PG&E will pilot bidirectional electric car charging in California

A woman charges an electric car

Enlarge / If you’re going to charge your car at home, why not also use it as a storage battery when it’s just parked there? (credit: Monty Rakusen/Getty Images)

Disaster preparedness is becoming a bit more mainstream as the effects of climate change and the fallibility of human institutions become more clear. The auto industry has followed this trend, with more than one pointing to the fact that an electric vehicle is essentially a giant backup battery that could power your home for a few days in the event of an emergency.

Now, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) will begin testing bidirectional charging in California with new pilot programs announced this week at General Motors and Ford.

Bidirectional charging got its first big boost after the 2011 Tōhoku-Oki earthquake, and in 2017, Nissan told Ars that several thousand EV-to-grid installations had already been completed in Japan. But at the time, the company had no immediate plans to enable the function here in the US. Since then, Nissan has conducted other vehicle-to-grid experiments, such as powering a convenience store.

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#bidirectional-charging, #cars, #ford, #general-motors, #gm, #pacific-gas-and-electric, #pge, #vehicle-to-grid

GM seeks US approval to put driverless Cruise Origin into commercial service

The Cruise Origin driverless car has a boxy, rectangular shape.

Enlarge / The Cruise Origin. (credit: Cruise)

GM’s Cruise subsidiary has petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for permission to put the driverless Cruise Origin into commercial service. Cruise announced the filing of its petition for approval on Friday, saying the car is “a zero-emission, shared, electric vehicle that has been purposefully designed from the ground up to operate without a human driver. This means it does not rely on certain human-centered features, like a steering wheel or a sun visor, to operate safely.”

Cruise said its petition, filed together with parent company GM, “demonstrates how the Origin achieves safety objectives of existing standards and helps enable future AV [autonomous vehicle] regulations.” The vehicles will be manufactured at GM’s “Factory ZERO” in Michigan, Cruise’s announcement said. “Production is expected to begin in late 2022 in Detroit at a GM factory with vehicles delivered in 2023, Cruise said Friday,” according to Reuters.

The Cruise Origin interior.

The Cruise Origin interior. (credit: Cruise)

US law allows companies to seek temporary exemptions from safety rules to deploy up to 2,500 vehicles. GM previously sought an exemption for an earlier design based on the Chevy Bolt; the NHTSA took public comment on the request for an exemption in early 2019, and GM withdrew the petition in 2020.

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#cars, #cruise, #driverless-cars, #gm, #self-driving

Chevrolet readies a $30,000 Equinox EV crossover for 2023

General Motors Chair and CEO Mary Barra confirmed during her 2022 CES keynote address that Chevrolet will launch the Chevrolet Equinox EV in the 2024 model year.

Enlarge / General Motors Chair and CEO Mary Barra confirmed during her 2022 CES keynote address that Chevrolet will launch the Chevrolet Equinox EV in the 2024 model year.

Chevrolet’s headline news at CES this year was its forthcoming Silverado EV, a truck that—initially at least—will carry a lot of lithium ion, and a six-figure price tag to reflect that. When seen together with the bombastic Hummer EV, it’s easy to get the impression that General Motors’ product planners see the first wave of Ultium battery electric vehicles as just for the well-off.

But GM’s battery platform is modular, and while it can accommodate huge 200 kWh packs to give bluff-faced pickup trucks a potential 400 miles of range, you can also design a car around a six-module battery with 50 kWh. If I had to guess, I’d say that’s the pack we’ll find in another new electric Chevrolet—the Equinox EV—which goes on sale in fall 2023.

The Equinox EV got a brief mention in GM’s CES keynote, and the company isn’t sharing any more details on the crossover right now other than that fall 2023 arrival and the fact that the model will start “around $30,000.”

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#cars, #ces-2022, #chevrolet, #chevrolet-blazer-ev, #chevrolet-equinox-ev, #general-motors, #gm, #ultium, #ultium-drive

FedEx receives its first electric BrightDrop delivery vans

BrightDrop delivers five of 500 electric light commercial vehicles to FedEx, the first customer to receive the EV600s.

Enlarge / BrightDrop delivers five of 500 electric light commercial vehicles to FedEx, the first customer to receive the EV600s. (credit: FedEx)

At the beginning of the year, General Motors CEO Mary Barra announced that the company was starting a new business. It’s called BrightDrop, and it’s focused on providing electrified products for delivery and logistics businesses. At the time, we also learned that FedEx would be the first customer for BrightDrop’s EV600 electric van. Today, the shipping company accepted the first five (of 500) vehicles, which will start making deliveries in Los Angeles in 2022.

Like other GM brands, BrightDrop is using the automaker’s new 800 V Ultium battery packs and Ultium Drive motors in these new electric vehicles. The EV600 has a 250-mile range (402 km) and a capacity of 600 cubic feet (16,990 L).

“At FedEx, transforming our pickup and delivery fleet to electric vehicles is integral to achieving our ambitious sustainability goals announced earlier this year. This collaborative effort shows how businesses can take action to help usher in a lower-emissions future for all,” said Mitch Jackson, chief sustainability officer at FedEx.

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #brightdrop, #cars, #electric-van, #fedex, #general-motors, #gm, #van

The Chevrolet Bolt recall has begun; cars will get new battery packs

A colorful display for a hunk of metal and plastic about the size of two skateboards side-by-side.

Enlarge / This is the 60kWh battery pack found inside a Chevrolet Bolt EV. The front of the pack is to the right of the picture, and the hump to the left is the double-stacked modules that live under the rear seat. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Chevrolet was one of the first automakers to market with a long-range battery-electric vehicle, the Bolt EV. Unfortunately for the US automaker, it’s also now the first to have to issue a massive recall after manufacturing defects with the car’s lithium-ion battery cells were identified as the cause of a number of fires.

Chevrolet’s first fix was a software remedy, started in November 2020, before faulty manufacturing was recognized as the true culprit. Now the plan is relatively simple, if expensive: replace every Bolt EV’s battery pack with a new one, at a cost of more than $1.8 billion.

Those replacements have now begun, with Chevrolet contacting owners to let them know what’s going to happen.

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#bolt-recall, #cars, #chevrolet, #chevrolet-bolt-ev, #general-motors, #gm, #recall

GM details the motors that will power its electric Hummer and other EVs

General Motors has spent a lot of time recently talking up the capabilities of its upcoming Ultium battery technology but has said significantly less so about the motors those cells will power. That changed on Tuesday when the company detailed its new Ultium Drive motors. With today’s announcement, the series consists of three different models: a 180 kW front-drive model, a 255 kW rear- and front-drive variant and a 62 kW all-wheel drive assist motor. The first two models are permanent magnet motors GM designed in such a way so as to try and reduce its dependence on heavy rare metals.

The company didn’t speak to the specific torque and power density characters of each motor but claimed they should deliver “excellent” performance on those fronts. It also revealed the 2022 Hummer EV will feature three of the 255 kW models. GM claims they will enable the vehicle to produce a combined 11,500 ft/lb of torque and accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in approximately three seconds.

GM says its engineers designed the motors with scalability in mind. Each one can be made using similar tools and manufacturing techniques. It also found a way to integrate components like the power inverter directly into the motors, a feat the company said should reduce costs and simplify manufacturing.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.

#column, #electric-vehicle, #ev, #gm, #hummer, #tc, #tceng, #transportation

GM to replace battery modules in recalled Chevy Bolt EVs starting next month

General Motors said Monday it will replace battery modules in recalled Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV vehicles as soon as next month now that supplier LG Chem has restarted production of cells at two Michigan factories.

Replacement modules, which are made up of lithium-ion battery cells, will begin shipping to dealers as soon as mid-October, the company said. Chevy Bolt EV owners will be able to bring their vehicles to the dealership, where the old modules will be swapped out for new ones.

GM halted production of Chevy Bolt EV and EUVs in August due to a battery pack shortage related to the widespread safety recall of the two electric vehicles. The production downtime has been extended twice since then. Battery packs in EVs are comprised of modules.

The recall, which includes all Chevy Bolt EV and EUV models made since 2017, was issued after the automaker discovered two manufacturing defects in the battery cell — a torn anode tab and folded separator — that could increase the risk of fire. The fire risk prompted GM to recommend Bolt owners set the vehicle to a 90% state of charge limitation, avoid depleting the battery below 70 miles of range and charge the vehicle more frequently. GM still recommends owners park their Bolt EV and EUVs outside immediately after charging and to not leave vehicles charging indoors overnight.

LG has new manufacturing processes in place and has worked with GM to improve its quality assurance programs to provide confidence in its batteries moving forward. GM said the battery supplier will institute these new processes in other facilities that supply cells to the automaker.

Doug Parks, GM’s executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, noted in a statement that resuming battery module production is a first step. However, GM’s Chevy Bolt EV problem is not entirely solved. The company must complete the replacement process for all recalled Bolts and assuage owners that the vehicles are safe to charge and park.

GM is counting on new advanced diagnostic software package to help. The company said it will launch the software package, which will need to be installed by dealers, in the next 60 days. The diagnostic software is designed to detect specific abnormalities that might indicate a damaged battery in Bolt EVs and EUVs by monitoring the battery performance.

The software will alert customers of any anomalies, according to GM, which said customers will be able to return to a 100 percent state of charge once all diagnostic processes are complete.

GM, which aims to add 30 new EVs to its global lineup by 2030, also must secure the battery cells it needs to power these vehicles. LG is its primary and longtime partner in this endeavor. Parks said GM will “continue to work aggressively with LG to obtain additional battery supply.

#automotive, #chevy-bolt-ev, #general-motors, #gm, #recall

Toyota, Honda urge Congress to reject expanded tax incentive that would benefit Ford, GM, Stellantis

Toyota Motor and Honda are urging legislators to reject a bill that would expand tax incentives for union-made electric vehicles that are built in the United States.

The proposal – which Toyota blasted as “blatantly biased” and “exorbitant” in a letter to Congress – would expand the federal tax incentives from $7,500 to as much as $12,500 for union- and domestically manufactured cars. Vehicles with batteries manufactured in the U.S. would be eligible for an additional $500. If the legislation passes, vehicles from automakers like Toyota, Honda and Tesla would be excluded from the expanded credit, while the “Big Three” manufacturers in Detroit would all qualify.

“The current [bill] draft makes the objective of accelerating the deployment of electrified vehicles secondary by discriminating against American autoworkers based on their choice not to unionize,” Toyota said in a letter to lawmakers. “This is unfair, it is wrong, and we ask you to reject this blatantly biased proposal.”

The automaker further said that the bill favors the wealthy – people that may not need public funds to purchase an electric vehicle. There is a means testing provision in the bill, that would limit access to the credit to individuals making an adjusted income of up to $400,000, or households that make up to $800,000. Whether to set an income cap – and what that income cap should be – has been a major point of contention between Congressional Democrats and Republicans.

The bill also received criticism from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who said on Twitter that it was “written by Ford/UAW lobbyists, as they make their electric car in Mexico. Not obvious how this serves American taxpayers.”

This would be the first such increase to the up to $7,500 tax credit for EVs since it was put into effect over a decade ago. The bill would also do away with a stipulation that exempts vehicles made by OEMs that have sold over 200,000 EVs from the credit, meaning that General Motor and Tesla cars would once again be eligible.

The bill did receive praise from GM, Ford Motor and Stellantis, three major automakers with workforces represented by the United Auto Workers union. The UAW also supports the proposal.

It’s being considered Tuesday by the House Ways and Means Committee. The expanded credit just one part of a massive $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill that’s currently being debated by Congress and that includes a whole slew of socially progressive proposals meant to target education, healthcare, and climate change.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #general-motor, #gm, #policy, #tesla, #toyota, #transportation

The 2022 Chevrolet Silverado gets a tech upgrade, hands-free trailering and a new ZR2 off-road flagship

GM unveiled Thursday the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado, a full-sized pickup truck that received a major technology upgrade, including its hands-free Super Cruise advanced driver assistance system and an infotainment system with embedded Google services as well as an overhauled interior. A new flagship trim, the off-road factory-installed lifted ZR2 truck, has also joined the Silverado lineup.

The Silverado refresh comes ahead of GM’s electric vehicle offensive, which will include Chevrolet and GMC pickup trucks. GM aims to deliver 30 new electric vehicles to the global market by 2025 and to transition to all-zero-emission by 2035. GM said the new Silverado trims will arrive to dealerships in spring 2022.

The exterior of the Chevy Silverado also received a refresh, including new front fascia and daytime running lights that animate when the driver walks up or away from the vehicle. But the real change can be found in the cabin — and the hardware and software guts — of the truck.

 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2

The 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 and new headlights. Image credit: GM

Chevy offers the Silverado in the LT, RST, LT Trail Boss, ZR2, LTZ and High Country trims, all of which come standard with a 2.7-liter turbocharged engine that improves the torque by 20 percent to 420-pound feet and has a maximum trailering rating of 9,500 pounds in a two-wheel drive configuration. GM also made changes to smooth out shifting and give drivers more power on demand.

The automaker also improved its 3.0L Duramax turbocharged diesel engine to enable a max tow rating of 13,300 pounds in a two-wheel drive configuration. Two other powertrains, the 5.3-liter V8 and the 6.2-liter V8 are also offered.

The interior cabin has been revamped to make it feel more spacious and includes 13.4-inch touchscreen and a new 12.3-inch configurable digital instrument cluster standard. Owners will also be able to add a rear camera mirror and a head up display.

