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Welcome to May, which we have informally dubbed "Mobility Month" here at TechCrunch. We'll kick off Mobility Month with a TechCrunch Live event focused on building a better mobility fintech startup featuring Rachel Holt of Construct Capital and Caribou CEO Kevin Bennett. TC Live, which is free, will be livestreamed beginning at 11:30 a.m. PT May 4.
The session starts with networking and pitch practice submissions and then moves on to an interview with Holt and Bennett at noon, followed by the TCL Pitch Practice at 12:30 pm PT. Register here for free.
TechCrunch Live records weekly on Wednesday at 11:30 am PT / 2:30 pm ET. Click here to register for free and gain access to Caribou’s pitch deck, enter the pitch practice session and access the livestream where you can ask the speakers questions.
Reminder that the agenda is out for TC Sessions: Mobility 2022. I think we put together a pretty sweet program. A few new announcements you might have missed includes an interview we'll have with Sterling Anderson, co-founder and CPO of Aurora, and Rebecca Yeung, corporate VP of operations science and advanced technology at FedEx.
We'll be announcing a couple more guests in the next few days.
For some bizarre reason, it's illegal for people to use privately owned e-scooters on public roads in England. Instead, e-scooters can only be legally ridden as part of government-backed rental pilots.
However, England is finally getting around to legalizing private e-scooters for use on roads. Nothing is for certain yet, but Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said that legislation will be included in the Queen’s Speech on May 10. If legalized, private scooters will have to meet similar safety specifications as those in the public trials, namely max speeds of 15.5 miles per hour and automatic lights.
If legalized, this will also open up a huge market to the e-scooter makers of the world, and might even spark more homegrown business. Taur, for example, is a British company that has just launched operations in Los Angeles, in large part because the U.K. was dragging its heels on this piece of legislation.
It’ll also undoubtedly help English cities meet their climate goals. In the U.S., Portland has learned that emissions due to transportation are one of the main reasons the city can’t reach its emissions targets. Unfortunately, the city is considering making the problem worse by widening highways… :eyeroll-emoji:
Perhaps not all hope is lost for American cities, though. They just need to get the policy to align with demand. A new study has found that e-bike sales are outpacing electric car sales in the U.S., which makes sense, given market availability of the two types of vehicles. But it’s also an encouraging finding! Many people, like parents, are also finding e-cargo bikes to be a nice replacement to the minivan as a vehicle to cart kids around.
Meanwhile in the land of shared micromobility
Bolt said it will invest about $158 million (€150 million) in 2022 to scale its scooter and e-bike operations to more than 230,000 scooters and e-bikes across 250+ cities. Earlier this year, the company raised a whopping $709 million, which is no doubt going to help fuel this expansion.
Populus is partnering with cities and operators like Bolt, Tier and Voi in a European Union-funded, data-sharing initiative that will measure carbon reductions of micromobility.
Voi is launching hundreds of e-scooters in Oslo that will be equipped with Drover AI’s computer vision, camera-based scooter ADAS tech, which will help with the ever-annoying problem of scooters on sidewalks.
In other news…
Cooper Bikes, which is owned by the makers of the Mini Cooper car, dropped four new e-bike models.
Indian e-scooter manufacturer Dispatch says it will launch a purpose-built e-scooter (not a kick scooter, one of the moped-looking ones) in Q1 2023 that will be purpose-built to enable shared and commercial applications.
Ola Electric has to recall more than 1,400 mopeds after one of them caught fire.
See ya next week!
— Rebecca Bellan
Deal of the week
Elon Musk's pursuit to buy Twitter continues to have an impact on Tesla, which is why I'm back here writing about a social media platform.
The latest example was revealed in a series of regulatory filings that showed he sold 9.6 million shares of Tesla, worth about $8.5 billion. Tesla shares fell more than 11% last week.
Musk, who still holds about 16% of the automaker, said in a tweet on Thursday: "No further TSLA sales planned after today." It's unclear where the remaining funds needed in the $44 billion deal will come from. Much of Musk's fortune is tied up in Tesla stock.
