rest of the industry because its products don’t require as many as other vehicles on the market today.

Tesla had a number of news items this week, so I’ll just point to the most notable ones. Tesla has established a data center in China to carry out the “localization of data storage,” with plans to add more data facilities in the future, the company announced through its account on microblogging platform Weibo. All data generated by Tesla vehicles sold in mainland China will be kept domestically. The move was in response to new requirements drafted by the Chinese government to regulate how cameras- and sensors-enabled carmakers collect and utilize data. One of the requirements states that “personal or important data should be stored within the [Chinese] territory.”

Finally, two safety-related pieces of Tesla news that seem in opposition to each other.

First, Tesla started delivering Model 3 and Model Y vehicles without radar, fulfilling a vision of CEO Elon Musk to only use cameras combined with machine learning to support its advanced driver assistance system and other active safety features. The decision has prompted blowback though from the National Traffic Highway and Safety Administration, Consumer Reports and IIHS over safety concerns.

Meanwhile, Tesla finally — and after loud and frequent urging from industry and safety advocates, activated the in-cabin camera in new Model Y and Model 3 vehicles. The camera will be used as a driver monitoring system. Tesla has been criticized for not activating the driver monitoring system within its vehicles even as evidence mounted that owners were misusing the system. Owners have posted dozens of videos on YouTube and TikTok abusing its advanced driver assistance system known as Autopilot — some of whom have filmed themselves sitting in the backseat as the vehicle drives along the highway.

Other nugs (no not that kind)

Apex.AI hired Paul Balciunas as its CFO. Balciunas was the former CFO of Canoo. He also was an executive at Deutsche Bank, where he acted as a lead underwriter of the initial public offering for Tesla in 2010, and has since focused on auto tech and new mobility players.

Blyncsy, a Utah-based startup movement and data intelligence company launched an AI-powered technology called Payver, that will use crowdsourced video data to give transport agencies up-to-date information on which roads require maintenance and improvements. Blyncsy is offering this service to governments at a reduced cost and with no long-term commitment. Utah’s DOT will be the first to pilot the program beginning June 1, deploying Payver in the Salt Lake County region, which covers more than 350 road miles. Blyncsy will be announcing other pilots in different states over the next few weeks.

Scale AI hired Mark Valentine to head up its federal-focused division. Valentine comes with experience and connections. He was  a commander in the U.S. Air Force, senior military advisor to FEMA and most recently, GM of national security for Microsoft. He will lead Scale’s government partnership efforts.

Scale has also hired Michael Kratsios, the former CTO of the White House, as managing director and head of strategy. The company said he is focused on accelerating the development of AI across industries. Michael joined at the end of Q1.

#aurora, #automotive, #bird, #chris-urmson, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #gm, #hyundai, #joby-aviation, #karl-iagnemma, #lime, #lucid-motors, #mate-rimac, #micromobility, #panasonic, #quantumscape, #reid-hoffman, #rimac, #rivian, #scooters, #tesla, #transportation, #volkswagen

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Rivian delays deliveries of the R1T Launch Edition by one month

Rivian said that deliveries of the R1T Launch Edition, the limited edition release of its first series of “electric adventure vehicles,” will be delayed by a month, according to an update on its website.

Customers who preordered can now expect to start receiving their pickup trucks in July instead of June, with Launch Edition deliveries to be completed by Spring 2022. The change was first spotted by the Rivian Forum. The one-month delay was due to a combination of small issues, including delays on shipping containers, the ongoing chip shortage as well as ensuring the servicing piece is properly set up, a Rivian spokesperson said.

The Amazon-backed EV startup told preorder holders in July 2020 to expect deliveries of the truck in June 2021, with R1S electric SUV deliveries starting two months later in August. The delivery timeline has already been extended once, after Rivian suspended construction work on its factory due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rivian is working to maintain the August delivery time of the R1S, the spokesperson said.

Despite the delay, it looks like Rivian will still be first to bring an electric truck to market among both new EV entrants and legacy automakers. Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns said in an investor call last week that deliveries for the company’s “Endurance” truck are still on track for September (despite slashing production numbers in half). Ford’s F-150 Lighting, the electric version of its nameplate pickup, is expected in 2022. And Tesla recently confirmed that its Cybertruck will start production late this year.

Rivian also said it will be starting its drive program in August, which will let customers schedule at-home drives or attend a tour event. The company will be releasing details on launch dates and reservations for the tour events in the coming weeks. Rivian selected Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Detroit and Seattle as the first batch of cities on the tour.

In addition, it released a few product updates. Customers now have the option to add an Off-Road Upgrade to their vehicle configuration for an additional $2,000. Every Rivian will now also come with an onboard air compressor, previously available only with the Off-Road Upgrade.

Customers can also add Rivian Adventure Gear to their configuration. These include a rooftop tent, cargo bars, and camp kitchen (that now comes with a 30-piece kitchen set).

#automotive, #electric-pickup, #electric-pickup-truck, #electric-vehicles, #rivian, #transportation

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Ford’s $30B investment in electric revs up in-house battery R&D

Ford is increasing its investment in its electric vehicle future to $30 billion by 2025, up from a previous spend of $22 billion by 2023. The company announced the fresh cashflow into its EV and battery development strategy, dubbed Ford+, during an investor day on Tuesday. 

The company said it expects 40% of its global vehicle volume to be fully electric by 2030. Ford sold 6,614 Mustang Mach-Es in the U.S. in Q1, and since it unveiled its F-150 Lightning last week, the company says it has already amassed 70,000 customer reservations. 

The Ford+ plan reveals the new path automakers will have to take if they want to keep up with an EV future. Historically, China, Japan and Korea have owned much of the world’s battery manufacturing, but as major OEMs begin building electric cars, the demand is far outstripping supply, forcing car manufacturers to invest their own resources into development. General Motors is building a battery factory with LG in Ohio, and BMW joined Ford to invest in solid state battery startup Solid Power.

This investment “underscores our belief that production-feasible solid state batteries are within reach in this decade,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product platform and operations officer, during the investor day. “Solid Power’s sulphide-based solid electrolyte and silicon-based anode chemistry delivers impressive battery improvements in performance, including increased range, lower cost, more vehicle interior space and better value and greater safety for our customers.”

The solid state battery manufacturing process doesn’t differ too much from the existing lithium ion battery process, so Ford will be able to reuse about 70% of its manufacturing lines and capital investment, according to Thai-Tang. 

At Ford’s Ion Park facility, a battery R&D center Ford is building in Michigan, the automaker has brought together a team of 150 experts to research and create a game plan for the next generation of lithium ion chemistries and Ford’s new energy-dense battery technology, the Ion Boost +.

“Our ultimate goal is to deliver a holistic ecosystem including services that should allow us to achieve higher profitability over time with BEVs than we do today with ICE vehicles,” said Thai-Tang.

The Ion Boost +’s unique cell pouch format is not only ideal for powering Ford’s larger vehicles, but it could also help the company reduce battery costs 40% by mid-decade, the company says. 

“The cell chemistry, coupled with Ford’s proprietary battery control algorithm featuring high accuracy sensing technology, delivers higher efficiency and range for customers,” said Thai-Tang.

For commercial vehicles, Ford is working on a battery cell made with lithium ion phosphate chemistry, which it’s calling the Ion Boost Pro, which it says is cheaper and better for duty cycles that require less range.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #mustang-mach-e, #transportation

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Lucid Motors reveals all the tech inside its all-electric Air sedan

Eight months after Lucid Motors showed off the final version of its all-electric Air sedan, the company has finally revealed the in-cabin tech — from the curved 34-inch display and second touchscreen to the underlying software, integrated apps and Amazon Alexa voice assistant —that drivers and passengers will use once the automaker begins deliveries of the vehicle in the second half of the year.

The aim of the company’s branded Lucid User Experience, or Lucid UX, is to include all the tech that customers might want in a vehicle priced between $80,000 and $169,000 without adding clutter and confusion.

“We really tried to follow a strong principle of ease-of-use and a short learning curve, for it to have quick responses and an overall feeling of elegance,” Derek Jenkins, Lucid’s head of design said in a recent interview. “I kind of wanted to move away from it being overly technical or sci-fi looking or spreadsheet-like and really move towards something that was more fitting with the brand and our design ethos.”

