Restructuring ripples and the next investor darling of the EV era – TechCrunch

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Welcome back 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 dubbing July, the month of EV trucks. Well, at least for me it is.

I spent a week driving the Ford F-150 Lightning (XLT, dual motor trim) and just took possession of the Rivian R1T, Adventure Launch Edition trim in compass yellow. (Both vehicles were provided by the automakers for one week and I am paying for the charging costs).

I have to say that after seven days with the Lightning and two days with the Rivian, I’m really bummed these automakers didn’t make a vehicle together (lest you forget).

Both EV trucks earn high marks in my book. Yet each automaker clearly shines in certain areas.

Rivian absolutely crushes it with fun, unexpected details and its UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) is some of the best I’ve experienced. Ford simply knows how to make solid, sound and well-performing trucks at volume. The Lightning’s performance, plus a few thoughtful touches, illustrates that Ford also knows its customer base.

More to come on these two trucks.

In the meantime, let’s dig in. You’ll notice lots of executive shuffling and hiring, restructuring and layoff news in this week’s edition. This is not over. Expect those restructuring ripples to continue in the weeks to come.

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 @kirstenkorosec

Micromobbin’

the station scooter1a

Before we dive in, I just wanted to spotlight a piece of TechCruncher Annie Saunders on why micromobility might only ever just be a fun way to get around, rather than something that can truly augment public transit. Check it out.

In other micromobbin’ news…

Äike, an Estonian scooter manufacturer founded by some Comodule alums, has built a tank-like electric kick scooter called the Äike T. The scooter has a USB-C charging port, can handle heavy loads, and apparently rides like a dream. It’s also somehow only $1,025.

Autolivea Swedish automotive safety supplier, is working on bike and e-bike helmets equipped with airbag technology.

Bloomberg did a roundup of some top e-scooters that are actually capable of helping lower emissions from vehicles.

Ducati dropped two new folding e-bikes.

Hackers in China are hacking into software of electric two-wheelers to bypass controls for speed limit caps, allowing them to hit speeds of 31 miles per hour or more. The current legal speed cap is around 16 miles per hour.

Honda has teamed up with Japanese lifestyle and home brand Muji to cooperate on a minimalist e-bike design for the Chinese market.

HumanForest has launched London’s first shared e-moped scheme with 200 vehicles across the city, to be rented by business delivery riders.

Lime has built its own camera-based computer vision system that will detect and correct sidewalk riding. Look out, Drover AI and Luna.

Trek Bicycle conducted a survey that found 80% of respondents would consider replacing car trips with bike trips to save money on gas.

Zoom has partnered with SG Fleet to bring e-bikes to postal delivery.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

This is not the largest funding round we’ve highlighted here at The Station, but it sometimes our “deal of the week” is about more than just size.

I’m talking about May Mobility — one of the last independent-yet-to-be-acquired autonomous vehicle companies.

The Michigan-based autonomous ride-hail and shuttle startup raised $111 million in a Series C round that it says will help it get to driver-out operations in 2023.

May originally announced an initial closing of an $83 million Series C in January, which was led by Mirai Creation Fund II and included Tokio Marine, Toyota Tsusho, Bridgestone Americas, as well as returning investors like Toyota Ventures and LG Technology Ventures. New investors to the round include SoftBank, State Farm Ventures, Next Century Ventures, SAIC, Wanxiang, Karma and 10x Group. Together, they bring May’s total funding to $194 million.

Other deals that got my attention…

Aurora Labs raised $63 million through a Series C financing round led by Moore Strategic Ventures. Existing investor Porsche Automobil Holding SE and Colmobil Corp. also participated. This round brings the total investment in Aurora Labs to about $100 million.

Divergent Technologies A $60 million venture closed loan facility led by Horizon Technology Finance Corporation and a new $20 million revolving line of credit provided by Bridge Bank, a division of Western Alliance Bank. The new facilities follow Divergent’s successful $160 million Series C funding earlier this year.

Lightshipa new all-electric RV startup steered by Tesla alumni, raised $23 million in a Series A led by Victoria Beasley of Prelude Ventures.

Nuwiel has raised around $2 million from European cleantech investor EIT InnoEnergy for its eTrailers, which are designed to solve the inner-city goods delivery problem by fitting into existing cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

RoadBotics, a road infrastructure images analysis startup, was acquired by Michelin. The terms weren’t disclosed but we do that all Roadbotics employees and its CEO and co-founder Ben are headed over to Michelin.

Xpeng Roboticsa bionic robot maker affiliated with Xpengraised $100 million in a Series A round led by IDG Capital, at a time when venture investments are slowing in China.

Wonder Roboticsan autonomous drone technology startup, raised $4 million in a round led by Elron Ventures, in conjunction with Besadno Investment Group.

Notable reads and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Anthony Levandowski was interviewed on stage at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech. It covers a lot of familiar ground but there were a few new tidbits that makes it worth the watch.