Chevrolet Silverado

The First-Ever 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2. Image credit: GM

Finally, the Silverado interior will be offered in new colors, seat designs and premium materials. For model trims with bucket seats, the new center console incorporates an electronic shift controller.

Alexandre Scartezini, Chevrolet Truck’s lead interior designer, has described it as more contemporary and refined “with a hint of Corvette influence in its design DNA.”

Everything Google

Moving in deeper inside the vehicle, aka the infotainment, users will find Google, or more specifically Android Automotive, at the heart of the operating system. This means that Google Assistant, Google Maps and Google Play are all integrated into the the infotainment screen.

Android Automotive OS shouldn’t be confused with Android Auto, which is a secondary interface that lies on top of an operating system. Android Auto is an app that runs on the user’s phone and wirelessly communicates with the vehicle’s infotainment system. Both Android Auto and its Apple CarPlay counterpart will be offered in the new Silverado. GM said the system also works with Amazon Alexa.

Meanwhile, Android Automotive OS is modeled after its open-source mobile operating system that runs on Linux. But instead of running smartphones and tablets, Google modified it so automakers could use it in their cars. Google has offered an open-source version of this OS to automakers for sometime. In recent years, automakers have worked with the tech company to natively build in an Android OS that is embedded with all the Google apps and services.

Hands-free driving

All of the Silverado trims come standard with six active safety features, including automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and forward collision alerts, a warning if the vehicle leaves its lane, a following distance indicator, automatic high beams and front pedestrian braking.

The big change is the addition of the automaker’s Super Cruise hands-free driver-assistance technology, which will be an available option on the High Country trim. Importantly, the system can be used even while trailering. Certain features of Super Cruise like automatic lane changing and lane change on demand will be restricted if the truck is towing.

Super Cruise uses a combination of lidar map data, high-precision GPS, cameras and radar sensors, as well as a driver attention system, which monitors the person behind the wheel to ensure they’re paying attention. Unlike Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, users of Super Cruise do not need to have their hands on the wheel. However, their eyes must remain directed straight ahead.

While GM has steadily improved Super Cruise since its introduction in 2017, for years it was limited to its luxury Cadillac brand and restricted to certain divided highways. That began to change in 2019 when GM announced plans to expand it to more models and use cases. The system can be activated on more than 200,000 miles of roads in the United States and Canada.

The Silverado will offer other trailer assistance features including one that will alert drivers to vehicles in their blind spot.

#amazon-alexa, #android-auto, #apple-carplay, #automotive, #chevrolet, #chevrolet-silverado, #gm, #google, #tc, #transportation

GM extends Chevy Bolt EV production shutdown another two weeks

GM has extended a shutdown at its Orion Assembly Plant another two weeks due to a battery pack shortage related to the widespread Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV safety recall.

GM said the extended downtime at the Orion plant will last through September 20. Orion Assembly Plant in Michigan has been shut down since August 23.

The recall, which now includes all Chevy Bolt EV and EUV models made since 2017, was issued after the automaker discovered two manufacturing defects in the battery cell that could increase the risk of fire. The possible fire risk prompted GM to recommend Bolt owners set the vehicle to a 90% state of charge limitation and avoid depleting the battery below 70 miles of range. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration recommends Bolt drivers park their vehicles away from their homes to reduce fire risk.

The automaker said it is working with its supplier LG Chem to “update manufacturing processes.”

Orion was initially shuttered in August because of a shortage of semiconductor chips. GM later notified employees that the plant would continue to be down because of a shortage of batteries related to the recall.

The recall is expected to cost GM $1.8 billion. A GM spokesperson did not provide an update on whether this extended downtime would push that number higher. The automaker has said it will seek reimbursement from LG Chem.

Chip shortages

While the global shortage of semiconductor chips has persisted, GM said it will be able to resume production at several of its plants over the next two weeks.

Full production will begin at its Fort Wayne Assembly and Silao Assembly plants, which produces the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 models, beginning September 13 after being briefly impacted by the global semiconductor shortage, GM said.

All of GM’s full-size truck and full-size SUV plants in North American will be running full production next week.

GM’s Spring Hill Assembly plant in Tennessee will resume production of the GMC Acadia and Cadillac XT5 and XT6 on September 20, after being shuttered since mid-July. That plant will be shut down again as part of a previously scheduled extended downtime beginning the week of September 27 through the week of November 22 for new-model tooling installation.

Cadillac XT4 production, which has been down since February 8, will resume at the Fairfax Assembly in Kansas. GM said production of the Chevrolet Malibu, which is also at Fairfax, will remain down.

The company extended downtimes by one week at Lansing Delta Township and Wentzville, along with an additional week of Chevrolet Blazer production downtime at its Ramos facility.

#automotive, #chevy-bolt-euv, #electric-vehicles, #gm, #tc, #transportation

The Station: Lyft, Uber take action in Texas, Van Moof charges up with capital, an eVTOL SPAC deal gets knocked

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 readers: Welcome to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.

Before you jump into the transportation news of the week, a bit of TechCrunch company news!

Private equity firm Apollo Global Management completed its acquisition of Yahoo (formerly known as Verizon Media Group, itself formerly known as Oath) from Verizon. The deal is worth $5 billion, with $4.25 billion in cash, plus preferred interests of $750 million. Verizon will be retaining 10% of the newly rebranded company. The group, aside from Yahoo properties like Mail, Sports and Finance, includes TechCrunch, AOL, Engadget and interactive media brand, RYOT. All told, the umbrella brand encompasses around 900 million monthly active users globally and is currently the third-largest internet property, per Apollo’s figures.

Looking ahead: be on the lookout for automotive and tech news coming out of IAA Mobility in Munich this week. A bit of news that broke Sunday included Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and autonomous vehicle technology company Argo AI unveiling the first version of the ID Buzz AD. Mercedes also had a busy day in the world of EVs.

As always, you can email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions or tips. You also can send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

You might have noticed that the micromobbin’ section wasn’t featured in last week’s newsletter. Well, Rebecca Bellan is making up for that with an extra long write up this week. Take it away Rebecca.

Since Auckland, New Zealand is back in a massive lockdown, the highlight of my week has been getting to write about and, and thus relive, my test of the electric utility bike built by Kiwi company Ubco. If any other electric micro-vehicle companies want to send me a tester and brighten my day, I’m always open.

Tl;dr: the Ubco bike looks like a dirt bike and rides like a moped and absolutely shreds. Pros: Smooth ride, good battery life and can carry a lot of weight and accessories. Cons: A bit on the pricey side, regenerative brakes think they know what’s best for me when I’m speeding downhill and a touchy keyfob.

Last-mile deliveries

If you’re one of those smart lazy people who orders meal kits through the likes of HelloFresh or Blue Apron, you’ve probably interacted with AxleHire without knowing it. That’s about to change.

The last-mile logistics provider announced this week that it would be expanding two pilot programs to bring cool tech to the delivery scene. Over the past year or so, the company’s been partnering with URB-E and using its network of collapsible containers strapped onto e-bikes to make deliveries in NYC, as well as Tortoise’s remotely controlled adorable delivery bots in LA. Now, those programs, which helped AxleHire reduce emissions and beat traffic, are going national.

An Indian empire arises

Ola Electric, the electric scooter manufacturing arm of ride-hailing giant Ola, is in talks to raise between $250 million to $500 million in new financing as it looks to scale its business in the South Asian market.

Falcon Edge Capital, which is potentially leading the round, values the company between $2.75 billion and $3.5 billion, which is up $1 billion from its previous 2019 raise. Side note: Ola, the initial parent firm of Ola Electric, is currently looking to file for an initial public offering.

Big box bike sales

Best Buy has a fresh lineup of electric vehicles that are available online now and coming to select stores in October, including many we’ve written about here, like the Unagi scooter and the new Bird bike. Other top names include Segway-Ninebot, SUPER73 and SWFT.

Speaking of new swag, VAAST Bikes has just revealed the E/1, the latest in the company’s sustainable bike range. The urban e-bike boasts a top notch suspension system that separates pedaling from suspension movement for a more comfortable ride, no matter how much cargo you’re packing. A step-through frame provides a low center of gravity, making it an easy enough bike to mount for riders of all ages and shapes and sizes. The E/1 will be available to purchase in the U.S., U.K. and European markets starting October, and it costs anywhere from $7,499 to $9,999.

Foldable e-bike maker Fiido has raised over $1 million on Indiegogo to fund the production and delivery of its new Fiido X. It’s got a sweet-looking minimalist design with a light and sturdy body, as well as improved pedal-assist and cycling control. Fiido says this bike is the world’s first folding e-bike with a built-in seat pole that transmits battery power. It’s got a 417.6Wh ternary lithium battery, which means when it’s in “moped mode” the range is over 130 kilometers, or around 81 miles. Not bad at all. Price is anywhere from $1,098 to $1,601 at the moment.

Swedish electric motorbike manufacturer Cake also recently released a new super lightweight e-moped that’s built for city utility riding, but can probably handle some off-road fun. The Makka weighs about 132 pounds and comes in two forms: The Makka Range, at $3,500, which is available only in Europe, has a lower maximum speed of 15 miles per hour and a range of up to 35 miles. The Makka Flex, which is available in Europe and the U.S., costs $3,800 and can hit top speeds of 28 miles per hour. The range of this vehicle is slightly less, at 30 miles.

National Drive Electric Week (sans cars)

This is the first National Drive Electric Week that has nothing to do with cars! Fabulous. At this free, two-part expert webinar, a range of experts will talk about how to get moving on two e-wheels and discuss whether or not cars are overrated (they are). Find out how policymakers and advocates are thinking about how we can get electric micromobility and public transit to dominate the roads, rather than cars, even electric ones. The event takes place Saturday, September 25 from 11am to 1pm PST on Zoom. You can register here.

Van Moof’s big raise

VanMoof, the Amsterdam-based startup, raised a $128 million Series C funding round, fund it plans to use in its bid to become the world’s leading e-bike brand. It’s tactic, scale faster than the rest.

Asia-based private equity firm Hillhouse Investment led the round, with Gillian Tans, the former CEO of Booking.com, also participating. Some existing investors also put some more money on the table, such as Norwest Venture Partners, Felix Capital, Balderton Capital and TriplePoint Capital.

The Series C represents a big jump compared to the company’s Series B. Last year, VanMoof raised a $40 million Series B. The startup has raised $182 million in total.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

This week, I want to focus on one deal that appears to be at risk.

Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., an influential shareholder adviser, issued a report this week recommending that investors in Ken Moelis’s Atlas Crest Investment Corp. should vote against a merger with Archer Aviation. The adviser said it would be better for investors if they redeemed their holdings in the blank-check company for cash.

If investors take that advice, it could derail the proposed merger between Atlas Crest and Archer, a startup that is developing vertical take-off and landing electric aircraft. ISS argues that Archer’s legal battle with Wisk Aero puts the company at risk. The firm also points to the falling valuation of the combined company.

As Bloomberg noted this week, ISS has targeted other SPAC deals involving eVTOL companies. ISS opposed the merger between Reinvent Technology Partners and Joby Aviation. Shareholders ignored ISS and vote to approve the merger. ISS also advised against investing in Qell Acquisition Corp.’s merger with Lililum GmbH. That deal is still pending.

While ISS seems to have a general distaste for eVTOL SPACs, the Archer deal is particularly sticky due to its current legal wrangling with Wisk Aero. For those who haven’t been following: Wisk Aero, the air mobility company born out of a joint venture between Kitty Hawk and Boeing, filed a lawsuit in April against Archer Aviation alleging patent infringement and trade secret misappropriation.

Archer didn’t scuttle into a corner. The company countersued in a lawsuit seeking $1 billion in damages from Wisk Aero.

Investors won’t be able to take the wait-and-see approach. The vote to approve the SPAC merger will be held long before this legal fight is resolved.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

Carsome Group, the Malaysian-based online marketplace for buying and selling used cars, raised $170 million from investors, including from semiconductor maker MediaTek, investment company Catcha Group and Malaysian government fund Penjana Kapital, Forbes reported. The company’s post-funding valuation is $1.3 billion.

Cox Automotive acquired Oklahoma City-based Spiers New Technologies (SNT), a business that provides repair, remanufacturing, refurbishing and repurposing services for EV battery packs. The two companies did not disclose the terms of the deal.

Foretellix, a company that has developed a platform to verify and validate automated driving systems, raised $32 million in a Series B funding round led by MoreTech Ventures, with participation from several strategic investors, including Volvo Group, Nationwide, NI and Japan-Israel Ventures. Previous investors 83North Ventures, Jump Capital, OurCrowd and NextGear also participated. The company, founded in 2018, has raised more than $50 million to date.

Gatik AI, an autonomous vehicle startup focused on middle-mile logistics, announced it’s expanding into Texas — its fourth market — with a fresh bundle of capital. Gatik said it has raised $85 million in a Series B round led by new investor Koch Disruptive Technologies, the venture arm of Koch Industries. Existing investors Innovation Endeavours, Wittington Ventures, FM Capital, Dynamo Ventures, Trucks VC, Intact Ventures and others also participated. Gatik has raised $114.5 million to date.

HAAS Alert, a SaaS company that provides real-time automotive collision prevention for public safety and roadway fleets, raised $5 million in a seed funding round led by R^2 and Blu Ventures and joined by TechNexus, Stacked Capital, Urban Us, Techstars, Ride Ventures and Gramercy Fund. The company says it will use the funds to scale sales and outreach efforts and prioritize R&D with vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) technology partnerships.