The interior isn’t as stark as a Tesla Model 3 or Tesla Model Y, nor as jam-packed as some of the German luxury vehicles. Jenkins and his team have tried to hit the Goldilocks’s equivalent the perfect bowl of tech porridge.

“At the beginning of the project I always used to tell the team, ‘Listen I want my mom to be able to get in this car and figure it out the first time,’” Jenkins said. “She should be able to know instinctively probably the light switch and the door locks are on the left side because that’s where they always are and not have to dig through that stuff. Or that the climate controls are probably on the lower screen because that’s where it often is and traditionally has been. I just felt like it should have intuitiveness and a degree of simplicity, while still having impressive features and having a system that can grow.”

Lucid Motors interior cabin

Image Credits: Lucid Motors

The hardware

The curved 34-inch 5k display called the glass cockpit floats slightly above the dashboard and is the most visible hardware in the vehicle, although not the only component worth mentioning. It is actually three separate displays housed under a single plate of glass, a technique that Mercedes-Benz has used in its 56-inch hyperscreen. On the far left, is a touchscreen where Lucid has placed the most important, or core, vehicle controls such as window defrosters, lighting and wiper settings.

The middle screen, is the instrument cluster, which is where the driver will see the speed and remaining battery range displayed.  The right side of instrument cluster is a widget that can display a variety of information, depending on the user, including navigation or what music is playing. The instrument cluster is also where the driver will see whether the advanced driver assistance system is activated.

To the right of the steering wheel, is another touch display that Lucid is calling the home screen. It’s here where navigation, media and communications will be located.

Moving down and to the center console area is another curved screen that Lucid has dubbed the “pilot panel,” which displays climate controls, seat functions, including a massage feature, along with all the other vehicle settings. The driver or passenger can swipe menus from the home screen down to pilot panel to display in-depth controls for music or navigation. And if the driver doesn’t want that additional touchscreen, the pilot panel can be retracted, opening access to a storage space behind it.

It’s worth noting that analog switches are still within the vehicle in three areas: the doors, the steering wheel and a slice of space between the pilot panel and the upper home screen. Alongside the doors, the driver or passengers will find the window switches and interior door latches. Right above the center console display are four physical buttons that lets the driver or passenger control climate temperature and fan speed.

Image Credits: Lucid Motors

On the steering wheel is a touch bar and two toggles. These buttons can be used to launch the Alexa voice assistant and turn on and off the advanced driver assistance functions as well as adjust the following distance in cruise control and volume.

“We did a lot of research through this discussion of analog interaction such as physical buttons and digital interaction on a touchscreen,” Jenkins said. “What we found was there was some key functionality that people still wanted to have physical interaction with.”

The vehicle is also loaded with 32 sensors, including a single lidar that is located just below the nose blade on the exterior of the vehicle. Below that is a lower air intake and then a forward-facing radar. Other radar sensors are located on the exterior corners. There are exterior cameras as well in the nose and header area behind the rearview mirror.

Inside the vehicle, and tucked right below the instrument cluster is a camera that faces the driver. This camera is part of the driver-monitoring system, which is meant to ensure the operator is paying attention when the advanced driver assistance system is engaged.

Two other hardware items worth noting is the 21-speaker surround sound system from Dolby Atmos and a small vintage detail with the air vents. Lucid wanted the Air to have physical air vents that a person could touch and move unlike the Tesla Model 3, which requires the user to move the direction of the air flow through the digital touchscreen. But Lucid didn’t want the bulk of a vent in the chicklet style design, which has an additional side tab to turn on or off the air flow.

The solution is a slimmed down air vent with a single round dial right in the middle. That dial can be grabbed and move to shift air flow. It can also be turned to shut off the air to a particular vent.

“It was a breakthrough for us,” Jenkins said laughing, “which isn’t a breakthrough because that was super common in the 60s and 70s in cars.”

The software

Behind all of the physical touchscreens and sensors is the software that delivers functions and services.

Lucid started with the open source Android Automotive operating system and built out the apps and other features from there. Android Automotive OS is modeled after Google’s Android open-source mobile operating system that runs on Linux. Google has offered an open-source version of this OS to automakers for sometime. In recent years, automakers have worked with Google to natively build in an Android OS that is embedded with all the Google apps and services such as Google Assistant, Google Maps and the Google Play Store. Lucid did not take the Google services platform route.

From here, Lucid worked with various third-party apps and integrated them into the infotainment system, a list that currently includes iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, Dolby Atmos, Tidal and Spotify.

Lucid has also decided to make Alexa the default and primary integrated voice control system. Lucid Air will also come with Android Auto and Apple Carplay — apps that run on the user’s phone and wirelessly communicates with the vehicle’s infotainment system. This means the driver, or passenger, can access Google Assistant and Siri through these apps, they just won’t be able to control the vehicle functions like climate.

The vehicle will also have integrated mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity, which will allow Lucid to update the software of the vehicle wirelessly. The over-the-air update capability lets the company add new apps and services.

The future

Jenkins said they’re already looking at bringing more content to the infotainment system, including gaming and video streaming, which would only be accessible when the vehicle is parked.

The Lucid design team is also examining other more hardware-based additions to future model years of the Air, including rear entertainment displays.

“You probably won’t see that from us until sometime in 2023,” Jenkins noted. “We think that’s an important thing to bring to the car especially because the rear seat is such a nice place to be.”

 

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #lucid-air, #lucid-motors, #tc, #tesla

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EV fast charger developer Tritium to go public via SPAC merger at $1.2B valuation

Another day, another mobility SPAC deal. This time, it’s Tritium, a Brisbane-based developer and producer of direct current fast EV chargers that is taking the SPAC path to the public market in a deal valuing the company at $1.2 billion.

Tritium said Wednesday it will be heading to the Nasdaq via a merger with special purpose acquisition company Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corp. II, or DCRN. The transaction is expected to generate gross proceeds of up to $403 million. Tritium will be listed under the ticker “DCFC.” This particular SPAC deal is unusual in that it does not include private investment in public equity, or PIPE — a fundraising round that typically occurs at the time of the merger and injects more capital into the company.

Founded in 2001, Tritium manufactures charger hardware and software for direct current fast chargers. Its products can recharge an EV battery, adding 20 miles in a minute or 100 miles in five minutes, DPAC II chairman Robert Tichio said during an investors call Wednesday. DC chargers are more costly than alternating current (AC) chargers but they send power to the vehicle much more quickly. Generally, AC chargers are installed at home, where a driver can plug in their vehicle overnight, while DC chargers are more frequently found at public charging stations.

“Drivers will want the experience of public charging to be as close as possible to their current experience at the gas pump – just a few minutes to get enough range to get on with your day,” Hunter said.

Tritium’s largest market is Europe, which composes around 70% of the company’s revenue, followed by North America at 20% and Asia at 10%, Tritium CEO Jane Hunter told investors Wednesday. The company will use the capital from the transaction to expand its manufacturing capacity and grow sales.

Demand for public EV charging stations is expected to mushroom over the next two decades alongside the growing market share of EVs. According to analysts Grandview Research, the EV charging infrastructure market was valued at $2 billion in 2020. It is expected to grow by nearly 39% through 2028. President Joe Biden said building out a national EV charging network was a key priority under his proposed $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

#automotive, #electric-vehicle-charging-station, #electric-vehicles, #spac, #spac-merger, #transportation

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JD.com, Meituan and Neolix to test autonomous deliveries on Beijing public roads

People in a Beijing suburb will begin to see autonomous delivery mini-vans across their neighborhood, moving cautiously alongside human delivery riders belting down the streets.

Beijing has greenlighted JD.com, Meituan, and Neolix to trial self-driving delivery vehicles on designated public roads in the Yizhuang Development Area, an economic and technological growth pilot initiated by the municipal government of the capital city, according to an announcement made by local authorities at a mobility conference on Tuesday. Yizhuang has aggressively rolled out 5G coverage in part to prepare the infrastructure for autonomous driving ventures.