A friendly reminder that if Musk backs out of the deal, he’s on the hook for $1 billion, per the termination fee of the deal with Twitter, so at least that amount would be covered by these sales.
Other deals that caught my attention this week ...
BattGenie, a University of Washington startup that developed software to improve performance of batteries, raised $1.5 million in a seed funding round co-led by Powerhouse Ventures and VoLo Earth Ventures. The company also received a $300,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce.
Blink Charging has acquired U.K.-based EV charging provider EB Charging for $23.5 million, a move that might help the company expand its reach enough to keep up with some of the larger players.
Crow Bicycles, a Spanish e-bike startup, has raised $325,000 that it will use to release a premium line of e-bikes this year, the company said.
Dat Bike is a new Vietnamese e-motorbike startup that just raised $5.3 million in a Series A to continue designing and producing components domestically to reduce costs and improve performance.
Divergent Technologies, a Los Angeles-based manufacturing startup, raised $160 million in a Series C funding round. John L. Thornton, former president of Goldman Sachs, executive chairman of Barrick Gold and board member of Ford, has joined Divergent's board.
FreeWire Technologies, the EV charging company, raised $125 million. The financing included a senior convertible note provided by funds and accounts managed by BlackRock Financial Management and a concurrent equity raise with institutional and strategic investors such as bp ventures, Riverstone Holdings, Octave Ventures, Gly Capital Management, Blue Bear Capital and Daishin Private Equity.
Neuron, a Singapore-based company that has carved itself into the Australia/New Zealand market, as well as pieces of the U.K. and Canada, has just raised a $43.5 million Series B that it will use to continue pursuing limited vendor permits with cities in those markets.
South 8 Technologies, a startup focused on electrolyte formulations for next-generation lithium batteries, raised $12 million in a Series A round led by Anzu Partners with participation from LG Technology Ventures, Shell Ventures, Foothill Ventures and Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corporation.
SWTCH Energy Inc. raised $13 million in new financing to expand its EV charging products to multi-family buildings across North America. The new capital includes a $10 million Series A round led by the venture capital arm of Aligned Climate Capital and a $3 million credit facility from Silicon Valley Bank. Additional Series A investors include Landmark Management Inc., Elemental Energy, IBI Group, Active Impact Investments and Pacific Reach.
Swvl, an Egyptian startup that provides shared transportation services for intercity and intracity trips, has expanded into Turkey through an acquisition of Volt Lines, a B2B transportation-as-a-service operator. The primarily stock deal was valued at around $40 million. Swvl, which earlier went public via a SPAC merger, confirmed to TechCrunch a deal to buy U.K. startup Zeelo that is estimated to be a $100 million acquisition.
Notable news and other tidbits
Baidu, the Chinese internet giant, and autonomous vehicle company Pony.ai have received permits to provide driverless ride-hailing services to the public on open roads in Beijing. Pony.ai also was awarded a permit in Guangzhou to operate 100 robotaxis as traditional taxis.
Ford CEO Jim Farley hinted during the company's first-quarter earnings call that it's interested in expanding its partnership with autonomous vehicle technology company Argo AI to focus on middle mile deliveries.
General Motors expects expenses for its autonomous driving subsidiary Cruise to be about $2 billion this year.
Local Motors no longer exists with the exception of one last asset: its domain name. That is being auctioned now and as of press time the highest bid was about $8,500.
The Indy Autonomous Challenge racecar, which was programmed by team PoliMOVE from Politecnico di Milano and the University of Alabama, set a new land speed world record of 192.2 miles per hour at the historic Kennedy Space Center.
Michigan State University introduced the Karsan Autonomous e-ATAK bus, an electric autonomous vehicle that will run on campus. The project is through a collaboration with the Michigan Office of Mobility and Electrification, bus manufacturer Karsan and San Francisco-based AV company ADASTEC.
Mobileye has begun testing its self-driving vehicles in Miami and Stuttgart. It's unclear just how many vehicles are in either test fleet.
WeRide is launching its Robosweeper, a mass-produced self-driving sweeper vehicle, in China. The company is gearing up for a large-scale road test in May with a fleet of more than 50 vehicles to be conducted in Guangzhou.