Apple’s eight-year struggle included meaningless demos, false hopes and map handicaps, The Information reported.

Aurora Demonstrated its Fault Management System, specifically its self-driving vehicle system’s ability to detect issues and respond by safely pulling over to the side of the road without any human involvement.

Cruise’s Robotaxi service is weeks old and it’s already being reviewed by California regulators, an action prompted by an anonymous letter from someone claiming to be an employee.

Motionalwhich expanded AV testing to San Diego, describes its encounters with trolleys.

Nuro is strategy closing its Phoenix facility as it shifts its commercial away from the desert metropolis and toward the San Francisco Bay Area and Houston. A few employees were laid off as a result. Several other employees in Houston and Mountain View, California have also been laid off recently.

Zoox Completed the self-certification of its purpose-built, fully autonomous, all-electric passenger vehicle to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Electric vehicles & batteries

Arrivalthe UK-based commercial EV company, plans to slash costs and cut as much as 30% of its workforce as it attempts to protect the business from a challenging economic environment while its production targets.

Audi started construction of an EV factory in China that is expected to come online in 2024.

Battery recycling could be the next investor darling of the EV era, TechCrunch’s Jaclyn Trop reported. Her report was timely: Redwood Materials just locked in a partnership with Volkswagen of America and Audi.

General Motors said it will team up with Pilot Flying J to build a national fast-charge network for EVs. Plans call for 2,000 charging stations — including 350-kilowatt DC fast chargers — at roughly 500 Pilot Flying J travel centers at 50-mile intervals.

Hyundai unveiled its new Ioniq 6, an EV sedan that it says will deliver range on par with the Tesla Model 3. Hyundai also said it will begin building electric vehicles under its high-performance N brand created to compete with luxury sports cars from Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

Panasonic announced plans to build a $4 billion factory in Kansas that will manufacture and supply lithium-ion batteries to EV makers. The factory is slated to be larger than the Gigafactory it operates with Tesla in Sparks, Nevada, which is already one of the largest lithium-ion battery factories in the world.

Polestar, the electric vehicle maker that made its Nasdaq debut in June, said is on track to meet its annual sales target of 50,000 cars this year.

Rimac began production of its $2.5 million Nevera hypercar EV. But it’s not the only $2.5 million EV hypercar on the block this summer. There’s an interesting twist on these two dueling vehicles.

Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe told employees in an internal email viewed by TechCrunch that its restructuring could lead to job cuts. The email was sent to employees following reports the EV automaker was planning to lay off about 5% of its workforce.

VinFastVietnamese EV maker, received $1.2 billion in incentives to build a factory in North Carolina.

Walmart struck a deal with electric vehicle company Canoo to purchase 4,500 of its last-mile delivery vehicles. Ah but, an interesting line in the contract, first discovered by Bloomberg, prevents Canoo from making sales to Walmart’s rival Amazon.

Miscellaneous

Amazon’s drone delivery is headed to Texas.

BMW of North America, following media reports that prompted a backlash from consumers, clarified how its Functions on Demand strategy will be implemented in the US market. Tl;dr: Vehicles ordered with heated seats will always have that option for the life of the vehicle.

In Texas, a pregnant woman was pulled over for driving alone in the HOV lane. She argued that under the state’s abortion ban, her fetus counts as a second person.

Uber is facing lawsuits from as many as 550 women passengers across the US who have alleged they were assaulted by drivers on the platform.

People

Andrej Karpathythe deep learning and computer vision expert who was hired five years ago as Tesla’s director of AI and led Autopilot vision team, is officially leaving the company.

Fisker appointed Alpay Uguz as senior vice president of global manufacturing. He will report to CEO Henrik Fisker. In his role at Fisker, Alpay will oversee the company’s global manufacturing as Fisker grows towards its goal of producing one million vehicles annually in 2027.

Ford announced two long-time employees, Hau Thai-Tang and Frederiek Toney, are retiring. Thai-Tang is Ford’s chief industrial platform officer and Toney is vice president, global Ford Customer Service Division. Meanwhile, Dave Bozeman is joining the company to help advance the Ford+ plan after successful tenures at Amazon, Caterpillar and Harley-Davidson.

Lordstown Motors promoted Edward Hightower as CEO. Hightower is the first Black CEO of a US automaker in more than 100 years, Automotive News reported. He was previously president of the company. Numerous other executive appointments were also made: Daniel A. Ninivaggi was elected as executive chairman of the board; Dr. Donna Bella long-time Ford executive, was appointed executive vice president of product creation, engineering and supply chain; Andrew Reyntjes is now senior vice president of sales, service and marketing; and Jill Coniglio-Kirk was appointed vice president of people and culture. Finally, Jane Ritson-Parsons is leaving her job as Chief Commercial Officer and will become an advisor to the company.

Tesla is laying off 229 data annotation employees who are part of the company’s larger Autopilot team and is shuttering the San Mateo, California office where they worked, according to a California regulatory filing.

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