All three companies are using dainty box-on-wheels vehicles similar to those of Nuro to shuffle goods around. Three-year-old Neolix, backed by Chinese electric vehicle startup Li Auto, focuses on making self-driving vehicles for retail, surveillance and other city services, while both JD.com and Meituan are tech heavyweights that find unmanned delivery increasingly important to their existing core business.

Meituan’s self-driving delivery vehicle / Photo: Meituan via WeChat

Online retailer JD.com hires its own in-house delivery staff while Meituan relies on a national network of riders to bring restaurant takeout to customers. Both have been working on autonomous driving technologies internally in recent years and are also testing small fleets of delivery drones in China.

Neolix will place 150 delivery robots on Beijing roads by June. JD.com declined to disclose its deployment number. Meituan can’t be immediately reached for comment.

At the Tuesday event, authorities from the Beijing pilot zone also laid out rules for operating zero-occupant delivery vehicles in the area. The robots are categorized as “non-motor vehicles,” which suggests they will be moving next to bicycles and electric scooters instead of faster-moving cars. Road conditions in Chinese cities are often much more complicated than in the United States, even on sidewalks and bike lanes thanks to unpredictable pedestrians, unleashed pets, and reckless scooter riders.

Importantly, the rules also stipulate that the robots need to have safety drivers “on the spot and remotely.”

Neolix’s delivery robot / Photo: Neolix via WeChat

JD.com says its technology allows every remote safety driver to monitor up to 50 operating delivery robots simultaneously. Its vehicles will carry packages from logistics centers and supermarkets to nearby office buildings, residential complexes and school campuses. Customers will then fetch their order directly from the van using a pick-up code sent to them through a text message ahead of time.

Neolix’s vehicles in the pilot area, in comparison, act more like mobile vending machines peddling snacks and lunchboxes to workers around office complexes. Users can place their order on a little screen attached to the robot, pay by a QR code and get their warm bento or ice cream instantaneously.

#artificial-intelligence, #asia, #automation, #beijing, #china, #electric-vehicles, #jd-com, #li-auto, #meituan, #nuro, #robotics, #self-driving-cars, #take-out, #tc, #transportation

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Hyundai is launching in-car payments in the all-electric Ioniq 5

Hyundai developed an in-car payment system that will debut in its upcoming all-electric Ioniq 5 crossover that will offer drivers the ability to find and pay for EV charging, food and parking — the latest example of automakers finding new ways to generate revenue and offer customers features that are typically associated with smartphones.

When the vehicle comes to North America in fall 2021, the payments system will launch with Dominoes, ParkWhiz and Chargehub, the company said Monday. The in-car payments system was just one of several new details released during the Ioniq 5’s North American debut.

The payments feature works through Bluelink, Hyundai’s branded connected car system that gives users control over various vehicle functions and services. Bluelink, which requires a subscription, is offered in three different packages that cover areas such as vehicle maintenance and alerts, remote climate control and unlocking and locking as well as destination search. Bluelink also can be linked to a user’s Google Assistant feature on their smartphone to send information to their Hyundai vehicle.

The in-car payments system will eventually expand to include other companies that fall into the charging, food and coffee on-the-go and parking categories. A company spokesperson said Hyundai will continue to add new merchants regularly via the Xevo Marketplace platform.

The Ioniq 5 is the company’s first dedicated battery-electric vehicle built on the new Electric-Global Modular Platform, or E-GMP platform. This platform is shared with Kia and is the underlying foundation of the new EV6.

If the Ioniq name sounds familiar, it’s because it already exists. In 2016, Hyundai introduced the Ioniq, a hatchback that came in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric versions. The Korean automaker is using that vehicle as the jumping off point for its new EV brand.

All of the vehicles under the Ioniq brand will have the E-GMP platform. The Ioniq 5 is based on Hyundai’s Concept 45, a monocoque-style body crossover that the company unveiled in 2019 at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt. Designers of the Concept 45 leaned on some of the lines and characteristics from Hyundai’s first concept, the 1974 Pony Coupe. The “45” name comes, in part, from the 45-degree angles at the front and rear of the vehicle.

Hyundai has yet to release pricing for the Ioniq 5.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #hyundai, #tc

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Tesla faces $163M payout to drivers in Norway following court decision

A Norwegian conciliation council has ordered Tesla to pay thousands of dollars each to Model S owners after it found that a software update led to longer charging times, the Norwegian newspaper Nettavisen reported Monday. Drivers eligible for compensation under the ruling will receive 136,000 kroner ($16,000) each.

Thirty Tesla drivers brought a complaint to the conciliation council in December 2020, citing that charging times slowed down after a software update the previous year. The poorer performance affected Tesla Model S vehicles manufactured between 2013 and 2015.

Tesla sold about 10,000 Model S vehicles during that timeframe in Norway. That means Tesla faces an overall payout of up to 1.36 kroner ($163 million), Nettavisen said.

Tesla did not respond to the complaint prior to the judgement being issued and it has until May 30 to pay the fine. The company has the opportunity to appeal the ruling to the Oslo Conciliation Board by June 17.

This is not the first time Tesla has faced complaints on charging speeds in court. A Tesla owner in 2019 filed a lawsuit against the EV manufacturer in the Northern California federal court alleging fraud and decreased battery range following a software update.

Norway leads Europe in the number of EVs on the road, with battery electric vehicles accounting for 54% of all new vehicle sales in 2020, according to the Norweigan Road Federation. Audi e-trons were the most popular vehicle sold, followed by the Model 3.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #lawsuit, #norway, #tc, #tesla, #tesla-model-s, #transportation

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The Station: London scooter winners and Ford’s most important EV

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox.

Hello and welcome back to The Station, a weekly newsletter dedicated to all the ways people and packages move (today and in the future) from Point A to Point B.

I want to point to two Extra Crunch articles before jumping into the rest of the news and analysis. Yes, Extra Crunch requires a subscription. We’re ramping up the transportation analysis and features in EC and I hope you find it worthwhile.

We’re ramping up our founder Q&A series. The first one was an interview with Revel founder and CEO Frank Reig. This time, it is Arrival founder Denis Sverdlov, who founded his first company at 22 selling IT consulting software to enterprise customers. Since then, he has built and exited multiple companies, most notably telecommunications operator Yota Group. He also founded Roborace.

We have two more interviews coming up with Veo co-founder and CEO Candice Xie and Refraction AI co-founder Matthew Johnson-Roberson.

Finally, we published a piece that examines voice recognition in vehicles, a marketplace that has tech giants like Google and Amazon competing for space with a few up and comers and established suppliers like Cerence.

A friendly reminder that my email inbox is always open — and yes, I do read your messages. Email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, offer up opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

Dott, Lime and TIER have won the long-awaited, much-coveted bid to operate e-scooter shares in London. The pilot, which will run for up to 12 months, will begin June 7 in some of London’s boroughs, including Canary Wharf and the City of London. More neighborhoods are expected to join as the year progresses, according to TfL. Lambeth and Southwark are also seeking participation. Between 60 to 150 scooters will be available initially in each borough.

This announcement is significant not only because London is one of the biggest targets for micromobility shares, but also because Transport for London is very keen on collecting data from the scooter companies that will help determine how e-scooters could be integrated into a sustainable transport pandemic recovery plan.

Can micromobility address the racial wealth gap?

The Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation released a report entitled Cementing an Equity Framework for Micro Mobility that talks about next steps for its NYC Better Bike Share Partnership and outlines goals for fostering equity and opportunity for communities of color through public transportation.

“Creating a truly equitable bikeshare system is about more than just placement of stations and the price of fares. It requires deep partnerships with the community and empowering the voices of those who have been traditionally underserved,” said Laura Fox, General Manager of Citi Bike. “We are grateful to the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation for their leadership and ongoing efforts to create a culture of cycling, particularly by addressing street safety. As this progress report highlights, we have many accomplishments to be proud of and we look forward to continued partnership to build on these successes.”
Accessible mobility is one of the major drivers of wealth, and I’m a big proponent of the potential for active forms of mobility, from e-scooters to push bikes and everything in between, to both help cities cut emissions and help residents stay healthy.