Ford reported a multibillion-dollar loss in the first quarter due to an eye-popping write-off on the value of its stake in Rivian, an EV company that has seen its stock drop by nearly 70% since its IPO. Ford also revealed its supply chain strategy and expressed a positive outlook for 2022 backed by its efforts the past few years to secure battery and EV manufacturing in-house and serious demand in its EV lineup.
In a separate yet related note, Amazon also reported a massive loss due to its Rivian holding.
General Motors’ first-quarter earnings report and accompanying analyst call Tuesday highlighted the company’s grand ambitions for electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles — and the money it is willing to put behind them. Three items stuck out to me and reporter Jaclyn Trop: its $2 billion spending plan for Cruise, a proposal to tie the compensation packages of highest-ranking executives to EV quality and sales targets and its low-cost EV plans.
Electric vehicles, batteries and charging
Ford held a splashy event celebrating the launch of production of its new F-150 Lightning EV. During that event, CEO Jim Farley said Ford will build a second EV truck.
The government of Saudi Arabia, which is connected to the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund that owns 61% of Lucid Group, agreed to buy 100,000 of the automaker's electric vehicles over the next decade.
Vehicle-to-grid and vehicle-to-home charging — also called bidirectional charging — have long been the stuff of demonstration programs. TechCrunch contributor Jim Motavalli explores whether bidirectional EV charging is ready for the home market?
West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin criticized a potential expansion of the federal EV tax credit, calling it "ludicrous." Instead, he argued that the money should be used for the development of hydrogen.
Sorry y'all, this guy was in the news so much that he is getting his own section this issue.
Elon Musk announced The Boring Company would attempt to build a working hyperloop, and less than a week since the company raised $675 million at a $5.7 billion valuation. A day after the hyperloop announcement, Musk tweeted that the company plans to begin “full-scale” testing of hyperloop this year.
A judge rejected Musk's attempt to terminate a 2018 settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that requires oversight of some of his Tesla-related tweets.
Meanwhile, a Delaware judge sided with Musk in a $13 billion lawsuit brought by Tesla shareholders, which accused the executive of coercing the electric vehicle company’s board into buying SolarCity back in 2016. While the court found that Musk “was more involved in the process than a conflicted fiduciary should be,” it ultimately ruled in favor of the “technoking” on all counts. Shareholders still have the option to file an appeal.
Nissan has tapped Luminar to help it develop a new ADAS system that it hopes will drastically reduce accidents. The automaker expects its new tech will be available on every new model by 2030.
Hertz hired Ned Ryan as chief product development officer. Ryan, who most recently was at Ford, is a serial entrepreneur. He launched in 2013 a flexible rideshare financing company called Breeze that was purchased by Ford in 2016. He also founded Canvas, a vehicle subscription service that was acquired by Fair.com at the end of 2019.
Passport, a transportation software and payments company, hired D. Burt Arrington as general counsel and corporate secretary. Arrington previously worked at the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP.
Morgan Motor Company hired Lamborghini executive Massimo Fumarola as CEO, replacing Steve Morris. The U.K.-based company said that Morris will become executive chairman.
Nuvocargo, a logistics startup focused simplifying U.S.-Mexico cross-border trade, hired Jay Gerard as head of customs. Gerard has more than 20 years of logistics and operational management experience and was most recently Global Customs Director, North America, at Flexport.
Waze hired Harris Beber as its chief marketing officer to lead all global partnerships and marketing. Harris most recently worked at Vimeo, where he scaled the company's of 260M+ video professionals, businesses, and brands and helped take the company public in 2021. He previously served as CMO at The Nature's Bounty Company, and held various senior marketing positions at Amazon, Shutterfly and 1-800-Flowers.com. In 2010, he sold his retail e-commerce business, Giftback.
Volkswagen Group has been asked by Sen. Mark Rubio for more information regarding planned joint ventures with two Chinese companies to supply nickel, cobalt, lithium and other materials used to make batteries for electric vehicles. The companies have been accused of having a record of alleged human rights violations such as forced labor and human trafficking, Bloomberg reported.