Ideanomics, a fintech and electric mobility firm based in New York, acquired commercial electric vehicle manufacturer Via Motors in an all-stock deal valued at $450 million.

Iconiq Motors, a Chinese electric vehicle firm, is considering going public in the U.S. through a merger with a blank-check company, Bloomberg reported. The startup is working with an adviser on a potential deal that could value the combined company at about $4 billion, according to one source cited by the media outlet.

Kevala, the startup that collects and analyzes energy grid infrastructure data for utility companies, renewable energy providers, EV charging companies, regulators and other energy industry stakeholders, raised $21 million in a Series A round. The company says it will use the funds to grow its team from 60 employees to around 100 by the end of 2021 and increase the deployment of its grid analytics tools.

Sunday, an insurtech startup based in Bangkok, raised a $45 million in a Series B round that included investment from Tencent, SCB 10X, Vertex Growth, Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India, Quona Capital, Aflac Ventures and Z Venture Capital. The company says the round was oversubscribed, and that it doubled its revenue growth in 2020.

Yandex, the Russian internet giant that also operates a ride-haling company, acquired Uber’s stake in its Self-Driving Group (SDG), as well as Uber’s indirect interest in Yandex.Eats, Yandex.Lavka and Yandex.Delivery. The total cost of the deal came to $1 billion, giving the Russian company 100% ownership over all four businesses.

Zeekr, the electric vehicle brand by Geely, raised $500 million in its first external funding from a list of investors, including Intel Capital, battery maker CATL and online entertainment firm Bilibili. The round puts Zeekr’s valuation at aboout $9 billion, Reuters reported.

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Welcome back to policy corner! Let’s talk safety. ​​Traffic deaths spiked in the first quarter of this year, according to preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. The agency estimated that there was a 10 percent increase in fatalities from previous projections, finding that 8,730 people died in motor traffic accidents, up from the 7,900 projected. Oddly, deaths spiked even though there was an overall decrease in the number of people on the road.

“We must address the tragic loss of life we saw on the roads in 2020 by taking a transformational and collaborative approach to safety,” NHTSA’s acting administrator, Steven Cliff, said in a statement. “Everyone — including those who design, operate, build and use the road system — shares responsibility for road safety.”

NHTSA is arguably starting to come up against some of the greatest challenges in the agency’s history, as technological development has brought about a greater degree of driving autonomy and driver assistance systems.

The forthcoming investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot could be a watershed moment for ADAS safety standards. If you aren’t caught up: NHTSA opened an investigation into 11 instances of a Tesla crashing into a parked emergency vehicle, and just added another crash to its investigation earlier this week. In an 11-page letter to the electric vehicle maker, NHTSA gave the company until October 22 to provide extensive data on any hardware and software related to Tesla’s Level 2 capabilities (including Autopilot).

The probe comes as more and more groups — including the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, as well as the National Traffic Safety Board — call on NHTSA to exercise greater authority over regulating ADAS systems. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on this investigation as it unfolds in the coming months.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable news and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Motional revealed the first images of its planned robotaxi, a Hyundai all-electric Ioniq 5 SUV that will be the centerpiece of a driverless ride-hailing service the company wants customers to be able to access starting in 2023 through the Lyft app.

The purpose-built vehicle, which will be assembled by Hyundai, is integrated with Motional’s autonomous vehicle technology, including a suite of more than 30 sensors including lidar, radar and cameras that can be seen throughout the interior and exterior. That sensing system provides 360 degrees of vision, and the ability to see up to 300 meters away, according to Motional.

Electric vehicles

ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corp. unveiled a “cargo” version of its flagship three-wheeled, single-occupant, all-electric SOLO at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in California.

Power Global, a two-year-old startup, wants to disrupt the auto rickshaw market by offering a retrofit kit for diesel-powered vehicles and swappable battery pack to transition the more common lead-acid batteries to lithium-ion.

Rivian announced that the first edition version of its all-electric R1T pickup truck has an official EPA range of 314 miles, while its R1T SUV comes in a skosh higher at 316 miles.

Siemens said it will expand its U.S. manufacturing operations to support electric vehicle infrastructure. Specifically, the company plans to open a third facility to its VersiCharge Level 2 AC series product line of commercial and residential EV chargers. The additional facility, which is expected to come online in early 2022, will allow Siemens to manufacture more than 1 million electric vehicle chargers for the United States over the next four years.

TechCrunch editor Mike Butcher digs into YASA, the British electric motor startup that Mercedes-Benz acquired back in July The company, founded in 2009 after spinning out of Oxford University, developed an ‘axial-flux’ motor. YASA will now develop ultra-high-performance electric motors for Mercedes-Benz’s AMG.EA electric-only platform.

Wallbox, an electric vehicle charging company, has selected Arlington, Texas as the location of its first U.S. manufacturing facility. Production at the 130,000-square-foot plant is expected to start as early as June 2022. Production lines for its AC chargers lines, DC bidirectional charger, and DC fast charger for public use, are anticipated to follow in the first half of 2023. Wallbox said it expects to manufacture a total of 290,000 units annually in this facility by 2027 and reach its full capacity of 500,000 units by 2030.

Gig economy

DoorDash workers in California protested outside of the home of DoorDash CEO Tony Xu in response to a recent California superior court judge ruling calling 2020’s Proposition 22 unconstitutional. Prop 22, which was passed last November in California, would allow app-based companies like DoorDash, Uber and Lyft to continue classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees.

The group of about 50 DoorDash workers who are affiliated with advocacy groups We Drive Progress and Gig Workers Rising  demanded that DoorDash provide transparency for tips and 120% of minimum wage or around $17 per hour, stop unfair deactivations and provide free personal protective equipment, as well as adequate pay for car and equipment sanitizing.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey gave a coalition of app-based service providers that includes Uber and Lyft the go-ahead to start collecting signatures needed to put a proposed ballot measure before voters that would define drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. Backers of the initiative, which is essentially a MA version of Proposition 22, would need to gather tens of thousands of signatures for the measure to make it to the November 2022 ballot.

Uber and Lyft separately announced plans to cover the legal fees of drivers using their ride-hailing apps who are sued under Texas’s new abortion law.

The new law bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is typically around six weeks, and gives any individual the right to sue anyone who aids or abets an abortion. That means ride-hailing app drivers, who might transport a woman to a clinic, can be sued.

Uber CEO Dara Khoswarshari and Lyft CEO Logan Green both took to Twitter express their opposition to the new law and announce their support to drivers.

“TX SB8 threatens to punish drivers for getting people where they need to go– especially women exercising their right to choose,” Green wrote on Twitter. “@Lyft has created a Driver Legal Defense Fund to cover 100% of legal fees for drivers sued under SB8 while driving on our platform.

Khosrowshahi retweeted Green’s tweet and made the same commitment. “Right on @logangreen – drivers shouldn’t be put at risk for getting people where they want to go. Team @Uber is in too and will cover legal fees in the same way. Thanks for the push.”

Green and Khosrowshahi are among the few CEOs (a list that includes Austin-based Bumble and Dallas-based Match Group) with operations in Texas that have come out in strong opposition to law.

In-car tech

GM announced it will idle nearly all its assembly plants in North America due to the ongoing semiconductor chip shortage. The automaker is making a few strategic exceptions. Production of its profitable full-size SUVs will continue this week at its Arlington Assembly plant in Texas. The Flint Assembly facility, where it makes heavy-duty GMC and Chevy pickup trucks and Bowling Green Assembly in Kentucky, where it makes the Corvette, will also continue.

Misc. stuff

BMW Group has committed to a 50% reduction from 2019 levels in global carbon dioxide emissions during the use-phase of its vehicles by 2030, as well as a 40% reduction in emissions during the life cycle of the vehicle. These goals, including a plan to focus on the principles of a circular economy to achieve a more sustainable vehicle life cycle, will manifest in the company’s Neue Klasse platform, which should be available by 2025.

Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and husband, Chasten, announced they are parents to twins.

Buttigieg tweeted: “Chasten and I are beyond thankful for all the kind wishes since first sharing the news that we’re becoming parents. We are delighted to welcome Penelope Rose and Joseph August Buttigieg to our family.”

Nikola Corp. reached a new agreement with Bosch for its hydrogen fuel cell modules. The modules will be used to power two of Nikola’s hydrogen-fueled semi-trucks, the short-haul Nikola Tre and Nikola Two sleeper. Bosch invested at least $100 million in the hydrogen truck startup in 2019 but reduced its shares in the company the following year. Bosch also said last year it would supply fuel cells for Nikola’s European operations.

#automotive, #bmw-group, #dara-khoswarshari, #ebikes, #electric-vehicles, #gm, #lyft, #mercedes-benz, #nikola-corp, #pete-buttigieg, #ride-hailing, #rivian, #the-station, #transportation, #uber, #volkswagen, #vw-group, #yandex

GM throws LG under the bus as Chevy Bolt production pauses amid recall

GM throws LG under the bus as Chevy Bolt production pauses amid recall

(credit: Jeffrey Sauger / Chevrolet)

General Motors has lost confidence in battery supplier LG Chem after defective cells from the company caused a string of fires and sparked a massive recall of Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles and electric utility vehicles.

The automaker recalled more than 140,000 electric cars and crossovers—every single one that the company has made—when it discovered two simultaneously occurring defects in the LG-made batteries. GM suspects the defects are behind the 10 fires the company has identified so far.

LG Chem makes the battery packs for every Chevy Bolt, and while the problem was initially traced to one of LG’s Korean plants, subsequent investigations revealed that other LG plants were pumping out bad cells, too.

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#cars, #chevrolet-bolt-euv, #chevrolet-bolt-ev, #electric-vehicle, #gm, #lg-chem

The Station: Rivian makes its IPO move, Nuro pushes into Nevada and Waymo scales up in SF

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 readers: Welcome to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B. I’m back after a one-week hiatus. Did ya miss me? Yes, of course you did.

A lot happened while I was away and I’ll try my best to highlight the important stuff. Before I get to the hard news, I want to direct your attention to the latest founders Q&A — an ongoing series to highlight people who have started and are running transportation companies. Our twist? We will check on these founders a year from when their interview has been published.

This week, Zūm co-founder and CEO Ritu Narayan was in the hot seat. Check it out.

Also, it’s been awhile since I have directed y’all to The Autonocast, the podcast I co-host with Alex Roy and Ed Niedermeyer. We’ve had some great episodes in recent weeks, notably our interview with mobility-focused venture capitalist Olaf Sakkers. He joined the show to discuss “The Mobility Disruption Framework,” a funny, insightful book about the trends and technologies transforming the ways we get around. You can read the book here.

As always, you can email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions or tips. You also can send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Nuro’s Nevada play

Nuro-Vegas

Image Credits: Nuro

Earlier this month, we published a series of articles that took a deep dive into autonomous vehicle technology company Nuro. We mentioned that the company was aiming to move into Nevada. Now, there are more details.

Nuro, which is applying its AV tech to delivery, is investing $40 million to develop a factory and closed course test track in southern Nevada. Nuro co-founder and CEO Jiajun Zhu said this will allow Nuro to “build tens of thousands of robots.”

And Nuro isn’t wasting any time getting started. Construction on the factory will begin in fall 2021 and is expected to be completed in 2022. Both the factory and closed-course testing facility are expected to be fully operational in 2022, the company said.

The factory, which will be more than 125,000 square feet, will be used to build Nuro’s third-generation autonomous vehicles with current and future partners. BYD North America will be Nuro’s manufacturing partner.

Nuro is also taking over 74 acres of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to build a closed-course testing facility that will allow the development and validation of its autonomous on-road vehicles. The testing track will measure bot performance in a broad range of scenarios, from avoiding pedestrians and pets to giving bicycles space on shared roadways, as well as environmental tests and vehicle systems validation. the company said.

Deal of the week

money the station

Rivian has raised more than $10.5 billion in its lifetime, funds that have been directed towards the design, development and production of its first two electric vehicles as well as commercial vans for Amazon.

It’s a hefty sum that should be enough to fulfill that mission — and more. And yet, even Rivian is no match for the public market’s siren song.

The company, just weeks before its first electric pickup trucks are expected to be delivered to customers, confidentially filed paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to go public. A Rivian IPO announcement has been expected for months now. The valuation the company is shooting for is the big surprise. If Bloomberg’s sources are right, Rivian is shooting for a valuation roughly around $80 billion.

That’s nearly three times larger than the last valuation I was able to nail down in January. At that time, the company had just raised another $2.65 billion from existing investors T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., Fidelity Management and Research Company, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, Coatue and D1 Capital Partners. New investors also participated in that round, which pushed Rivian’s valuation to $27.6 billion, a source familiar with the investment round told TechCrunch at the time.

Rivian has raised more money since then. In July, the company announced it had closed a $2.5 billion private funding round led by Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, D1 Capital Partners, Ford Motor and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. Third Point, Fidelity Management and Research Company, Dragoneer Investment Group and Coatue also participated in that round. The company did not share a post-money valuation at the time of the July 2021 announcement.

Officially, Rivian says the size and price range for the proposed offering have yet to be determined.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

Coco, the Los Angeles delivery robot startup, raised $36 million in a Series A round led by Sam Altman, Silicon Valley Bank and Founders Fund, with participation from Sam Nazarian, Ellen Chen and Mario Del Pero. It brings the company’s total funding up to around $43 million.

