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.
Welp, it was an EV-heavy week, starting with the Polestar SPAC and ending with the Rivian IPO filing (curses to the late Friday regulatory filing). Oh, and Tesla’s record-breaking delivery and production numbers posted Saturday, which blew past analyst expectations.
There are plenty of other insights tucked in here, including Aria Alamalhodaei’s policy corner, which is focused on jobs this week, and Rebecca Bellan’s roundup of micromobility news.
As always, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions or tips. You also can send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.
During his presidency, Donald Trump removed bikeshare stations on the White House campus. As of this week, the bikeshare is back.
Capital Bikeshare, a D.C.-area bikeshare program that’s operated by Lyft, has reinstalled an 11-dock Buy America-compliant station at the E Street NW and South Executive Avenue entrance of the campus. It’s only available to those who have access to the White House grounds, so the general public won’t be able to see it in the apps.
Still, the move is good for all of us; the more lawmakers (or more likely their staff) start using zero-emissions methods of travel, the more they’ll see the utility in shared micromobility programs, and the more they’ll (hopefully) enact policies to support them.
A recent study found that bikeshare systems in the U.S. save $36 million per year in healthcare costs, as well as help reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions from the transportation sector. In other words, I see your electric cars and I raise you more bikes.
D.C. gets it. The council recently approved Mayor Bowser’s Fair Shot Budget, which included $19 million to add 80 new Capital Bikeshare stations and 3,000 e-bikes to the fleet. The plan also stipulates that every D.C. resident will live within a quarter-mile of a bikeshare station.
Money coming into micromobility
Electric motorcycle manufacturer Cake closed a $60 million Series B round just a few weeks after launching a new city utility bike called the Makka. The company will use the funds to set up manufacturing facilities in Europe, North America and Asia so that it can save money and carbon emissions on shipping out bikes across the world. Cake also plans to scale up retail capabilities, introducing showrooms to major cities this fall.
German startup Dance raised $19.4 million just a few weeks after the company started rolling out its e-bike subscription service in Berlin. The company’s subscription service costs $93 per month for a white-glove rental experience of the Dance One, its in-house-designed e-bike. Dance will use the money to double the size of its operations and engineering teams and expand to more cities across Europe next year.
Ola Electric has raised over $200 million at a valuation of $3 billion, money it will use to scale its electric vehicle manufacturing business in South Asia. Ola Electric recently came out with its first electric scooter, the Ola S1, but said it would use the new funds to develop other e-vehicles, like a motorbike, a mass market scooter and an electric car. The company has previously said it plans to go public sometime next year.
E-scooters, but make it competitive
The eSkootr Championship (eSC), the world’s first electric kickscooter race, is a thing. (It’s happening in 2022.)
The eSC unveiled the S1-X electric scooter earlier this year. Now, they’re providing a closer look and sharing some specs. The scooters can reach speed of more than 60 miles per hour, splitting their power between two in-wheel hub motors and a special boost button for an extra 20% of power on straightaways.
Deliveroo’s first dark store
British online food delivery company Deliveroo has teamed up with supermarket giant Morrisons to launch its first “dark store” for rapid grocery deliveries in central London. “Deliveroo Hop,” as the new service is being cutely called, promises to deliver goods in 10 minutes or less. London is already full of such services from other funny named companies like Jiffy, Getir, Zapp and Weezy, but we’re seeing (or rather hearing about) these dark stores opening up in cities around the globe. Does anyone else feel a stab of anxiety for the gig workers who have to make such quick deliveries?
Transit equity and affordability
Orion Electrics Company is both selling e-bikes at an affordable rate (starting at $899) and placing rental e-bikes in low-income neighborhoods.
Whereas other services might cost you $10 to ride for 20 minutes, Orion’s service will allow riders to reserve a bike for as little as $10 per month or $60 per year for unlimited access, distance and time. The company is also working with communities, companies and educational institutions to provide users free access to bikes for a contractual fee. Orion plans to start testing in Columbus, Ohio in 2022 and in Cincinnati in 2023.
— Rebecca Bellan
Deal of the week
Rivian! Late Friday, Rivian made its IPO filing public and released its S-1, which is perhaps my favorite document that exists in the world.
After cranking out the breaking news story, Alex Wilhelm and I took the first deeper look at the S-1 and came up with seven takeaways; it’s a TechCrunch+ article (yes, it’s no longer called Extra Crunch), but I pushed the paywall down a skosh.
I have since spent a bit more time with S-1, plus received a few friendly texts and emails from others who have spotted interesting nuggets. Rivian has not yet set terms for the IPO, so we don’t have that. But there are plenty of other items to consider.
I will highlight just a couple of them.
First up, Rivian outlined a number of future businesses beyond the traditional automotive play of making money from assembling, selling and financing vehicles. This is a route that even the big legacy automakers are aiming for. The difference is that Rivian is doing this from the beginning.
Unsurprisingly, it plans to sell a variety of vehicle variants that hit different price points. That likely means cheaper vehicles that fall below its current range of $67,000 to $75,000-priced EVs. After an initial focus on the U.S. and Canadian markets, it plans to enter Western European markets in the near-term, followed by major Asian-Pacific markets. And to support those sales, Rivian plans to localize production — that means more factories.