From a startup’s perspective, can you even contribute to this equitable goal and also make money? I’ll be discussing this in a few weeks at our TC Mobility Event on June 9 with advocate and consultant Tamika Butler, CEO and co-founder at Remix, Tiffany Chu, and CEO and co-founder of Revel, Frank Reig.

Spinning tales of SPACs…

The aftereffects of Bird going SPAC last week is that now we’re all wondering which micromobility company is going to go SPAC next. Will it be Lime? TIER? Or maybe Spin? Bloomberg reported Ford is considering divesting Spin, according to “people familiar with the matter.”

Currently, we have a lot of whisperings and speculation and not a lot of facts. Rumors circulating involve Spin spinning off from Ford or merging with a special purpose acquisition company. Spin did not want to comment, and I think that’s fair given the nebulous shape of this “news.”

While we’re on the subject of Bird…

Bird is working with IT Asset Partners (ITAP) to give its batteries a second life. So, when a scooter reaches the end of its life, it’s broken down for parts, with batteries shipped over to ITAP. Then ITAP breaks down each battery module to the cellular level to get as many reusable battery bits as possible.

This is not only an eco-friendly way to do business, but it’s also increasingly necessary in a world that’s going electric faster than supply can keep up with.

“The circular economy is where the world is going, and it will help determine how global businesses function over the next 10 years,” said Robert Mullaney, Director of Business Development at ITAP, in a Bird blog post announcing the partnership. “As battery technology has improved year over year, their second life potential has increased as well, allowing them to be used in broader and more advanced applications. This includes things like computers and computer chargers.”

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

Is it me or am I seeing more activity in the aviation/eVTOL sector these days? We’ve had three SPACs — Lillium, Archer and Joby — plus a smattering of other funding news in the past four months.

And now, there’s one more to add to the list. Electric aviation startup Beta Technologies closed a $368 million Series A funding round with investments from Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund. The new capital is the second round of funding announced by the company this year, after the company raised $143 million in private capital in March. Beta’s valuation is now at $1.4 billion, putting it in a small circle of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) unicorns.

The funding round was led by Fidelity Management & Research Company, with undisclosed additions from Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, a $2 billion fund established in September 2019 to advance the development of sustainable technologies. The Climate Pledge fund has also made contributions toward electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian, battery recycler Redwood Materials and ZeroAvia, a hydrogen fuel cell aviation company.

Beta is a bit different from other high valuation eVTOL startups. The Vermont-based company isn’t primarily focused on air taxis. Instead, it’s been targeting defense applications, cargo delivery and medical logistics, as well as building out its network of rapid-charging systems in the northeast U.S. Its debut aircraft, the ALIA-250c, was built to serve these various solutions by being capable of carrying six people or a pilot and 1,500 pounds.

Other deals that got my attention …

Mile Auto, insurance tech startup, raised $10.3 million in a seed funding round that includes investment from Ulu Ventures, Emergent Ventures, Thornton Capital, and Sure Ventures. The company said it will use the funding to expand availability of its insurance offering to half of the U.S. auto insurance market by the end of 2021, as well as hiring, adding new distribution channels, onboarding of white-label partners and expanding its automaker network. Mile Auto has also partnered with Ford Motor to offer auto insurance to owners. Mile Auto launched a similar program with Porsche Financial Services in 2019.

Portside, an aviation startup that is building a platform for managing the backend of a corporate flight department, charter operation, government fleet and fractional ownership operation, today announced that it has raised a $17 million funding round led by Tiger Global Management, with participation from existing investors I2BF Global Ventures and SOMA Capital.

Twaice, the German battery analytics software company, raised $26 million in Series B funding led by Chicago-based Energize Ventures. The company, which primarily works in the mobility and energy storage industries, now has a total financing of $45 million.

Virtuo, a Paris-based startup that lets people rent a car for a few days, or up to a few months, has raised $96 million. The funding money will be using to invest in its tech and to expand to more markets beyond France, U.K. and Spain.

Waybridge, a company that has created a supply chain platform for raw materials, raised $30 million in a Series B funding round co-led by Rucker Park Capital and Craft Ventures, with participation from Venrock. The company has developed a digital platform that lets customers track inventory and shipments. Waybridge’s pitch is that its product can help companies navigate disruptive events like the Suez Canal traffic jam and COVID-19.

WeaveGrid raises $15 million Series A round to enable widescale adoption of EVs on the electric grid. Coatue and Breakthrough Energy Ventures will join existing investors to drive software innovation at intersection of utility and automotive sectors.

Wejo, the British automotive-data startup backed by General Motors, is in talks to go public through a merger with Virtuoso Acquisition Corp., Bloomberg reported.

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Welcome back to Policy Corner! A decision from a little-known but very powerful California regulator caught my eye this week. The California Air Resources Board, which regulates air quality in the state, adopted new rules on Thursday that will require 90% of ride-share trips to be completed by electric vehicles by 2030.

It’s important to remember that ride-sharing giants Uber and Lyft have both vowed to go 100% electric fleets by that year, but this is the first time that a state has adopted EV requirements for ride-share companies. In written comments submitted ahead of the hearing, both Uber and Lyft urged the Board to create EV rebates that are specifically targeted at high-mileage drivers and fleets, and to install EV chargers in “urban and traditionally underserved areas.”

“California’s EV incentive programs and EV infrastructure investments over the past decade have served an exclusive population―wealthy, white, homeowners―that does not reflect Lyft’s driver population,” Paul Augustine, Lyft’s senior manager of sustainability, said in submitted comments.

Back over in Washington, there was a hearing at the House Committee on Energy and Commerce about the ways in which new automotive technologies (like autonomous driving) might enhance vehicle safety and help cut down on the many thousands of automotive deaths that occur on U.S. roads each year.

AV proponents like the Self Driving Coalition point to the many possible safety benefits of AVs. Electrical engineer Ragunathan Rajkumar, who testified at the meeting, urged lawmakers to advance a policy framework to support innovation to ensure America stays competitive against foreign rivals in AV technology.

However, the committee also heard testimony from people who urged a careful and pragmatic approach to AVs. Greg Regan, in testimony representing the AFL-CIO, argued that transportation workers should have a place at the table in conversations about AV deployment. He also said that the government should enact policy to ensure that the AV manufacturing industry yields secure jobs for American workers. Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, argued that other safety and design upgrades, as well as improved vehicle performance standards, could do much to save lives in the near-term.

“The idea that tens of thousands of unproven and unregulated AVs deployed quickly and without oversight, or a significant upgrade in highway and road infrastructure, will automatically be safer than what we have now may make for a good talking point in a quarterly earnings report — but is not good transportation policy,” he said in his testimony.

The issue of forced arbitration also came up during the hearing. Below is an exchange between Congressman Rush and Jason Levine, who is the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety.

RUSH: As you know, even pedestrians may lose their right to seek justice in the courts if there is a continued proliferation of forced arbitration clauses. These clauses are often buried in terms of service agreements that waive a consumer’s right to sue in court, participate in a class action, or appeal the arbitrator’s decision. Do forced arbitration clauses related to AVs pose a danger to pedestrians? If so, why?

LEVINE: They pose a real threat. The threat is this, as we discussed earlier, the ability to make sure you’re holding any manufacturer, AV or otherwise, responsible for something defective, a defective vehicle, is critical to safety, it is a backstop to our entire system. And so, if you are a pedestrian who has entered into an agreement unknowingly, when you downloaded an app to order a pizza maybe, and you get hit by a pizza delivery vehicle, and you said, “well I’m going to do everything from a legal standpoint through binding arbitration,” you have now lost your ability to go to court. That sounds outlandish, but it’s not actually that far from where we are in terms of binding arbitration removing our ability to hold manufacturers accountable. So that’s something that we do not want to see in an AV context.

Station readers: what do you think?

 — Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable reads and other tidbits

Lots to get to this week.

Autonomous vehicles

May Mobility announced it is launching a new autonomous shuttle service in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The free shuttle service called A2GO will be available to the public starting Oct. 11, 2021. May Mobility said it will operate a fleet of five autonomous, shared, on-demand vehicles as part of the A2GO deployment. Four hybrid-electric Lexus RX 450h vehicles, which can carry three passengers, and one Polaris GEM fully electric vehicle that has capacity for one wheelchair passenger will operate in a service area that connects Kerrytown, the University of Michigan campus and the State Street corridor.