DealerPolicy, an insurance marketplace for automotive retail, raised $110 million in a Series C rouond led by the Growth Equity business within Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Additional investors include 3L Capital and Hudson Structured Capital Management Ltd. Goldman Sachs’ Paul Pate will also join the company’s board of directors.

Getaround, the peer-to-peer car-sharing startup, is in talks to go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company Altitude Acquisition Corp , Reuters reported. The company has confidentially sought investors to participate in the deal through a private placement in public equity, or PIPE, at a valuation of around $1.7 billion.

HyPoint, the two-year-old fuel cell developer, has secured a $6.5 million development agreement with Piasecki Aircraft Corporation for the design and certification of hydrogen fuel cell systems. Through the partnership, HyPoint aims to deliver five full-scale, 650 kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for ground testing, demo flights and the certification process.

KKR, the global investment firm, has plans to acquire New Zealand bus and coach company Ritchies Transport, which currently has a fleet of more than 1,600 vehicles and 42 depots that operate across the country. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but sources familiar with the circumstances say the deal values Ritchies at over $347 million ($500 million NZD). This is KKR’s first infrastructure investment in New Zealand.

Malta Inc., an energy storage company, said that Chevron Technology Ventures and Piva Capital have joined a group of investors including Proman, Alfa Laval, Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Dustin Moskovitz in its oversubscribed Series B financing, increasing the round to more than $60 million.

MaxAB, the Egyptian B2B e-commerce platform that serves food and grocery retailers, raised a $15 million extension from existing investors RMBV, IFC, Flourish Ventures, Crystal Stream Capital, Rise Capital, Endeavour Catalyst, Beco Capital and 4DX Ventures. The extension brings its total Series A fundraise to $55 million.

Point Pickup Technologies, a last-mile delivery service, acquired white-label e-commerce platform GrocerKey for $42 million. The acquisition means Point Pickup will be able to offer retailers services such as same-day delivery under their own brand name, rather than under third parties like Instacart.

Upstream, the Israeli automotive security firm, raised $62 million in a Series C funding round led by Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance and was joined by new investors I.D.I. Insurance, 57 Stars’ NextGen Mobility Fund and La Maison Partners. Existing investors Glilot Capital, Salesforce venture, Volvo Group Venture Capital, Nationwide, Delek US and others also participated in the round. With this latest round, the company has raised a total of $105 million since its founding in 2017.

Volvo Group has agreed to buy heavy duty truck subsidiary of Jiangling Motors Corp for about 1.1 billion Swedish crowns ($125.7 million) to make trucks in China, Reuters reported.

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Welcome back to policy corner! The stalemate over the budget reconciliation that I warned might take months to break — just kidding! The House managed to pass the $3.5 trillion budget resolution and made progress on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill on Tuesday, in a 220-212 bipartisan vote. The vote includes a non-binding agreement to vote on the infrastructure bill by Sept. 27.

The path is now clear for Democrats to pass one of the most socially progressive budgets in decades, with a slew of social safety net provisions for childcare, healthcare, climate and education. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had previously sworn she would stall the infrastructure bill until the budget passed, so the infrastructure bill passing sometime in our lifetime is suddenly looking like a much more realistic proposal!

Progressive Democrats in particular are committed to keeping the fate of the two bills intertwined. “We will only vote for the infrastructure bill after passing the reconciliation bill,” Progressive Caucus chairwoman, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), said in a statement.

Speaking of the two bills… while consumer incentives for electric vehicles were slashed from the infrastructure bill, they did survive the budget reconciliation. Right now, there currently exists a 30D tax credit, but the $7,500 incentive doesn’t include automakers that have sold more than 200,000 EVs (so General Motors and Tesla don’t qualify).

Leilani Gonzalez with the Zero Emission Transportation Association urged reform to the EV tax credit. She suggested that Congress slash means-testing for the credit, like one that only allows people under a certain annual income to access it.

“Congress should ensure that this tax credit is not impeded by restrictive means-tested requirements, like low manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) or adjusted gross income (AGI) caps,” she wrote. “These limitations ignore the public benefits of EVs that leave everyone better off, and they would only serve to hinder EV adoption.”

Even beyond reform, some Democrats are pushing for a direct cash rebate — meaning that the dollar amount would just be taken off the cost of the car at the point of sale, rather than the consumer having to wait to get that money back at tax time. But we’re still a long way from seeing a new kind of consumer incentive put into law, with some Democrats urging a $12,500 tax credit, and others arguing for a rebate, with still others arguing for either but with means-testing like what Gonzalez writes about.

In any case, we’ll be keeping an eye on it. It’s very hard to imagine how the country will achieve any kind of meaningful transition to electric vehicles by 2030 without some mechanism to make them easier (and cheaper) to buy.

In other news, the Federal Aviation Administration is spending $20.4 million in grants to airports who want to electrify equipment and transition to ZEVs. This isn’t about the planes themselves, though they tend to get the most media attention. These grants would be for less sexy things like airport shuttle buses and mobile ground power units, but which collectively still generate a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. The FAA has earmarked $300 million out of its $3.5 billion budget for electrification initiatives.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable news and other tidbits

It’s one of those weeks folks. Lotta news so let’s get down to it.

ADAS

Tesla CEO Elon Musk admitted that the latest version of its so-called FSD tech — which is an upgraded version of its Autopilot advanced driver assistance system — is “not great.” He went on to write that the “Autopilot/AI team is rallying to improve as fast as possible. We’re trying to have a single tech stack for both highway & city streets, but it requires massive [neural network] retraining.”

Autonomous vehicles

Cruise, GM’s self-driving car subsidiary, launched a new initiative called Farm to Fleet that will allow the company to source solar power from farms in California’s Central Valley. Cruise is directly purchasing renewable energy credits from Sundale Vineyards and Moonlight Companies to help power its fleet of all-electric autonomous vehicles in San Francisco.

Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky has a great explainer on the various levels of SAE autonomy.

Toyota suspended the operation of its e-Palette autonomous shuttles — which do have two human safety operators on board — at the Paralympic Games Athletes’ Village after one of the shuttles struck an athlete. The schedule for resuming operations at the Paralympic Games has not yet been determined, the company said. A spokesperson also noted to me that only the shuttles at the Olympics were halted. The e-Palette program is still operational.

Update: Since the newsletter went out to subscribers over the weekend, Toyota has restarted the e-Palette shuttles in the Olympic village. It’s important to note that these shuttles use a combination of manual and autonomous driving modes while underway. Toyota President Akio Toyoda apologized for the incident during a recent interview. The translation provided in closed captioning isn’t great, but he does make some interesting comments about the readiness of autonomous vehicle technology. In short: it’s not ready and humans are still better drivers.

Waymo has launched a robotaxi service that will be open to certain vetted riders in San Francisco. The company officially kicked off its Waymo One Trusted Tester program in the city with a fleet of all-electric Jaguar I-PACEs equipped with the company’s fifth generation of its autonomous vehicle system. This is a big step for Waymo and we’ll be watching closely to see how the ramp mirrors, or differs, from its service in the Phoenix area.

Greg Bensinger took a look at the terms of service on the Waymo One ride-hailing app and in a tweet thread provides a breakdown of what riders are agreeing to, including that the company will record video of riders while being driven around San Francisco.

Waymo also has decided to get out of the lidar sales business as it shifts its focus to deploying its autonomous vehicle technology across its ride-hailing and trucking divisions. In 2019, Waymo announced it would sell its short-range lidar, called Laser Bear Honeycomb, to companies outside of self-driving cars. It initially targeted robotics, security and agricultural technology.

Electric vehicles

GM expanded (again) its recall of Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles due to fire risks from battery manufacturing defects. The automaker said it would seek reimbursement from LG Chem, its battery cell manufacturing partner, for what it expects to be $1 billion worth of losses. this is the third recall GM has issued for this vehicle related to batteries.

Lordstown Motors hired Daniel A. Ninivaggi, a longtime automotive executive and former head of Carl C. Icahn’s holding company, as CEO and a board member. The appointment follows months of tumult at Lordstown, which became publicly traded via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company.

Other bits

Aria Alamalhodaei wrote up a feature on Buoyant, a recent Y Combinator grad and one of several airship startups that have popped up recently.

Mercedes-Benz’s chief technology officer Sajjad Khan is leaving the automaker to start a venture capital fund, the company said in a statement. Khan’s replacement, Magnus Östberg, will take over the CTO role effective Sept. 1.

Porsche Cars North America added its entire U.S. inventory of new cars to an online marketplace that it launched in May 2020. The platform called Porsche Finder is one of the ways the automaker is trying to keep up with customer demands and the industry’s shift to digital commerce. The product lets customers search by vehicle model and generation as well as price, equipment, packages and colors, on all new and used vehicle inventory from its 193 U.S. dealerships.

Tesla wants to supply electricity directly to customers, according to an application filed with Texas electricity regulators earlier this month. Energy Choice Matters first reported on the application.

The application, filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Texas on August 16, is a request to become what’s called a “retail electric provider” under its subsidiary Tesla Energy Ventures. On the deregulated, idiosyncratic Texas power market, REPs generally purchase wholesale electricity from power generators and sell it to customers. More than 100 REPs currently compete on the open market.

#automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #cruise, #electric-vehicles, #elon-musk, #gm, #government, #nuro, #rivian, #robotics, #tesla, #the-station, #toyota, #transportation, #venture-capital, #waymo

Lordstown Motors taps former Icahn exec as CEO to put its EV truck ambitions back on track

Lordstown Motors has hired Daniel A. Ninivaggi, a longtime automotive executive and former head of Carl C. Icahn’s holding company, as CEO and a board member. The appointment follows months of tumult at Lordstown, which became publicly traded via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company.

In June, founder and CEO Steve Burns and CFO Julio Rodriguez resigned following a disappointing first-quarter earnings that revealed the company was consuming more capital than expected and unable to reach previously forecasted production numbers for its electric Endurance pickup truck. The resignations were also tied to a board committee investigation that found inaccuracies in some of the company’s disclosures on its truck preorders.

The resignations were just one of several problems, including allegations of fraud and separate investigations by the Department of Justice and the SEC, that has put the two-year-old company at risk of failing. Lordstown did receive a lifeline in August when hedge fund YA II PN purchased 35.1 million shares, or about 19.9% of outstanding shares. The sale provided much-needed capital required to produce its first electric vehicle at the former GM Assembly Plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

Ninivaggi has the background to bring order to Lordstown’s business. He is also bullish on the company’s product, noting in a statement that the demand for full-size electric pickup trucks will be strong and that Lordstown’s Endurance truck has the opportunity to capture a meaningful share of the market.

The former CEO of Icahn Enterprises, has served in a variety of senior leadership positions in the automotive and transportation industries, beginning at Lear Corporation, where he eventually became executive vice president. He was later coo-chairman and co-CEO of automotive components supplier Federal Mogul Holdings Corporation ahead of its sale to Tenneco.

While with Icahn Enterprises, Ninivaggi also oversaw the company’s automotive aftermarket service network and parts distribution businesses. He also has a long history directing public companies, including Motorola Mobility (prior to its sale to Google), Navistar International, Hertz Global Holdings and CVR Energy.

#electric-trucks, #electric-vehicles, #gm, #lordstown-motors, #tc

GM recalls every Chevy Bolt ever made, blames LG for faulty batteries

Promotional image of electric vehicle about to be charged.

Enlarge (credit: GM)

GM has announced that it is recalling every Chevrolet Bolt made to date, including the new EUV models, over concerns that a manufacturing defect in its LG-made batteries could cause a fire.

The Bolt was first recalled in November after five cars that hadn’t been in crashes caught fire. After investigating the problem further, Chevy recalled a second batch in July. The problem was traced to two manufacturing defects which could occur simultaneously. The defects—a torn anode tab and folded separator—created conditions that could lead to a short in affected cells. So far, the company has identified 10 fires that involve faulty batteries, according to an AP report. 

This third and latest recall includes 73,000 Bolts made from 2019–2022, the current model year. This brings the total recall to nearly 142,000 cars, with over 100,000 having been sold in the US. GM estimates that the initial recalls will cost $800 million, and it expects the new one to add $1 billion to the total. GM said it will be seeking reimbursement from LG.

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#cars, #chevrolet-bolt, #chevrolet-bolt-euv, #electric-vehicle, #gm, #lg-chem, #lithium-ion-batteries

GM recalls Bolt EVs once again over fire risks

GM is issuing a second recall for 2017 to 2019 Bolt EVs over potential fire issues. The company says it plans to replace defective batteries, but until it can do so it’s advising Bolt customers to limit their charging up to 90 percent, and not to go below 70 miles of range. It’s also reiterating a recommendation from last week against parking indoors and leaving the car’s to charge overnight unattended. This latest recall follows a similar one from last November, where GM recalled more than 68,000 Bolts.

The company also suggests that Bolt customers visit their nearest Chevy EV dealer to get the advanced diagnostics software, which should alert them ahead of any future battery issues. Hyundai, which also sources batteries from LG Chem like GM, ended up replacing more than 75,000 batteries for its Kona EV.

While it may sound alarming — GM’s recalls were triggered by five Bolt fires between 2017 and 2019 — it’s worth noting that gas cars typically cause around 150 fires a day, according to a FEMA report. Still, EV makers need to prove they can responsibly deal with potential issues before they can hurt more people (and before it leads to more negative sentiment towards electric vehicles).

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Engadget.