Chinese robotaxi startup Pony.ai has been given permission by California regulators to pilot its autonomous vehicles without a human safety driver behind the wheel in three cities. While dozens of companies — 55 in all — have active permits to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver, it’s far less common to receive permission for driverless vehicles. Pony is the eighth company to be issued a driverless testing permit in the state, a list that includes Chinese companies AutoX, Baidu and WeRide as well as U.S. businesses Cruise, Nuro, Waymo and Zoox. Only Nuro has been granted a so-called deployment permit, which allows it to operate commercially.

Electric vehicles

It was a big week for EVs, and not just because of the Ford F-150 Lightning reveal. Although that was certainly the biggest EV reveal.

Ars Technica had a fun and brief look at electric vehicles in the beginning of the automotive age.

Canoo gave a few more details of its electric microbus-slash-van, which will be available to buy in 2022 at a base price of $34,750 before tax incentives or add-ons. The Los Angeles-based company, which debuted on the Nasdaq public exchange earlier this year, now taking preorders in the United States for the “lifestyle” vehicle, as well as for its round-top pickup truck and multi-purpose delivery van. While Canoo did not release pricing for the other two vehicles, it said that deliveries for the pickup and production for the delivery van are slated to start as early as 2023. Customers can reserve a model by placing a $100 deposit per vehicle with the company.

The company also disclosed in a regulatory filing that it is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, just months after its merger with special purpose acquisition company Hennessy Capital Acquisition Corp. The investigation is broad, covering the Hennessy’s initial public offering and merger with Canoo, the company’s operations, business model, revenues, revenue strategy, customer agreements, earnings and other related topics, along with the recent departures of certain of the company’s officers, according to its first quarter earnings report. Canoo learned of the investigation on April 29. Canoo noted in the regulatory filing. The company added that it does not consider the investigation or other lawsuits it is facing to be material to its business.

ElectReon, an inductive in-road charging technology for commercial and passenger electric vehicles, is joining the “Arena of the Future” project in Brescia, Italy where it will integrate its wireless technology to charge two Stellantis vehicles, and an IVECO bus while driving. The project aims to demonstrate contactless charging for a range of EVs as they drive on highways and toll roads as a potential pathway to decarbonizing our transportation systems along motorway transport corridors.

Ford had a a few EV news items coinciding with the F-150 Lightning reveal. First, there was the truck’s debut, which is arguably its most important new product in years and a critical piece of the company’s $22 billion investment into electrification. This is a challenging vehicle for Ford. As I noted in my coverage, the truck will need everything that has made its gas-powered counterpart the best-selling vehicle in North America as well as new benefits that come from going electric. That means torque, performance, towing capability and the general layout has to meet the needs of its customers, many of whom use it for commercial purposes. The vehicle specs suggest that Ford has delivered on the torque and power, while keeping the same cab and bed dimensions as its gas counterpart.

We ran a poll the night of the reveal asking folks “which electric truck is for you?” The choices and results were 37% picked the Ford F-150 Lightning, 19.6% choose Rivian R1T and 43.4% said they’ll hodl the Tesla Cybertruck.

Ford is offering one item that some customers might find appealing. Ford said its new F-150 Lightning truck, which will come to market in spring 2022, can provide energy to a customer’s home in the event of an outage.

Meanwhile, Ford also announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with SK Innovation to establish a joint venture to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles in the United States. The new venture, dubbed BlueOvalSK, will produce around 60 GWh annually starting mid-decade. The MOU is the latest sign that Ford intends to vertically develop its battery capabilities.

Finally, the Verge interviewed Ford CEO Jim Farley.

UPDATE: Ford revealed Monday morning the 2022 F-150 Lightning Pro, a version of the truck designed with commercial customers in mind.

Kia, which held its U.S. reveal of the the Kia EV6, an all-electric crossover that is supposed to kick off the automaker’s Plan S strategy to shift away from internal combustion engines and toward EVs. The EV6, one of 11 electric vehicles that Kia plans to deliver globally by 2026. will come to the U.S. early next year. It’s also the first dedicated battery-electric vehicle to be built on its new Electric-Global Modular Platform, which is shared with Hyundai and Genesis as part of the Hyundai Motor Group.

Lamborghini announced it is going to eventually electrify its portfolio, although it is taking a slow road to get there. The will first pay homage to combustion engines with the introduction of two new V12 luxury sports cars this year before it makes a push into electrification. The aim is to switch its full lineup of vehicles to hybrids by the end of 2024 and launch of an all-electric Lamborghini in the second half of the decade. The company said it plans to invest 1.5 billion euros ($1.82 billion) over four years to make the transition to hybrid vehicles, the largest allocation in its history.

Flight

Volocopter revealed a new electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft targeting the suburban-to-city commuter. The four-seater VoloConnect, which is designed to have a range of 62 miles, is a significant departure from short urban trip aircraft called VoloCity. The two-seat VoloCity, which has to be certified, has a 22-mile range.

VoloConnect’s longer range indicates that the company has its sights set on markets outside of major city centers, and that it is looking to more directly compete with rival eVTOL startups. VoloConnect’s aircraft specs are in line with that of competitors Archer Aviation and Wisk Aero, which each have eVTOL designs with an anticipated range of around 60 miles.

Speaking of Wisk Aero, the startup filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in its ongoing lawsuit with rival electric air travel startup Archer Aviation. The injunction could put a wrench in Archer’s operations should the courts approve it. Wisk has asked the court to immediately prohibit Archer from using 52 trade secrets that it alleges were stolen by former employees who were later hired by Archer. The trade secrets “span the gamut of systems within the aircraft and processes for development,” a Wisk spokesperson told TechCrunch.

In-car tech

The Google I/O developer conference contained a few vehicle related announcements, including that it is extending its Android for Cars App Library, which is available as part of Jetpack, to support the Android Automotive operating system. This is good news for developers who can now create an app that is compatible with two different, but sometimes overlapping platforms: Android OS and Android Auto. It also means developers can create one app that should work seamlessly between various makes and models of vehicles. The company is already working with so-called Early Access Partners, which includes Parkwhiz, Plugshare, Sygic, ChargePoint, Flitsmeister, SpotHero and others to bring apps in these categories to cars powered by Android Automotive OS.

Google also announced it is working with BMW and other automakers to develop a digital key that will let car owners lock, unlock and start a vehicle from their Android smartphone. The digital car keys will become available on select Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones later this year. Google didn’t name the other automakers that it is working with, but the folks there tell me it will be available in some 2021 models and a number of 2022 model vehicles. My educated guess, based on the companies it is already working with, is that Volvo and GM brands will get the digital key.

HERE Technologies, the location data and technology platform, will power the in-vehicle Human-Machine Interface (HMI) navigation solution in Arrival’s upcoming electric vehicles.

Holoride, the Audi spinoff that’s creating an in-vehicle XR passenger entertainment experience, is deploying blockchain technology and NFTs as the next stage in its preparation for a 2022 market launch. The company said it is integrating Elrond blockchain into its tech stack to bring transparency to its ecosystem of car manufacturers and content creators. The aim is to use NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, to incentivize developers into creating more content on holoride’s platform for the promise of more money earned off token purchases, and to attract passengers who want to personalize their in-car experience.

Stellantis and Foxconn have formed a joint venture called Mobile Drive to supply in-car and connected-car technologies. The non-binding agreement is meant to speed up the time it takes to develop and deploy in-vehicle user experiences enabled by advanced consumer electronics, HMI interfaces and services, according to the companies.

#automotive, #dott, #electric-vehicles, #ev6, #ford, #gm, #hyundai, #kia, #lime, #scooters, #tier-mobility, #toyota

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The first electric Popemobile will be a Fisker Ocean SUV

Fisker Inc., the EV startup-turned publicly traded company, is working on a modified version of its all-electric Ocean SUV for Pope Francis.

The company said Friday that it plans to deliver to the Vatican late next year a Popemobile based on its upcoming Fisker Ocean SUV. An initial agreement was reached during a private meeting Thursday between Pope Francis and Fisker co-founders Henrik Fisker and Dr. Geeta Gupta-Fisker. Henrik Fisker showed a number of sketches, including one that Pope Francis signed. There aren’t many details about this new Popemobile, although a rendering of the modified Fisker Ocean SUV shows an all-glass cupola. 

The agreement marks more than 50 years of automakers working with the Vatican to develop and deliver vehicles to shuttle the Holy See. Ford, which created a version of a 1964 Lehmann-Peterson, was used by Pope Paul VI in his 1965 New York City visit. The term Popemobile was popularized until Pope John Paul II’s tenure. Automakers including Dacia, Stellantis’ Fiat and Jeep brands, Mercedes-Benz and Renault have all supplied vehicles to various pontiffs. Pope Francis has been known to use a Ford Focus for drives in Vatican City.

“I got inspired reading that Pope Francis is very considerate about the environment and the impact of climate change for future generations,” says Henrik Fisker. “The interior of the Fisker Ocean papal transport will contain a variety of sustainable materials, including carpets made from recycled plastic bottles from the ocean.”

Fisker is aiming to start production of its Ocean SUV, which will have a base price of $37,499, on November 17, 2022. The Popemobile version is expected around the same time, although a specific date was not shared.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #fisker, #henrik-fisker, #ocean

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Electric hypercar phenom and founder Mate Rimac is heading to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

A decade ago, Rimac Automobili was one-person startup in a garage. Today, the EV and technology company founded by Mate Rimac employs more than 1,000 people, has partnerships with Porsche and Hyundai Motor Group and is on track to launch its 1,914 hp, all-electric C_Two hypercar this year.

If that weren’t enough, Rimac also launched a subsidiary company Greyp Bikes to produce electrically assisted bicycles. It’s a notable run for a company that Mate Rimac founded after converting a 1984 BMW into an electric vehicle that at one time was the fastest in the world. What makes it remarkable is he started the company in Croatia and at time that lacked the typical network found in Silicon Valley.

“Ten years ago today, I was still like one guy in a garage and we did this in a location in Croatia where there is not a lot of technology or industry in general,” he said in an interview with TechCrunch earlier this year. “So it was crazy, I didn’t have a single venture capital fund. There were no tech startups. There was no industry in general, not just like automotive, but industry as such. So, there was no talent, there were no buildings we could use. So, we had a very tough upcoming, and was very hard for us to start we were just surviving and, you know from month to month and trying to pay the bills and most of the times we were struggling with that so the first six or seven years of our life most of the time for me was focusing on keeping the company going and how the hell I’m going to pay the next payroll or the next rent and stuff like that.”

Rimac overcame those challenges, gaining Porsche and Hyundai as investors and importantly, generating revenue from the beginning — and even profits.

And Mate Rimac isn’t done.

The founder and CEO recently unveiled a design for new headquarters in Croatia that will include an on-site test track, an R&D and production facility, museum, gym and day care for employees and even an-site organic food production and farm animals. The complex, which is expected to be completed by 2023, will allow the company to ramp up from prototype and smaller projects to high-volume production of its high-performance electric drivetrain and battery systems for customers that include Porsche, Hyundai-Kia, SEAT, Renault and Pininfarina.

We’re excited to announce that Mate Rimac will be joining us at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, a one-day virtual event that is scheduled June 9. We have a lot of ground to cover with Mate Rimac from how he started a company outside of a traditional incubator or VC network, his upcoming electric hypercar and plans for the company’s future.

In case, you’re not familiar, each year we bring together engineers and founders, investors and CEOs who are working on all the present and future ways people and packages will get from Point A to Point B. The agenda is packed with leaders in electric vehicles — that would be Mate Rimac — autonomous vehicle technology, micromobility and even urban and regional air taxis.

Among the growing list of speakers are Motional President Karl Iagnemma and Aurora co-founder and CEO Chris Urmson, who will team up to talk about technical problems that remain to be solved, the war over talent, the best business models and applications of autonomous vehicles and maybe even hear a few stories from the early days of testing and launching a startup.

Other guests include GM‘s VP of Global Innovation Pam Fletcher, Scale AI CEO Alexandr Wang, Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt, investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman (whose special purpose acquisition company just merged with Joby), investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital, Zoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson, community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler, Remix co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu and Revel co-founder and CEO Frank Reig.

We also recently announced a panel dedicated to China’s robotaxi industry. We’re bringing together three female leaders from Chinese autonomous vehicle startups that have an overseas footprint: Jewel Li from AutoX, which is backed by Chinese state-owned automakers Dongfeng Motor and SAIC Motor; Huan Sun from Momenta, which attracted Bosch, Daimler and Toyota in its $500 million round closed in March; and Jennifer Li from WeRide, whose valuation jumped to $3 billion after a financing round in May.

Don’t wait to book your tickets to TC Sessions: Mobility as prices go up at the door. Grab your passes right now and hear from today’s biggest mobility leaders.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #hypercar, #hyundai-motor-group, #porsche, #rimac-automobili, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021

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Ford and SK Innovation announce battery manufacturing joint venture BlueOvalSK

Ford Motor Company and Seoul, South Korea-based SK Innovation signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a joint venture to domestically manufacture batteries for electric vehicles, the two companies said Thursday. The new venture, dubbed BlueOvalSK, will produce around 60 GWh annually starting mid-decade. The MOU is the latest sign that Ford intends to vertically develop its battery capabilities.

“Initially with just a Mustang Mach-E, we felt like it was most efficient for us to purchase the batteries from the supply base, but as we start to move up that adoption curve, and move from just the early adopters to the early majority [. . .] we now have sufficient volume to justify this level of investment and this is why we’re pursuing this partnership,” Ford’s chief product platform and operations officer Hau Thai-Tang said Thursday.

Ownership structures will be worked out in the future, Lisa Drake, Ford’s chief operating officer, told reporters Thursday. The 60 GWh production capacity would likely span two manufacturing sites but the companies are still determining those plans, including locations of the plants across North America, Drake added. 60 GWh roughly translates to enough battery capacity to build 600,000 vehicles, Thai-Tang said.

Ford has taken strides in recent months to build a vertically-integrated capability to manufacture battery cells at scale. In April the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker said it would open a battery technology development center in Michigan. It also led, with BMW, a $130 million investment into solid-state battery developer Solid Power’s Series B round.

But Ford has not always been so bullish on making batteries in-house. “Our product plans changed dramatically,” Thai-Tang said.

The news comes less than 24 hours after Ford debuted its F-150 Lighting, the electric version of its iconic nameplate vehicle and the best-selling truck in America. The Lighting is one of three EVs that Ford has debuted in the past year and will be a cornerstone of the company’s plans to invest $22 billion in EVs through 2025.

SK Innovation already has two separate EV battery plants under construction in Georgia under a collective investment of $2.6 billion. One of the batteries is already producing batteries and the other is set to become operational in 2023. The company is also building a separate factory in Tennessee with Volkswagen AG as its customer. Ford and SK Innovation’s relationship spans many years, with the automaker selecting SK as its battery supplier for the Lightning in 2018.

The company recently completed a $1.8 billion settlement in April over trade secret disputes with rival LG Energy Solutions. The resolution came after a two-year dispute that nearly led to SK Innovation shutting down its Georgia plans.

The two Korean conglomerates have invested billions in American battery manufacturing alongside their automaker partners. LG Energy is building manufacturing facilities in Ohio and Tennessee under its joint venture with General Motors, Ultium Cells LLC.

“The scale just makes sense now,” Drake said. “It’s the perfect time to start to do this.”

#automotive, #batteries, #electric-vehicles, #ev-batteries, #ford, #ford-motor-company, #ford-motors, #lg-chem, #tc, #transportation

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Arrival’s Denis Sverdlov on the new era of car manufacturing

Electric vehicle company Arrival wants to break the current auto manufacturing model. Instead of one giant factory and an assembly line, Arrival’s commercial electric vans, buses and cars are robotically built in small, regional microfactories, of which the company wants to open 31 by the end of 2025.

If you want to achieve something radically more efficient, you have to go deeper, into complex, high-level computational algorithms that are not normally used in consumer-facing products.