#bolt-ev, #column, #electric-vehicle, #ev, #gm, #recall, #tc, #tceng

GM is bringing its upgraded hands-free Super Cruise driving system to six vehicles in 2022

GM is rolling out three major upgrades including automatic lanes changes and towing support to its hands-free driver assistance system Super Cruise and making it available in six vehicles, including the 2022 all-new GMC Hummer EV pickup truck.

While GM has steadily improved Super Cruise since its introduction in 2017, for years it has been limited to its luxury Cadillac brand. The improvements and additional vehicles mark the automaker’s willingness — and perhaps readiness — to sell owners of its Chevrolet- and GMC-branded pickup trucks on the technology.

When GM launched Super Cruise, it was only available in one Cadillac model — the full-size CT6 sedan — and restricted to divided highways. That began to change in 2019 when GM announced plans to expand where Super Cruise would be available. Now the system can be activated on more than 200,000 miles of roads in the United States.

And GM is planning to expand even further. By 2023, GM aims to bring Super Cruise to 22 vehicles, including the upcoming EVs Cadillac Lyriq and GMC Hummer SUV.

The company said Friday it is adding automatic lane changes that function without a driver prompt to Super Cruise. This feature in the enhanced Super Cruise will be available in the 2022 Cadillac Escalade, Cadillac CT4, Cadillac CT5, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Hummer EV Pickup and GMC Sierra. GM has also developed and will launch a new feature that will allow drivers to engage the hands-free assistance system while trailering their boat or camper. This trailering feature will be available only in 2022 model year vehicles that have towing capability. Finally, GM has upgraded its in-car navigation to show drivers the highways where Super Cruise can be used.

Super Cruise uses a combination of lidar map data, high-precision GPS, cameras and radar sensors, as well as a driver attention system, which monitors the person behind the wheel to ensure they’re paying attention. Unlike Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, users of Super Cruise do not need to have their hands on the wheel. However, their eyes must remain directed straight ahead.

The automatic lane change feature in Super Cruise will still require the driver to keep their eyes on the road. When the system is engaged, the driver no longer needs to engage the turn signal to indicate a desire to change lanes. Instead, the system, if engaged, will make the lane change on its own after alerting the driver. The system will move the vehicle to other lane to pass a slower vehicle.

The driver-prompted automatic lane change will be the default when the vehicle is towing a boat, camper or trailer.

All of these upgrades are possible thanks to GM’s newish digital vehicle platform called VIP, or vehicle intelligent platform, which provides more electrical bandwidth and data processing power, enabled engineers to add to Super Cruise’s capabilities. Vehicles equipped with this VIP electrical architecture can add features Super Cruise via over-the-air software updates. That means certain 2021 models, specifically the Cadillac Escalade, will get these new upgrades.

There are a couple of vehicles, namely the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV, that have a different version of Super Cruise because it is not equipped the VIP. As a result, the Bolt EUV won’t get these upgrades.

#automotive, #chevrolet, #gm, #gmc, #super-cruise, #tc

GM to launch fleet charging service to power commercial EVs, even at home

GM and its new EV business unit BrightDrop are launching a fleet charging service as the automaker aims to ramp up its bet on connected and electric commercial vehicles.

The service, branded Ultium Charge 360 fleet charging service in a nod to GM’s new electric architecture and batteries that will be the foundation of its future EV plans, offers many of the tools that a commercial delivery, sales or motor pool business might need. It also includes an effort to add home charging for drivers.

The charging service is the latest addition to BrightDrop, which was launched in January. The business unit offers commercial customers — starting with FedEx — an ecosystem of electric and connected products. BrightDrop has said it will begin with two main products: an electric van called the EV600 with an estimate range of 250 miles and a pod-like electric pallet dubbed EP1. BrightDrop is part of GM’s aim to reach 1 million EV sales globally by 2025.

GM and BrightDrop are launching the charging service with Duke Energy company eTransEnergy, EVgo, In-Charge Energy and Schneider Electric, four companies that can provide the infrastructure needed to keep the commercial vans properly powered.

On the home-charging front, GM said it will expand an existing agreement with Qmerit.

The service is meant to provide tools for fleet operators, which Alex Keros, GM’s  lead architect of EV Infrastructure noted in a call with reporters Thursday are important market growth segment and a critical piece of the electrification puzzle. The company looked at “how to put the right customer experiences together … you know, when you think about fleets these are cars that come home with employees for example, and we’ll have to help those companies and employees figure out charging in their home.”

#automotive, #brightdrop, #electric-vehicles, #evs, #gm, #tc

GM’s newest startup aims squarely at the commercial EV market

Ford and GM’s century-old battle for market share is no longer restricted to gas- and diesel-powered passenger car, truck and SUV sales. The hottest market in the next decade is commercial and electric.

In this new race, the two companies are taking different strategies as they square off against each other — along with a growing list of EV startups — to win over as many delivery and fleet-vehicle customers as possible.

GM’s weapon is BrightDrop, a new startup incubated and launched at CES 2021 by Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. The venture boasts an ecosystem of EV hardware and logistical software products aimed squarely at fleet and delivery companies. GM’s interest in the space is far from merely exploratory; it anticipates that the market for delivery, including food and parcels in the United States, will be more than $850 billion by 2025.

For fleet managers, it comes down to the numbers on a spreadsheet, and thanks to incentives and lower maintenance costs associated with EVs, vans that run on electrons instead of dead dinosaurs make financial sense.

“Folks on the commercial side don’t really care about the technology — they care about the economics,” Brett Smith, director of technology at research firm CAR, told TechCrunch.

Electric vehicles might be more ecologically sound than traditional gas- or diesel-powered vehicles, but for fleet managers, it comes down to the numbers on a spreadsheet, and thanks to incentives and lower maintenance costs associated with EVs, vans that run on electrons instead of dead dinosaurs make financial sense.

#automotive, #brightdrop, #ec-mobility-hardware, #ec-news-analysis, #electric-vehicles, #fedex, #ford, #general-motors, #gm, #transportation

Connected vehicle data startup Wejo partners with Microsoft, Palantir, Sompo

Connected vehicle data startup Wejo has announced partnerships with Microsoft, Palantir and Sompo Holdings to improve its ability to collect, store and analyze data from millions of connected vehicles around the world. 

This follows the GM-backed startup’s announcement that it would be going public by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, Virtuoso Acquisition Corp., which is expected to close later this year. A $25 million commitment from Microsoft and Sompo, combined with already-committed investors GM and Palantir, bring Wejo’s total PIPE financing to $125 million. 

Palantir has been a previous strategic investor in Wejo. In 2019, the software developer launched a Japanese joint venture with insurance provider Sompo. Now this venture’s partnership with Wejo will give the startup the chance to collect connected vehicle data in Japan, and perhaps the greater Asia-Pacific region. The company already has some live vehicles in Korea, but 95% of its data comes from the U.S., according to Richard Barlow, Wejo’s founder and CEO. Sompo will analyze Wejo’s connected vehicle data using the Palantir Foundry data and analytics platform, according to the company.

“The vast majority of cars now sold globally have this ability to be connected, so there’s a huge opportunity,” Barlow told TechCruch. “We have 11 million live cars on our platform out of a supply base of about 50 million vehicles. We have over 17 OEM partners live on the platform, and we’re processing 16 billion data points a day, a peak of about 40,000 per second, which explains why we’re also excited to be backed by Microsoft and to be migrating to their Azure cloud platform.”

Barlow says Wejo can see 7% of all vehicles moving around New York, 6% around California and 20% around Detroit from partnerships with automakers like GM, Daimler and Hyundai. The company can either hand off raw, anonymized data — collected from vehicles with the consent of the owner — to businesses, developers or governments, or it can perform data analytics for them, which is also where the partnership with Microsoft can come in handy.

“Microsoft came up with a really compelling solution about how we can leverage their machine learning and AI capabilities to actually provide even more incredible products back to OEMs and key industries that want to use connected vehicle data,” said Barlow. “So Microsoft’s Azure doing that heavy lifting is really going to speed up our business.”

According to Wejo, initial applications might include traffic solutions, as well as remote diagnostics, integrated payments, advertising, retail and logistics. The two companies are also discussing the potential of using Wejo for Microsoft’s mapping solutions. Barlow says mapping companies are often typical buyers of Wejo’s data and expects to see more insurance providers. 

“We’ve seen 11 million instances of two vehicles coming together, and in real time, we’re getting data from both those vehicles,” said Barlow. “So we’re starting to preempt and understand the characteristics or behaviours of before and after that collision or that interaction of vehicles.”

Wejo collects data that can recreate a car crash, from how each driver stomped on the brakes to which airbags were deployed to the speed of impact and which sensors were destroyed. It can then share this kind of data back to the insurer to help speed up the claims and recovery process and make repairs be more accurate, said Barlow.  

All of this data demonstrating human driving behaviors in a range of circumstances has been collected over the last seven years, making Wejo an attractive partner for companies developing autonomous technology.

#automotive, #connected-vehicles, #general-motors, #gm, #microsoft, #palantir, #sompo-holdings, #startups, #tc, #transportation, #wejo

Inside GM’s startup incubator strategy

GM has launched a series of new subsidiaries in the past year tackling electrification, connectivity and even insurance — all part of the automaker’s aim to find value (and profits) beyond its traditional business of making, selling and financing vehicles. These startups, including numerous ones that will never make the cut, get their start under Vice President of Innovation Pam Fletcher’s watch.

Fletcher, who joined TechCrunch on June 9 at the virtual TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 event, runs a group of 170 people developing and launching startups with a total addressable market of about $1.3 trillion.

Today, about 19 companies are making their way through the incubator in hopes of joining recent GM startups like OnStar Guardian, OnStar Insurance, GM Defense and BrightDrop, the commercial electric vehicle delivery business that launched in January. Not everything will make it, Fletcher told the audience, noting “we add new things all the time.”

Launching any startup presents challenges. But launching multiple startups within a 113-year-old automaker that employs 155,000 people globally is another, more complex matter. The bar, which determines whether these startups are ever publicly launched, is specific and high. A GM startup has to be a new idea that can attract new customers and grow the total addressable market for the automaker, using existing assets and IP.

The Volt effect

The 2010 Chevrolet Volt is a noteworthy moment on the GM timeline. The vehicle marked the company’s first commercial push into electrification since the 1990s EV1 program. Fletcher, who was the chief engineer of the Chevy Volt propulsion system from 2008 to 2011, noted that the Volt was the beginning of a change within the automaker that eventually led to other commercial products including the all-electric Chevy Bolt, the hands-free driver assistance system Super Cruise and its current work on autonomous vehicle development with its subsidiary Cruise.

I don’t know that the Volt was a root exactly of what we’re seeing today. But I think it was definitely the start of a groundswell of really looking at, how do we inject technology that customers are excited about and care about quickly? How do we engage them deeply in the process? … Which we’ve always done … just, I think there was a climate there where the appetite was so strong with a certain group of customers for the technology that it allowed us to get really a front row seat with them, which was game changing for those of us on the frontlines. And obviously, there have been many programs that have had that in their own ways, but you really see that accelerating now with the advent of everything we’re doing in electrification and autonomous and a portfolio that is just emerging even to the notion of applying some of these great technologies to our new full size, truck and SUV programs. So it’s really broad, based across the company, which is exciting. (Timestamp: 4:56)

Fletcher explained how working to commercialize new technology changed how the company interacted with customers.

With new technologies, one, you get to a new customer base sometimes. So, really understanding what that customer is looking like and putting them at the center of everything. Also, different technologies have different development processes and timelines and pipelines for activity. So, it really allowed us to start to think about how to approach each step of our product development and customer engagement differently. And the Volt was an interesting time too, because that was the advent of new social media was really starting to become much more popular. And so we were very connected with those customers and a great customer base that gave us tremendous feedback very directly, you know, through at the time, what was a new channel. (Timestamp: 3:50)

#automotive, #cruise-automation, #ec-techcrunch-tc-mobility, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #evtol, #general-motors, #gm, #mary-barra, #pam-fletcher, #tc, #transportation

Planes, trains, but not automobiles—why GM is developing fuel cells

Using hydrogen in some of these applications probably makes more sense than building out a network of hydrogen filling stations for passenger cars.

Enlarge / Using hydrogen in some of these applications probably makes more sense than building out a network of hydrogen filling stations for passenger cars. (credit: Scharfsinn86/Getty Images)

In just the last week, General Motors signed agreements with not one but two companies to develop applications for its Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell systems. At first glance, that might seem a little surprising, since last week we also saw Honda discontinue its hydrogen fuel cell-powered version of the Clarity. That move was just the latest bit of support for the hypothesis that hydrogen power might join Betamax and the Zune in the history books.

In fact, the history books are where you’ll find GM’s first hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, the 1966 Electrovan. And in recent years we’ve seen some fuel cell EVs developed by GM for military applications. But neither of these new deals involves making a hydrogen-powered car.

Instead, last Tuesday the automaker announced it would work with Wabtec—which has already developed a battery-electric locomotive—to engineer freight locomotives powered by GM’s fuel cells and batteries. Then, on Thursday, GM revealed it was working with Liebherr-Aerospace to develop aerospace applications (like auxiliary power generation) for fuel cells. Intrigued, I spoke to Charlie Freese, GM’s executive director for Global Hydrotec and the man in charge of GM’s fuel cell program. Why does the company still think the lightest gas only has room to expand?