The London-based company, founded in 2015, joined the ranks of EV companies going public via SPAC, merging with blank-check company CIIG Merger Corp. in March. UPS has already ordered 10,000 of Arrival’s robotically engineered vans, and the company recently signed a deal with Uber to create purpose-built EVs for ride-hail drivers.

Arrival founder Denis Sverdlov has been at the intersection of technological advancement and societal change before. Born in the nation of Georgia, Sverdlov founded his first company at 22 selling IT consulting software to enterprise customers. Since then, he has built and exited multiple companies, most notably telecommunications operator Yota Group. Founded in 2007, the same year the iPhone came out, Yota eventually launched a 4G network across Russia, coupling it with an HTC smartphone that would facilitate the use of the network. Sverdlov sold the company in 2012 for $1.5 billion, did a brief stint as the Russian deputy communications and mass media minister, and then went on to start Arrival. Oh, and he founded electric autonomous car race Roborace in 2015, too, just ‘cause.

With the same sense that fast, mobile internet and big screens would change the telecoms industry back in 2007, Sverdlov began to see a perfect storm brewing in the EV world over the last decade. In 2015, he founded Arrival in anticipation of a switch to electric as well as advancements happening in material, research and development in the robotics industry. He predicts this will have an even bigger impact on the automotive industry than 4G had on telecommunications.

TechCrunch: Denis, your first company was a telecom operator and you were behind the creation of Roborace. Now you’re trying to change the way the auto industry makes cars with Arrival. Are you a serial entrepreneur who is already thinking about the next thing? Or are you pretty involved in this one?

Dennis Sverdlov: Yeah, I’m quite involved with Arrival, and I expect to see many new technologies and enablers come out of this journey. For example, if you take our robotic technologies, which we use for microfactories, you can easily see how that will be used in other industries, as well, so it’s not going to be used only for automotive.

But as a company, we need to focus on what we do today because we need to achieve a lot here, and I think it’s important to focus on that. But, yeah, I would also count myself as a serial entrepreneur because I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years.

How do you think that your past business decisions have informed your current strategy with Arrival?

#arrival, #automotive, #ec-mobility-hardware, #electric-vehicles, #lucid-motors, #tc, #tesla, #transportation

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Twaice raised $26M to scale its battery analytics software

All batteries degrade over time. For automakers, fleet managers and other companies, the crux — and key to profitability — is knowing when they will.

But it’s surprisingly difficult to understand the health and status of a battery without extensive and expensive testing, which isn’t always possible once a battery is in a vehicle. German battery analytics software company Twaice has been taking aim at this problem since its founding in 2018, and it announced Wednesday that it has raised $26 million in Series B funding led by Chicago-based Energize Ventures. The company, which primarily works in the mobility and energy storage industries, now has a total financing of $45 million.

“We started Twaice with the focus on building a battery analytics platform which really covers the whole lifecycle of battery systems,” company co-founder Stephan Rohr told TechCrunch, including the development and operational phases. The company has launched tools that are suited for the design and development phase and when the battery is actually in a vehicle or energy storage system. Audi, Daimler and Hero Motors are some of its customers.

The company intends to use this fresh round of funding to expand its European commercial footprint and possibly into the United States. It also wants to build even more use cases on top of its analytics platform — for example, working with fleet providers, rather than only the manufacturers.

One of the company’s innovations is a concept of a “digital twin,” or a simulation model of the battery system that runs in Twaice’s cloud platform. The company continually updates the parameters of the “twin” so that it reflects the behavior of the actual battery, down to its thermal characteristics, electrical behavior and degradation. That means companies that operate a fleet of EV buses can monitor the state of the battery packs of each of their vehicles.

“It enables not just a focus on the current health of the battery system, but also it enables us to simulate and forecast the future,” Rohr said.

Twaice also offers solutions before the battery even enters the vehicle or energy storage system. “Battery design engineers use our simulations to reduce the testing effort [. . .] assess charging strategies, assess depth of discharge, assess different cell chemistries,” Rohr explained.

One major use case for Twaice’s software is for warranty tracking and safety risks. Using battery analytics OEMs can understand where exactly the battery failed, whether in the cell or the module, for example, and also gain valuable data on future warranty claims based on previous data. Warranties are huge risks for OEMs, Lennart Hinrichs, Twaice’s commercial director, explained to TechCrunch, in part because batteries are so complex and difficult to understand once they’re in a vehicle.

But having a grasp on the battery’s life could come in handy for consumers as well. Twaice has partnered with TÜV Rheinland, a testing and certification institute in Germany that’s working on EV resale in the private market. It could eventually lead the way to a standard assessment process for batteries on the resale market.

Once the battery is no longer suited for its first-life application, companies can use Twaice’s software to assess the remaining life and health of the battery system and determine whether it’s fit for a second-life purpose or if it should go straight to recycling.

Twaice’s previous funding round in March 2020 was led by early-stage venture capital firm Creandum, with additional participation from existing investors  UVC Partners, Cherry Ventures and Speedinvest.

#automotive, #batteries, #electric-vehicles, #energize-ventures, #recent-funding, #series-b, #startups, #transportation, #twaice

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Lamborghini is kicking off its electrification plan with two gas-powered super sports cars

Lamborghini will pay homage to combustion engines with the introduction of two new V12 luxury sports cars this year before it makes a push into electrification as the company tries to balance its storied gas-powered past with a hybrid, and eventually electric, future.

The company laid out Tuesday its electrification roadmap, a plan that will see its full lineup of vehicles become hybrids by the end of 2024 and the launch of an all-electric Lamborghini in the second half of the decade.

Lamborghini said it plans to invest 1.5 billion euros ($1.82 million) over four years to make the transition to hybrid vehicles, the largest allocation in its history. The Volkswagen-owned brand it will launch its first hybrid series production car in 2023 and then hybridize the rest of the lineup the following year. During this second phase of its roadmap, Lamborghini will focus on developing new technologies and the application of lightweight carbon fiber materials — both of which will be crucial in compensating for weight due to electrification, the company said.

The aim, during this phase, is to reduce the product emissions 50% by 2025, the company said.

“Lamborghini’s electrification plan is a newly-plotted course, necessary in the context of a radically-changing world, where we want to make our contribution by continuing to reduce environmental impact through concrete projects,” Lamborghini President and CEO Stephan Winkelmann said in a statement. He emphasized that this plan, which begins with a celebration of the combustion engine, will take the company towards a “more sustainable future while always remaining faithful to our DNA.”

The Italian brand has already moved towards hybrids with the Sián and its roofless cousin the Sián Roadster. These vehicles, which were unveiled in 2019 and 2020 respectively, are mid-engine sports cars that combine a naturally aspirated 6.5-liter V12 engine, a supercapcitor instead of a lithium-ion battery that operates its powertrain and a 48-volt electric motor.

Together, this system produces 819 horsepower that propels the vehicle from zero to 62 mph in 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 218 mph. Lamborghini is producing 63 Sián and 19 Sián Roadsters. All of these have been sold, which suggests there is demand for a hybridized version of the classic Lamborghini.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #lamborghini, #tc, #transportation

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Gogoro strikes deal with Yadea and DCJ to build a battery-swapping network in China

Less than a month after announcing a partnership with India’s largest two-wheeled vehicle maker, Gogoro is taking another big step in its global expansion plans. This time the market is China, where Gogoro’s technology, including its swappable smart batteries, will be used in scooters made by Dachangjiang Group (DCJ), one of the country’s biggest motorcycle makers, and Yadea, one of it top electric two-wheel companies. DCJ and Yadea will jointly invest $50 million in an operating company to develop new two-wheel vehicles with their own branding that use the Gogoro Network, including its batteries, drivetrains, controllers and other components.

“Think of it as DCJ and Yadea combining to create an AT&T,” Gogoro co-founder and chief executive officer Horace Luke told TechCrunch. “Gogoro will be the technology that powers them, so think about it like we’re the Ericsson.”

Last month, Gogoro and Hero MotoCorp announced a strategic partnership to build a battery-swapping network and electric two-wheeled vehicles in India. Gogoro’s new deals in India and China are the biggest steps it has taken for its global strategy since launching the first Gogoro Smartscooter in 2015.