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#airplanes, #cars, #fcev, #general-motors, #gm, #h2, #hydrogen, #hydrogen-fuel-cell, #hydrotec, #trains, #trucks

The Station: Waymo nabs more capital, Cruise taps a $5B credit line and hints about Argo’s future

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.

A few Extra Crunch items highlight before we jump into things. This week, we published an interview with Refraction AI co-founder and CTO Matthew Johnson-Roberson as part of an ongoing series focused on transportation founders. TechCrunch has been following autonomous delivery startup since it came out of stealth on our stage in 2019. Refraction, which built its vehicle to travel in bike lanes up to 15 miles per hour, has been testing in AnnArbor, Michigan. Now, it’s expanding to Austin. Our interview with Johnson-Roberson reveals the premise behind the company, what prompted him to step down as CEO and some of the challenges in the industry. The twist with this series? We plan to check in on every founder we interview a year after their Q&A is published.

Later this month, we’ll feature an interview with Candice Xie, the CEO and co-founder of Veo.

Finally, we have a fresh round of recaps from the TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 event held June 9. Each recap provides a rundown of the conversation as well as some key quotes from our panelists. The recaps also include the video of the session.

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.

Deal of the week

money the station

Taking autonomous vehicle technology from the “lab,” — ok, from the closed track — to commercial scale is a pricey endeavor. Not every AV developer has success raising money or access to debt. Waymo does.

The company has raised another $2.5 billion in external funding about 15 months after its first external round brought in $2.25 billion. (That round was later expanded by $700 million a few months later.) The round appears to be mostly existing investors including parent company Alphabet, Andreessen Horowitz, AutoNation, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Fidelity Management & Research Company, Magna International, Mubadala Investment Company, Perry Creek Capital, Silver Lake, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., Temasek. Tiger Global was the investor newcomer.

The funding announcement comes a few months after CEO John Krafcik left the company after five years in the position. The CEO position is now being held jointly by Tekedra Mawakana, former COO, and Dmitri Dolgov, who joined the original self-driving project at Google and was CTO.

More than $2 billion is a hefty haul. Although numerous folks,  some of whom are in the financial sector, reached out to me to share reactions of surprise that it wasn’t larger. I’m more interested in how that money is being put to work. Waymo has now brought in nearly $6 billion in outside investment since March 2020.

Other deals that my attention …

Bringg, a software developer focused on helping retailers with last-mile logistics, raised $100 million in a Series E round of funding led by Insight Partners. Salesforce Ventures, Viola Growth, Next 47, Pereg Ventures, Harlap, GLP and Cambridge Capital — all previous backers — also invested. Bringg CEO Guy Bloch told TechCrunch that the funding will be used both to continue growing Bringg’s customer base, but also the company’s ca

CAI International, the tansportation finance and logistics company,  agreed to a $1.1 billion takeover by Mitsubishi HC Capital. This is an all-stock deal that is comprised of $104 million worth of preferred stock and $986 million of common stock equity value, Reuters reported.

Cambridge Mobile Telematics, a mobile telematics and analytics, has acquired TrueMotion. The company didn’t disclose the terms. CMT will now provide telematics services to 21 out of the 25 largest auto insurers in the United States, and across more than 20 countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Africa, Japan and Australia.

Cruise, the self-driving subsidiary of GM, secured a $5 billion line of credit from the automaker’s financial arm to pay for hundreds of purpose-built electric and autonomous Origin vehicles as they start to roll off the assembly line. The access to the credit provided by GM Financial will push Cruise’s “total war chest” to more than $10 billion as it prepares for commercialization, CEO Dan Ammann wrote in a blog post. In short: the credit will be used to buy these Cruise Origins from GM, which is assembling the autonomous vehicles at its renamed and renovated Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. The factory is now called Factory ZERO.

Electriphi, a battery management and fleet monitoring software startup based in San Francisco, was acquired by Ford. The acquisition, the terms of which neither party would disclose, aims to round out Ford’s future EV commercial business. The automaker already has two electric commercial vehicles in pipeline, the  E-transit cargo and F-150 Lighting Pro pickup truck. Ford is betting that the software developed by the three-year-old San Francisco startup will help it capture more than $1 billion in revenue just from charging by 2030.

Gopuff, the on-demand goods, food and alcohol delivery service, acquired fleet management platform rideOS for $115 million, sources familiar with the deal told TechCrunch. This acquisition comes just a few months after the Philadelphia-based startup announced a $1.15 billion funding round at a $8.9 billion valuation, up from $3.9 billion in October. Last fall, the company also raised $380 million and bought BevMo, a beverage retailer. Gopuff did not share its updated valuation with this new acquisition.

KeepTruckin, a hardware and software developer that helps trucking fleets manage vehicle, cargo and driver safety, raised $190 million in a Series E funding round, which puts the company’s valuation at over $2 billion, according to CEO Shoaib Makani. G2 Venture Partners, which just raised a $500 million fund to help modernize existing industries, participated in the round, alongside existing backers Greenoaks Capital, Index Ventures, IVP and Scale Venture Partners and funds managed by BlackRock.

Kodiak Robotics, the Silicon Valley-based startup developing autonomous trucks, has a new investor. Tire-making giant Bridgestone has taken a minority stake in the AV startup as part of a broader partnership to test and develop smart tire technology. While the terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, Kodiak Robotics co-founder and CEO Don Burnette told TechCrunch that this is a direct financial investment. Bridgestone CTO Nizar Trigui has also joined the Kodiak board as an observer. The two companies also formed a strategic partnership focused on advancing Bridgestone’s tire tech and fleet management system.

MachineMetrics, a data startup focused on manufacturing, raised $20 million in Series B round led by industrial automation and robotics Teradyne. Ridgeline Ventures also participated along with existing investors Tola Capital and Hyperplane.

Mister Car Wash, a car wash company owned by Leonard Green & Partners and based in my hometown, has set the terms for its initial public offering. The company said in a regulatory filing that it will issue 37.5 million with the expectation of a per share price between $15 and $17.

Motorway, a U.K. startup that allows professional car dealers to bid in an auction for privately owned cars for sale, raised £48 million ($67.7 million) in a Series B round led by Index Ventures, along with new investors BMW iVentures and Unbound. Existing investors Latitude and Marchmont Ventures also participated. The funding will be used to extend its platform and grow the current 160-strong team.

PayCargo, the Freight payment platform company, raised $125 million in a Series B round led by Insight Partners.

Solid Power, a solid-state battery developer backed by Ford and BMW, locked in a deal to merge with special purpose acquisition company Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corp III, at a post-deal implied market valuation of $1.2 billion. The transaction is expected to generate around $600 million in cash, including a $165 million private investment in public equity (PIPE) transaction from investors Koch Strategic Platforms, Riverstone Energy Limited, Neuberger Berman and Van Eck Associates Corporation.

Vertical Aerospace is yet another electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft startup to take the SPAC path to the public markets. The UK-based eVTOL developer, which is backed by American Airlines, Avolon, Honeywell, Rolls-Royce and Microsoft’s M12, has agreed to merge with special purposed acquisition company Broadstone Acquisition Corp., at an implied $2.2 billion valuation.

Woven Capital made an undisclosed investment in Ridecell, a platform powering digital transformations and IoT automation for fleet-driven businesses. Woven Capital is an $800 million global investment fund that supports innovative, growth-stage companies in mobility, automation, artificial intelligence, data and analytics, connectivity, and smart cities. It is the investment arm of the Woven Planet Group, a Toyota subsidiary which is dedicated to building the safest mobility in the world. Along with the investment, Ridecell and the Woven Planet Group will explore collaborative opportunities in mobility service operations.

Hints at Argo’s future

the station autonomous vehicles1

You might have noticed under “deal of the week” that Ford acquired a fleet management and charging monitor software company called Electriphi. When the deal was announced, I found myself wondering aloud if the software would be used by the company for its eventual commercial fleet of robotaxis? And that got me thinking about Argo AI, the startup developing the self-driving system for backers Ford and VW.

I was pointed to some comments made Ford CEO Jim Farley, which suggests that maybe Argo will play a larger role in commercial operations than expected. Farley was asked during the Deutsche Bank’s Global Auto Industry Conference what he thought about the convergence between what Argo will be offering and I guess Ford in terms of business model?

Farley’s response: “Well, that’s a good question. I think Argo has proven to be very adaptive business, not just the technology. My personal opinion is that I think they deserve the opportunity to be a one-stop shop company and that they will take on more of the go-to-market responsibilities for our AV effort.”

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Welcome to Policy Corner. It’s a (relatively) short one this week folks. As a reminder, if there’s any policy or regulatory news (or tips!) that you think merits inclusion in the Corner, send me an email at aria.techcrunch@gmail.com.

Autonomous vehicle developers Nuro and Cruise, along with three other entities, have formed a new coalition to support a California bill that would require AVs to be zero emission by 2030. TechCrunch’s Rebecca Bellan was the first to cover the bill back in March. Notably absent from this coalition are Argo AI, which has Ford and VW has backers and customers, as well several other legacy automakers. John Davis, chief engineer at Ford Autonomous Vehicles, told Bellan back in March that the computing demands of an AV platform means that it may make more sense to transition first to a hybrid model before going full EV.

For Cruise’s part, it makes sense that they’d want to ratchet up their support of the bill, especially after news broke that earlier this week they’d taken out a $5 billion line of credit to ramp up production of their electric Cruise Origin AV.


EV proponents are fired up about the possibility of taxing EVs as one way to fund the massive infrastructure investments that are currently being debated in Washington. The proposal is being mulled by legislators as they continue to negotiate the infrastructure package. Joe Britton, the Executive Director of the Zero Emission Transportation Association, called the tax proposal “the brainchild of those who want to unfairly punish EV drivers and hinder clean vehicle deployment.”

It seems that an EV tax could be the sacrificial lamb that some legislators are looking for, but it is important to note — as ZETA does — that battery electric vehicles are still only around 1% of the cars on the road.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable reads and other tidbits

the station electric vehicles1

Here are a few more final items to wrap up The Station.

Autonomous vehicles

Pony.ai, the robotaxi startup that operates in China and the United States, has started testing driverless vehicles on public roads in California ahead of plans to launch a commercial service there in 2022. The company said the driverless vehicle testing, which means the autonomous vehicles operate without human safety drivers behind the wheel, is happening daily on public roads in Fremont and Milpitas, California. Pony.ai is also testing its driverless vehicles in Guangzhou, China. Pony.ai said it also plans to resume a rideshare service to the public in Irvine this summer using AVs with a human safety driver. Its goal is to roll out the fully driverless service to the public in 2022.

EVs and hydrogen

Canoo, the electric vehicle startup that recently became a publicly traded company through a merger with a SPAC, made a number of announcements during its investor day event. First on the list was news that the company plans to build a factory in Oklahoma that will employ up to 2,000 workers. The factory will be located on a 400-acre site in the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, Oklahoma about 45 minutes from Tulsa. The facility, which the company describes as a “mega microfactory” will include a paint shop, body shop and general assembly plant and is expected to open in 2023.

Canoo also laid out its plans for automated driving, which I haven’t heard much about until now. The details were thin, but Canoo is planning to have its vehicles equipped with “Level 2” advanced driver assistance system, which means two primary functions — like adaptive cruise and lane keeping — are automated and still have a human driver in the loop at all times. From there, it seems the company is taking the Tesla approach and believes it can reach Level 4 autonomy through software improvements. To be clearm, Tesla is nowhere near Level 4 autonomy, which means the vehicle ccan handle all driving without the driver in the loop in certain geographic areas or conditiions. Here is the Canoo CTO’s comments about this.

We’ve got an ADAS system ready for launch at Level 2, with all of the basic features, but we’ve got an OTA system — over the air upgradability — so as we continue to refine and mature and validate additional features in ADAS, we’re going to be able to upgrade over time and with our ADAS compute platform, along with the sensor suite we believe will ultimately get us to around Level 4.

Finally, the company also detailed some of the features that may be on its app, including a one-stop shop functionality that customers could use for their Canoo vehicles — and all their other cars, as well. This unusual approach to its branded vehicle app could potentially pay off big-time for Canoo in terms of user data and revenue via sales on services like tire replacements and insurance.

Lordstown Motors is digging itself deeper into a hole it seems. The company’s CEO and CFO resigned following a less than stellar first quarter results in May, including news that production volumes would likely be half — from around 2,200 vehicles to just 1,000 — should the company not identify more funding. But wait. What is this?

The following day, hope was restored when interim CEO Angela Strand and President Rich Schmidt made a series of statements  at an Automotive Press Association event that drove up shares in the company, including that it has enough “binding orders” from customers to fund limited production of its electric pickup truck through May 2022. Ah but hold tight because the next day Lordstown issued a regulatory filing that reversed those claims.

It appears those “binding orders” were more like agreements to maybe lease or buy.

Jaguar Land Rover is developing a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle based on the new Defender SUV, and plans to begin testing the prototype next year. The prototype program, known as Project Zeus, is part of JLR’s larger aim to only produce zero-tailpipe emissions vehicles by 2036. JLR has also made a commitment to have zero carbon emissions across its supply chain, products and operations by 2039. The automaker has also tapped AVL, Delta Motorsport, Marelli Automotive Systems and the U.K. Battery Industrialization Center to help develop the prototype.

Nuro, the autonomous delivery startup, is expanding into parcel logistics through a partnership with FedEx. The multiyear, multiphased strategic partnership aims to test and ultimately deploy Nuro’s next-generation autonomous delivery vehicle within FedEx operations. This bot will follow Nuro’s more recent R2 bot. The deal with FedEx marks its first foray into parcels logistics. The pilot program has already started in Houston. This multiyear commitment will allow Nuro to bring its technology to more people in new ways, and eventually reach large-scale deployment, according to Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partnerships.

Polestar, Volvo Car Group’s standalone electric performance brand, will manufacture its first all-electric SUV in the United States. The automaker said the Polestar 3 will be assembled at a plant shared with Volvo Cars at a factory in Ridgeville, South Carolina. The Polestar 3 follows the all-electric Polestar 2 sedan and the hybrid grand tourer Polestar 1. Production of Polestar 3 is expected to begin globally in 2022.

In-car tech

Amazon Web Services entered into an agreement with Ferrari to become their official cloud provider, a deal that aims to help the luxury automaker’s Scuderia Ferrari Formula One racing team launch a digital fan engagement platform via its mobile app.

Android Auto has some new updates including personalizing the launcher screen directly from a user’s smartphone and manually setting dark mode. Browsing content is also supposed to be easier with new tabs in media apps, a “back to top” option and an A to Z button in the scroll bar.  New app experiences have also been added to help with EV charging, parking and navigation apps are now available to use in Android Auto. Users will also be able to read and send new messages directly from apps like WhatsApp or Messages — now available globally. These Android Auto features are available on phones running Android 6.0 or above, and when connected to your compatible car.

Other transportation stuff

Financial Times digs into the sticky issue of Chinese surveillance technology that is used in ‘smart cities’ all over the world.

GM upped the amount it says it will spend on electric and autonomous vehicle investments to $35 billion through 2025 — an $8 billion increase from its previous plan announced in November 2020.

Lux Research released a study showing that in 2020 electric vehicles sales, meaning battery and plug-ins, increased 37% compared to 2019. The sales growth was led by 140% growth in Europe as the BEV market took off in several countries. The report noted that while Tesla remains the most popular BEV maker, but its choice of cells from LG Energy Solution in China means Panasonic lost the market share crown it had held since 2013.

Redwood Materials, the battery recycling startup founded by former Tesla CTO JB Straubel, has purchased 100 acres of land near the Gigafactory that Panasonic operates with Tesla in Sparks, Nevada as part of an expansion plan that aligns with the Biden Administration’s drive to increase adoption of electric vehicles and boost domestic battery recycling and supply chain efforts. The company said its existing 150,000-square-foot facility in Carson City, Nevada will also nearly triple in size. Redwood is adding another 400,000 square feet onto the Carson City recycling facility, which is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

#amazon, #argo-ai, #automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #canoo, #cruise, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #gm, #lordstown-motors, #nuro, #tesla, #transportation, #vw, #waymo

Lincoln’s first EV will arrive in 2022 with three more to follow

Lincoln Motor will launch its first all-electric vehicle in 2022 followed by three other EVs as part of the luxury brand’s goal to electrify its entire portfolio by the end of the decade.

The first EV will come to market just in time for Lincoln’s 100th birthday celebration — and nearly four years since initial reports emerged that the brand was aiming to electrify its lineup. Like GM’s luxury brand Cadillac, Lincoln doesn’t have an all-electric vehicle in its lineup. But Lincoln is keen to catch up and has set a lofty target for half of its global sales to be zero-emissions vehicles by 2025. These new vehicles fall under Ford’s commitment to invest $30 billion into electric vehicles through 2025.

The announcement by  Lincoln follows a string of EV-related news from Ford and its competitors. On Wednesday, rival GM said it planned to invest $35 billion in EVs and autonomous vehicles — an $8 billion increase from its financial commitment made back in November 2020.

The Lincoln EV was originally going to be built on Rivian’s skateboard platform. However, those plans were scrapped in April 2020. The companies said at the time that they still plan to co-develop a vehicle in the future. A Lincoln spokesperson confirmed those co-development plans were still intact, but did not reveal any more information.

For now, Lincoln’s electric vehicles will be based on a new, dedicated EV architecture developed by Ford. The automaker announced in May during its Capital Markets Day for investors that it was developing two flexible platforms, one for smaller SUVs, sedans and another for larger pickups. This is a different architecture used in the current Ford’s Mustang Mach-E and upcoming Ford F-150 Lightning.

The new flexible platform, which allow for rear-wheel and all-wheels vehicles, is expected to underpin EV versions of the Lincoln Aviator and Ford Explorer.

According to Lincoln, the automaker’s first fully electric car will join the likes of plug-in hybrid SUVs Aviator and Corsair. Lincoln has not yet revealed what model the new EV will take, but it hinted the design might be similar to the Lincoln Zephyr Reflection concept sedan revealed at Auto Shanghai this year, made specifically for the Chinese market. Lincoln’s electric car will be available for sale in both the United States and China.

Lincoln also shared information on the interior of its new EV, attempting to make it a minimalistic and expansive space with a panoramic roof vista to create a more airy feel, one that befits a “sanctuary” as the automaker is referring to its vehicle. Perhaps most notable is the upcoming EVs will have a digital platform built off the Android operating system, which will allow the company to offer third-party apps and services and update the software remotely.

The vehicle will also be equipped with an advanced driver-assist features, including hands-free driving on certain highways.

#electric-vehicles, #ford, #gm, #lincoln, #rivian, #tc, #transportation

GM increases EV and AV investments to $35B through 2025

General Motors Co. has yet again upped the amount it says it will spend on electric and autonomous vehicle investments, saying Wednesday that it would spend $35 billion through 2025 – an $8 billion increase from its previous plan announced in November 2020.

The company has set a target to bring 30 new EVs to the global market 30 by 2025 and to transition to all-zero-emission by 2035. With the new investment, GM said it will add new electric commercial trucks to its North American plan, as well as build additional U.S. assembly capacity for electric SUVs.

Beyond building out a large portfolio of new electric models, the automaker has taken a multi-pronged approach in its quest to lead the EV revolution: it is also investing in two new battery cell plants under its joint venture with LG Chem, dubbed Ultium Cells LLC; and it’s poured funding into Cruise, its autonomous driving arm that it purchased for majority-ownership in 2016.

The news was announced one day after Cruise said it had tapped a $5 billion line of credit from the OEM’s financial arm as it prepares for commercialization of its Origin electric and autonomous vehicle. Commercial production of the Origin is anticipated to begin in 2023.

GM also manufactures hydrogen fuel cells under its HYDROTEC joint initiative with Honda. It confirmed Wednesday that it will launch the third-generation HYDROTEC cells by mid-decade. The automaker has partnership agreements with heavy truck developer Navistar and Liebherr-Aerospace, which is developing hydrogen fuel cell power systems for aircraft.

The company also said yesterday it would supply fuel cells and EV batteries to Wabtec Corportation, a Pittsburgh-based company developing the world’s first battery locomotive.

“GM is targeting annual global EV sales of more than 1 million by 2025, and we are increasing our investment to scale faster because we see momentum building in the United States for electrification, along with customer demand for our product portfolio,” CEO Mary Barra said in a statement Wednesday.

Ford announced a similar increase in EV investment last month, when it said it would invest $30 billion by 2025, up from $22 billion by 2023.

#automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #cruise, #electric-vehicles, #general-motors, #gm, #transportation, #ultium, #ultium-cells-llc

Cruise secures $5B credit line to buy electric, autonomous Cruise Origin vehicles from GM

Cruise, the self-driving subsidiary of GM, has tapped a $5 billion line of credit from the automaker’s financial arm to pay for hundreds of purpose-built electric and autonomous Origin vehicles as they start to roll off the assembly line.

The access to the credit provided by GM Financial will push Cruise’s “total war chest” to more than $10 billion as it prepares for commercialization, CEO Dan Ammann wrote in a blog post Tuesday.

Pre-production of the Cruise Origin, which was first unveiled in January 2020, has started at GM’s Factory ZERO assembly plant. Factory ZERO is the renamed and renovated Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. Last year, GM announced plans to invest $2.2 billion into the factory to produce all-electric trucks and SUVs as well as Cruise Origin. The automaker said at the time it will invest an additional $800 million in supplier tooling and other projects related to the launch of the new electric trucks. Detroit-Hamtramck will be GM’s first fully dedicated electric vehicle assembly plant. When fully operational, the plant will create more than 2,200 jobs, according to GM.

The Origin, the product of a multi-year collaboration with parent company GM and investor Honda, is designed for a ridesharing service. The shuttle-like vehicle has no steering wheel or pedals and is designed to travel at highway speeds. The interior is roomy, with seats that face each other, similar to what a traveler might find on some trains.

The first run of 100 pre-production Cruise Origins will be assembled over the summer and tested at GM’s Milford proving grounds. Commercial production of the Cruise Origin is expected to begin in 2023.

#automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #cruise, #electric-vehicles, #gm, #transportation

The Station: Robotaxi apps on the rise, an AI pioneer’s new startup and mobility event highlights

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.

Welp, the mobility event is over and we had loads of interesting interviews and anyone with an Extra Crunch subscription can access the videos. For instance, Rita Liao moderated a panel with executives from three Chinese robotaxi companies — WeRide, AutoX and Momenta — that also test and develop in Europe and the United States.

One interesting takeaway on the regulations front, is that policymaking for AVs in China is driven from the bottom up rather than a top-down effort by the central government, the three panelists explained.  They also spoke about how foreign counterparts can crack open China’s market.

Jewel Li from AutoX laid out the challenges of operating in China.

I think it’s not as simple as opening up an office, right? It’s much more than that, to be able to succeed in the market. You need to build the landscape, you need to build the ecosystem, your own partners. The whole ecosystem chain is quite long. It’s quite complicated, involving government relations. It also involves the data that you have already accumulated. The driving experience has to fit in the local world. Many things comes into play.

Other highlights included my interview with Mate Rimac of Rimac Automobili, who disclosed about how close the company came to failing, provided advice to fellow and aspiring founders and explained his interest in electric robotaxis. Then there was the discussion about the AV industry between Motional’s Karl Iagnemma and Aurora’s Chris Urmson — not an interview to miss. More recaps of the event will be published in the coming week.

Some other coverage from the event:

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’

This week, as Kirsten Korosec mentioned above, we had our big Mobility event, where the leaders, upstarts and startups of the mobility world joined us on our virtual stage to talk about the future of moving people, goods and even ideas. I led a panel with Remix co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu, community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler and Revel co-founder and CEO Frank Reig. We discussed the importance of mobility companies being equitable and accessible to everyone in a city, especially the most vulnerable, and how that affects profitability.

Something interesting that came out of my questioning was Reig’s comments about Revel achieving profitability.  (The revelations about profitability were first shared in May, although Reig did provide a bit more color during the event). For three months in the summer of 2020, Revel was full-company profitable, “so beyond just market profitability, beyond just unit economics,” said Reig. “I’m talking my salary and everything else that’s involved in running a company.”

This was back when Revel was only an e-moped company and before it added several other business lines, including EV charging hubs, ebikes and ride-hailing. We don’t know exactly how Revel is measuring profitably — are we talking EBITDA? gross profit? — and on the panel we didn’t have time to dig into the money salad. But it is notable as the company settles into its newest business line of ride-hailable Tesla vehicles. We’ll be watching Revel closely as it continues to ramp up its different revenue streams. Maybe, someday they’ll go public so we can have a closer look.

Let’s get back to the important issue of whether or not mobility companies, like Revel, can help cities achieve equitability of movement. Movement should be a right, not a privilege, but it often feels like we’re playing the same game with different vehicles today. Mobility has always benefited those at the top more, so why should it be any different today? Does the moral highway really drive us toward justice? What good reason do companies have to spend their time and money actually making sure their services help cities achieve equity of movement?

“I think if you’re doing the work that theoretically is to serve people then you should want to serve all people,” said Butler. “For companies, I would say that people like to say it takes too much time or costs too much money to do things equitably, but whether or not you’re retrofitting a house or retrofitting your company, whenever you retrofit something it costs more money. So if you think about equity as something you build in from the beginning, it will actually save you money and take less time than if you try to do it later because someone tells you to do it or you’ve had some controversy.”

You can watch the full talk on ExtraCrunch here.

Some micro morsels…

Leo Riders, an e-scooter platform for those in the hospitality industry, is expanding into Athens, Greece, with more than 20 agreements with local hotels. Hotels like Brown Hotel and Colors Urban Hotel will now be able to offer guests e-scooters to ride around the city. Sounds sick. What could go wrong?!

E-scooter subscription and sales company Unagi is expanding its “All-Access” service” to Chicago, D.C., and some other regions around those two great American cities.

Lime is extending its ‘Ride to Recovery’ initiative — which provides free e-scooter and bike rides to vaccine appointments — to the fourth of July. Riders can access a promo code for two free 15-minute rides here, as well as information on vaccines and where to get one.

Future Motion’s Onewheel, the unique and fun-looking vehicle that’s like a skateboard with a giant wheel in the middle of the board, has reached 52.5 million miles. They wanted me to tell you that’s 220 trips to the moon and back, 2,100 times around the earth and nearly 18,000 trips between Santa Cruz, California and NYC.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

Didi, Chinese ride-hailing company, has already raised tens of billions of dollars from the private market. Now it’s ready to tap the public one.

The company filed for an IPO and digging a bit into the filing here’s what we find. As TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm notes, the S-1 shows how quickly and painfully COVID-19 blunted Didi’s global operations. As COVID-19 numbers have fallen and economies have opened back up. Didi has settled back to late-2019 gross transaction volume numbers.