Gogoro’s swappable batteries, its signature technology, means riders can replace their batteries for new ones at charging stations that are small enough to fit on a sidewalk. In Taipei City, where Gogoro is based, its swapping stations are a common sight, usually tucked against storefronts or by the side of gas stations and parking lots. Since Gogoro’s batteries are swappable, electric vehicles that use them don’t need to be parked to be charged. This addresses “range anxiety,” or consumer concerns about how far an electric vehicle can go before it needs to be charged again. The main challenge is making sure there are enough swapping stations to be convenient for riders of two-wheeled vehicles powered by the Gogoro Network.

DCJ and Yadea’s joint venture will launch first in Hangzhou, its pilot city, before expanding into other cities in 2022. Vehicle availability and pricing will be announced later.

Last year, China’s government introduced new regulations that require all new cars sold by 2035 to use “new energy” instead of fossil fuel. Combined, DCJ and Yadea have 47,000 retailers, covering 358 cities, or more than half the cities in China. Luke said this means once the joint venture expands beyond Hangzhou, it will be able to grow quickly.

Gogoro positions itself as a turnkey solution for other electric mobility companies, and its own brand was a way to develop its charging infrastructure and reputation. In Taiwan, where Gogoro-powered two-wheeled vehicles now account for nearly a quarter of monthly sales, its swappable batteries were first used in Gogoro Smartscooters before the technology was licensed to other makers like Kymco, Yamaha and Aeon.

“It was almost like a roundabout way to prove that the platform is feasible,” said Luke. “We had to build our own vehicles, our own retail chain and now we support 400,000 customers and 2,000 stations. That proof case enabled us to work with these larger partners, so when they asked us to pull up data, we could show them the unit economics, durability, stations and how it works. It took many years, but we were getting ready in the biggest way possible.”

 

DCJ ships about two million motorcycles a year and the joint venture marks the first time it will build an electric motorcycle. “They’ve been looking for technology to transition to electric, and we’ve been talking to them for almost two years to prove that our platform is the right platform for them to start the transition to electric vehicles,” said Luke.

Yadea sold more than 10 million electric two-wheelers in 2020, but wanted an alternative to lithium-ion batteries, he added. Along with Aima, Yadea is one of the best-known affordable electric two-wheeler brands in China, while Niu dominates the premium market.

Gogoro has raised about $480 million in funding since it was founded in 2011, with investors including HTC, Temasek Holdings and Generation Investment Management (GIM), the green-tech investment firm co-founded by former United States vice president Al Gore.

In a press statement, Gore, who is GIM’s chairman, said, “Gogoro’s partnership with Yadea and DCJ in China, which builds upon their existing work with Hero MotoCorp in India, sends a clear signal that the world’s two-wheel leaders are helping to fuel the sustainability revolution in Asia with smart battery swapping.”

#china, #dachangjiang-group, #dcj, #electric-scooters, #electric-two-wheelers, #electric-vehicles, #fundings-exits, #gogoro, #mobility, #startups, #tc, #yadea

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Canoo is being investigated by the SEC

Canoo, the Los Angeles-based electric vehicle startup that debuted on the Nasdaq public exchange earlier this year, is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, just months after its merger with special purpose acquisition company Hennessy Capital Acquisition Corp.

The investigation is broad, covering the Hennessy’s initial public offering and merger with Canoo, the company’s operations, business model, revenues, revenue strategy, customer agreements, earnings and other related topics, along with the recent departures of certain of the company’s officers, according to a quarterly earnings report posted Monday. Canoo learned of the investigation on April 29. Canoo’s share price fell more than 3% in after-hours trading following the release of its first-quarter earnings.

“The SEC has also informed the Company that the investigation does not mean that it has concluded that anyone has violated the law, and does not mean that it has a negative opinion of any person, entity or security. We intend to provide the requested information and cooperate fully with the SEC investigation,” Canoo noted in the regulatory filing. Canoo added that it does not consider the investigation or other lawsuits it is facing to be material to its business.

The SEC investigation follows a string of executive departures, a change to some of the core pieces of its business model, the loss of a key automotive partnership and at least one lawsuit brought by shareholders. And that’s just the activity since the first of the year.

Canoo started as Evelozcity in 2017, founded by former Faraday Future executives Stefan Krause and Ulrich Kranz. The company rebranded as Canoo in spring 2019 and debuted its first vehicle several months later. It was this first vehicle, as well as Canoo’s plan to offer it only as a subscription, that captured the attention of investors, companies and the media. Last year, Hyundai announced a partnership with Canoo to co-develop EVs, but that deal fell apart in early 2021 after the company changed its business model and decided to not offer engineering services to other automakers, according to comments made by the company’s chairman and now CEO Tony Aquila in a March investors’ call.

Canoo has sustained numerous executive departures, including co-founder and CEO Kranz, general counsel Andrew Wolstan, CFO Paul Balciunas and its head of powertrain development. Krause, who was the company’s first CEO, stepped down in August 2019. Last month, Canoo was also named as a defendant in two class-action complaints filed by shareholders.

Amid the executive exits and business pivots, the company has managed to narrow its quarterly losses despite an increase in R&D expenditures and no revenue. The company reported Monday a net loss of $15.2 million, or 7 cents a share, in the first quarter, compared to a loss of $30.9 million, or 37 cents a share, in the same period last year. The company said it ended the quarter with $641.9 million in cash and equivalents.

#automotive, #canoo, #electric-vehicles, #hyundai, #sec, #tc, #u-s-securities-and-exchange-commission

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Canoo’s electric microbus will start under $35,000 when it comes to market next year

Los Angeles-based electric vehicle startup Canoo is bringing its first vehicle to market next year. The company said Monday its electric microbus-slash-van will be available to buy in 2022 at a base price of $34,750 before tax incentives or add-ons. It’s now taking preorders in the United States for the “lifestyle” vehicle, as well as for its round-top pickup truck and multi-purpose delivery van.

While Canoo did not release pricing for the other two vehicles, it did said that deliveries for the pickup and production for the delivery van are slated to start as early as 2023. Customers can reserve a model by placing a $100 deposit per vehicle with the company.

The lifestyle van will come in four trims, including base, premium, adventure and so-called Lifestyle Vehicle Delivery The adventure variant, which is the top trim and comes with more ground clearance and beefier profile, does not yet have a price. The base, delivery (not to be confused with the bigger multipurpose delivery van) and premium models will be priced up to $49,950, the company said. The company said the lifestyle van is expected to be able to produce 300 hp and 332 pound-feet of torque with 250 miles of battery range.

Canoo is taking a different route than many other electric vehicle manufacturers. The company’s trio of vehicles all have the same proprietary “skateboard” platform architecture that houses the batteries and electric drivetrain in a chassis that sits under the vehicle’s cabin. This contributes to a similar design language between the vehicles, which all have the same wide front windshield and relatively low profile.

The company is especially deviating from competitors with its electric pickup, which is scheduled to go into production in early 2023. As opposed to rivals Ford and Rivian, which are emphasizing size and power in their respective F-150 Lighting and R1T pickup trucks, Canoo’s is smaller and more playful-looking. The Rivian R1T clocks in at 218 inches long, while the Canoo truck will be 184 inches. Canoo is also claiming a battery range of 200+ miles, far less than the 300+ boasted by other EV truck manufacturers. None of these companies have posted what the range will be when towing.

Canoo has undergone many transformations since its founding as Evelozcity in 2017. It was rebranded as Canoo in 2019 and merged with special purpose acquisition company Hennessy Capital Acquisition Corp. last December with a market valuation of $2.4 billion.

This year has been a bit bumpier for the company. The news on Monday comes less than a month after the company announced the resignations of its co-founder and CEO Ulrich Kranz and its general counsel Andrew Wolstan. Earlier this year, the company also lost its chief financial officer Paul Balciunas and its head of powertrain development.

Canoo’s skateboard architecture caught the eye of automaker Hyundai Motor Group, which last February said it would jointly develop an EV with Canoo based on the skateboard design. But during an investor call in March, Tony Aquila, who took over as company CEO following Kranz’s departure, said the deal was all but dead.

#automotive, #canoo, #electric-pickup-truck, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #rivian, #tc, #transportation

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