Didi manage a GTV recovery in China. However, its aggregate numbers are flatter, and recent quarterly trends are not incredibly attractive. And taking a historical look at its financial figures, it’s clear that Didi has never generated positive operating income. The company’s revenues in Q1 2021 were smaller than its Q3 and Q4 2020 numbers, for example.

A few other items of note, the company reported a $1.7 billion loss on $21.6 billion in revenue for 2020. And some of its largest stakeholders are Softbank with 21.5%, Uber with 12/5% and Tencent with 6.8%.

Other deals that got my attention …

Branch Insurance, a startup offering bundled home and auto insurance, raised $50 million in a Series B funding round led by Anthemis Group. Acrew, Cherry Creek Holdings and existing backers Greycroft, HSCM Bermuda, American Family Ventures, SignalFire, SCOR P&C Ventures, Foundation Capital and Tower IV also participated in the round. The startup has raised $82.5 million in total funding since its inception in 2017.

A couple of Chinese grocery delivery companies filed for IPOs this week. First up is Dingdong, which previously raised more than $400 million from investors including General Atlantic, Sequoia Capital China, Starquest China, Qiming Venture Partners, Bertelsmann Asia Investments and General Atlantic. The regulatory filing shows that Digndong had a net loss of $485 million on $1.73 billion in revenue last year. Then there’s Missfresh, which has raised more than $2 billion from investors including a fund under state-backed China International Capital Corporation,  ICBC International Securities, Tencent, Abu Dhabi Capital Group, Tiger Global and a fund managed by the government of Changshu county. Missfresh reported a $252 million net loss on $956 million in revenue in 2020, according to the filing.

Circulor, a supply chain traceability and CO2 tracking company, raised $14 million in Series A funding round. The Westly Group led the round with participation by Salesforce Ventures, BHP Ventures, Future Positive Capital, 24Haymarket and Sky Ocean Ventures, alongside existing investors in the company. Circulor’s product is used by Volvo Cars to  trace the cobalt used in its all-electric XC40 Recharge and by Polestar to assess the environmental and human rights risks of sourcing cobalt, lithium, nickel, lithium and mica for its electric cars.

Embraer’s electric vehicle takeoff and landing unit Eve Urban Air Mobility is in talks to merge with special purpose acquisition company Zanite Acquisition Corp. The deal would value the combined entity at about $2 billion, Bloomberg reported.

Hesai, a Shanghai-based lidar maker founded in 2014, raised more than $300 million in a Series D funding round led by GL Ventures, the venture capital arm of private equity firm Hillhouse Capital, smartphone maker Xiaomi, on-demand services giant Meituan and CPE, the private equity platform of Citic. Huatai International Private Equity Fund, the USD investment arm of Huatai Securities, Lightspeed China Partners and Lightspeed Venture Capital as well as Qiming Venture Partners also participated.

Incari, Berlin-based HMI startup, closed a €15 million ($18.1 million) Series A financing round led by Lukasz Gadowski, the founder of Delivery Hero and Team Europe.

Kitty Hawk, the eVTOL company backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, acquired 3D Robotics. Under the deal, 3D Robotics co-founder Chris Anderson will become chief operating officer at Kitty Hawk, Forbes reported. The article also revealed that Kitty Hawk engineer Damon Vander Lind, who built the initial versions of Heaviside, was dismissed, CEO Sebastian Thrun confirmed to Forbes.

Nvidia is acquiring DeepMap, the high-definition mapping startup announced. The company said its mapping IP will help Nvidia’s autonomous vehicle technology sector, Nvidia Drive. Nvidia is expected to finalize the acquisition in Q3 2021.

Trucks Venture Capital, the venture firm that backs early-stage entrepreneurs in transportation, is launching two new funds. Its new core fund, known as Trucks Venture Fund 2, was raised over the last year and recently closed on $52,525,252. The fund is backed by three auto OEMs and three auto suppliers that make everything from bicycles to Class 8 big rig trucks, as well as one communications company, according to Trucks VC. The VC’s new follow-on fund, Trucks Growth Fund, will provide later-stage capital to some of the most promising companies already in Trucks’ portfolio.

Waabi, a new autonomous vehicle startup founded by AI pioneer and chief scientist at Uber ATG Raquel Urtasun, raised $83.5 million in a Series A round led by Khosla Ventures, with additional participation from Uber, 8VC, Radical Ventures, OMERS Ventures, BDC and Aurora Innovation, as well as leading AI researchers Geoffrey Hinton, Fei-Fei Li, Pieter Abbeel, Sanja Fidler and others. Urtasun said she is taking what she describes as an “AI-first approach” to speed up the commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles, starting with long-haul trucks.

WhereIsMyTransport announced it is set to raise $14.5 million in Series A extension round led by Naspers Foundry, Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund, and SBI Investment. Other participants confirmed in the extension are Capria Ventures and Wuri Ventures, Mission Gate, B&Y, and KDDI Open Innovation Fund managed by Global Brain.

Robotaxi apps on the rise

the station autonomous vehicles1

Last week, I shared the Waymo One app information courtesy of Sensor Tower, the mobile app market intelligence firm. There are not many other AV developers that have launched ride-hailing apps, although that might be changing.

Argo AI and Zoox have job listings for Android software engineers. Zoox is also looking for an iOS engineer as well.

Sensor Tower did note to TechCrunch that Pony.ai has launched a few apps. PonyPilot+ has hit about 6,000 installs on China’s App Store. PonyPilot has seen about 2,000 in the U.S., most of which happened in the first three months of 2020, according to Sensor Tower. The company also has two apps available in Russia called PonyExpress+, which has seen about 1,500 installs, and PonyFleetGO. There are no download estimates for PonyFleetGo.

AutoX also has an app available, AutoX Food Delivery, which has reached about 200 installs in the United States.

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

President Joe Biden has set his sights on hardening the country’s supply chains for essential goods and critical minerals. The White House said on June 8 it had created a task force aimed at addressing supply chain bottlenecks, including in semiconductors and critical minerals used in EV batteries.

Biden wants to get many more Americans driving electric vehicles, but the majority of key critical minerals in batteries, like lithium and graphite, are mined and processed abroad. As part of a Fact Sheet also released on June 8, Biden’s administration said it would create a task force to identify opportunities to produce minerals domestically — something that until now has kicked up a lot of controversy amongst environmental groups.

The U.S. Department of Energy released a blueprint for lithium batteries through 2030 that calls for eliminating two key minerals from batteries — cobalt and nickel — as a way of fortifying the supply chain. The DOE says it will support R&D efforts to develop batteries without these minerals, which are largely found in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo or Indonesia, and are processed mainly in China. Scientific innovation is certainly one way to reduce America’s dependence on foreign adversaries for its batteries.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed a sweeping $547 billion infrastructure package after a whopping 19 hours of debate (pour one out for the Congressional interns). The final vote was 38-26. As a reminder, the INVEST in America Act would largely fund improvements to roads, bridges and passenger rail, but earmarks $4 billion in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and around $4 billion to invest in zero-emission transit vehicles.

Just two Republicans on the committee voted in favor of the bill. The INVEST in America Act is still very, very far from becoming law: it now advances to the full House for further debate, then would be sent to the Senate for further rehashing, etcetera etcetera… but nevertheless it’s an encouraging sign, especially as legislators managed to work out over 200 proposed amendments to the legislation.

GM is changing its tune on proposed tailpipe emission rules in California. The country’s largest automaker had previously opposed California’s tough emissions limits for passenger vehicles, which it reached in concert with five other automakers: Ford, Honda Motor Company, Volkswagen AG, Volvo and BMW. The New York Times reported that GM CEO Mary Barra said in a Wednesday letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan that “GM supports the emissions reduction goals of California through model year ’26,” and that, “the auto industry is embarking upon a profound transition as we do our part to achieve the country’s climate commitments.”

However, she said that GM “believes that the same environmental benefits can and should be achieved through a high-volume electric vehicle pathway.” That is to say, she said the best way to reduce emissions is to boost EV sales through government incentives, rebates and other programs.

The EPA will be publishing its proposed tailpipe emissions reductions and fuel economy standards in July. Regan has been meeting with major OEMs, including GM, in advance of that release.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Extra Crunch: Air taxi market analysis

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

TechCrunch’s Aria Alamalhodaei dug into the aspirations of the burgeoning electric vertical take-off and landing industry. The upshot: the industry is bullish on its future, a view perhaps augmented by the string of partnership deals, SPACs, private funding and newly achieved unicorn statuses.

However, as in any disruptive industry, the forecast may be cloudier than the rosy picture painted by passionate founders and investors. A quick peek at comments and posts on LinkedIn reveals squabbles among industry insiders and analysts about when this emerging technology will truly take off and which companies will come out ahead. Other disagreements have higher stakes. Wisk Aero filed a lawsuit against Archer Aviation alleging trade secret misappropriation. Meanwhile, valuations for companies that have no revenue yet to speak of — and may not for the foreseeable future — are skyrocketing.

Electric air mobility is gaining elevation. But there’s going to be some turbulence ahead. This is an Extra Crunch article, which means it requires a subscription. Happy reading.

#argo-ai, #automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #gm, #joby-aviation, #revel, #transportation, #zoox

The Station: Aurora gets closer to a SPAC deal, Spin’s new strategy and Waymo One app numbers

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.

We are days 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. I’ll keep it short and sweet.

If you want to check things out but are short on cash, register and type in “station” for a free pass to the expo and breakout sessions. If you want access to the main stage — where folks like Mate Rimac, Chris Urmson and GM’s Pam Fletcher will be interviewed — then type in “Station50” to buy a full access pass for a 50% discount. Tickets can be accessed here.

Buying a ticket will also give you a months-free subscription to Extra Crunch and access to all the videos of the conference. We have a star-studded group of folks coming from Aurora, AutoX, Gatik, GM, Hyundai, Joby Aviation, Motional, Nuro, Rimac Automobili, Scale AI, Starship Technologies, Toyota Research Institute, WeRide, and Zoox. (to name a handful).

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’

The big micromobility news of the week revolves around Spin, and it’s not about whether or not Ford is spinning out the company; they kept a pretty tight lip on that, but clearly big changes are happening. Co-founder Derrick Ko is stepping down as CEO and moving into an advisory role, along with his other two co-founders Zaizhuang Cheng and Euwyn Poon. In Ko’s place is Ben Bear, who previously served as CBO of Spin.

Along with this news came a flurry of other announcements, but it makes sense to start with Spin’s latest public strategy for winning the e-scooter business. Spin is actively seeking out limited vendor permits with cities. In other words, the company doesn’t want to see its cities messing around with other operators. Spin is seeking exclusive partnerships and is prepared to better itself to get them. It’s positioning itself as the most desirable for cities as it shares even more news…

If Spin wants to have a kind of deal that Lyft-owned CitiBike has with NYC, then it needs to bring more to the table. It’s starting with e-bikes. 5,000 of them, to be specific, in the coming months, starting with Providence, RI in June and spreading outward into a few other mid-tier cities over the summer.

Spin is also flexing its tech that will help make its scooters safe and reliable — just what a city wants in a long-term commitment. This week, it brought its Drover AI-equipped scooters to Milwaukee (with plans to launch in Miami, Seattle and Santa Monica, as well) that are equipped to detect sidewalk and bike lane riding and validate parking. Seattle, Santa Monica and Boise, Idaho will soon be graced by Spin’s new S-200, a three-wheeled adaptive scooter built with Tortoise’s repositioning software that allows a remote operator to move scooters out of gutters or into more dense urban areas.

Tier gets some more money

Berlin-based Tier Mobility, which recently won a London permit, has raised $60 million so it can expand its fleet of vehicles and battery charging networks. Technically, it’s a loan. The asset-backed financing comes from Goldman Sachs.

Let’s talk about bikes

Lyft has got a new e-bike piloting this month, starting in San Francisco, then Chicago and New York. It’ll be dropping the sleek, white bikes with soft purple LEDs at random around the city for people to test out. TechCrunch’s Brian Heater gave it a spin, and his general consensus was, Yeah, it’s a good bike. Can’t complain.

While Lyft may have anti-theft protection on its e-bikes, the rest of us are not so lucky. According to market research company NPD Group, we saw a 63% YOY growth for bike sales in June. Bike Index, a national bike registry group, tells us that the number of bikes stolen has seen similar increases. The number of bikes reported stolen to the service was a little over 10,000 between April and September, compared to nearly 6,000 during the same period in the previous year. That’s an uptick of nearly 68%. So, when are apartment complexes going to be forced to build bike storage rather than car parks?

Best cities for biking

If you are going to risk theft and bike around, you’ll want to do it in one of the cities PeopleForBikes just announced are the best for biking.

“Topping this year’s ratings in the United States are Brooklyn, NY; Berkeley, CA and Provincetown, MA (each ranking first in the large, medium and small U.S. city categories, respectively). Top international performers include Canberra and Alice Springs in Australia; Utrecht and Groningen in the Netherlands and Gatineau, Longueuil and Montreal in Canada, all located in the province of Quebec.”

Biking is not all about fun and commuting. For some of us, it’s work. URB-E, the compact container delivery network that wants to replace trucks with small electric bikes, has announced PackItFresh as its final-mile refrigeration provider. PackItFresh’s totes can keep food at safe temperatures for up to 24 hours, yet another reason supermarkets need to be nixing the delivery trucks in favor of these more sustainable alternatives.

 — Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week