Another obvious but important growth area is Rivian’s plan to offer integrated hardware such as charging, generation and storage, as well as software-based energy management solutions in the residential, industrial and commercial markets.
The company said in its S-1 that it plans to build multiple vehicles within the consumer and commercial sectors. That commercial sector is interesting to me, especially after I noticed this little item further down, where Rivian says its believes it “will become the largest centrally managed EV fleet,” allowing the company “to unlock future service offerings, including autonomous mobility-as-a-service for the movement of people and goods.”
Next up, Amazon. As we mentioned in our Friday article, there are 81 mentions of Amazon in the Rivian S-1 filing. The number is high as Amazon is both an investor in the company and a customer. Per the filing, Amazon owns at least 5% of Rivian, though the final number is not yet available. Ford also has a stake greater than 5%, along with a number of investors.
But past investment, Rivian’s commercial fleet is largely designed with Amazon in mind. Which makes sense as the American e-commerce giant is expected to purchase some 100,000 vehicles from the company. While, Rivian notes that certain aspects of the commercial electric vans (EDV) design and styling will remain exclusive to Amazon, the partnership is not.
Under the terms, Rivian will exclusively provide last-mile delivery vehicles to Amazon’s logistics unit on the fourth anniversary of the “Initial Delivery Date.” I interpret that initial delivery date as December 2021, which is when Rivian will deliver 10 production-ready vans. The terms also say that between the fourth anniversary to the sixth anniversary of the Initial Delivery Date, Amazon has a right of first refusal to purchase last-mile delivery vehicles that Rivian produces.
And finally, Ford, which as I noted earlier holds more than 5% of Rivian stock. Two items pop out — one of which is courtesy of an eagle-eyed reader.
Rivian and Ford (specifically its Troy Design and Manufacturing subsidiary) reached a deal in April 2019 for the development, production and supply of all prototype and pre-production “bodies in white” vehicles across the R1T, R1S, and EDV vehicle programs. This means that Ford produced Rivian’s early prototype builds since 2019. Rivian said that it will stop purchasing from Troy Design and will stamp and assemble its own “BIWs” (bodies in white) once its Normal, Illinois factory advances to steady-state vehicle production. Rivian paid Ford $8 million in 2019 and $66 million in 2020 for this service.
And lastly (thanks for hanging in there) … despite Ford’s stock position and relationship with Rivian, it no longer has any representatives on its board of directors. Joe Hinrichs was on Rivian’s board until 2020, when he abruptly left Ford. Alexandra Ford English, Bill Ford’s daughter, was appointed to Rivian’s board in May 2020, presumably to fill Hinrichs’ vacancy, but stepped down in May 2021.
Meanwhile, Amazon and Cox Automotive still have spots on the board.
Let’s turn briefly to another potentially big deal: Polestar. The company reached an agreement to go public via special purpose acquisition with Gores Guggenheim Inc. The SPAC deal would give the combined company a valuation of $20 billion. Once the merger closes, the combined company will be held by a new public company named Polestar Automotive Holding UK Limited. The company is expected to be listed on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “PSNY.”
Polestar falls under Volvo Car Group’s electric performance brand, but both Polestar and Volvo are owned by Chinese car maker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.
With this announcement, Polestar joins a mass of EV makers that will have gone public via SPAC, including Arrival, Canoo, Fisker, Lordstown Motors and Lucid Group. Rivian is the one EV maker outlier that is taking the traditional IPO route.
Other deals that got my attention this week …
AutoLeap, an auto repair software company, raised $18 million in a Series A round led by Bain Capital Ventures, with repeat participation from Threshold Ventures, which led AutoLeap’s $5 million seed round in September 2020.
Contemporary Amperex Technology, China’s battery-making giant known as CATL, agreed to acquire Vancouver, Canada-based Millennial Lithium in an all-stock cash deal valued at CAD $377 million, or $297 million.
Energize Ventures, an early- and growth-stage venture fund, closed its second fund with total capital commitments of $330 million. Fund II will be used to help scale and commercialize software across renewable energy, mobility, cybersecurity, battery storage, critical infrastructure and climate resiliency. The fund is backed by anchor investors such as Invenergy, CDPQ, SE Ventures, GE Renewable Energy and Hannon Armstrong. Credit Suisse, Xcel Energy, American Electric Power and Equinor Ventures also participated.
NASA picked GE Aviation and MagniX to develop electric propulsion technologies for aircraft, with the aim of introducing this tech to U.S. aviation fleets by 2035. The awards, granted under the agency’s Electric Powertrain Flight Demonstration (EPFD) program, have a combined value of $253.4 million. Of that, $179 million was awarded to GE Aviation, with MagniX receiving $74.3 million.
Ninja Van, the Singapore-based logistics company, raised $578 million and it could be about 18 months before it taps public markets for an IPO, Reuters reported. Alibaba Group joined as an investor in its late-stage funding round. Existing investors include European parcel delivery network GeoPost/DPDgroup, Monk’s Hill Ventures and Facebook Inc. co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital Group.
Ralf Speth, who was CEO of Jaguar Land Rover until 2020, is leading a SPAC called Pegasus Digital Mobility Acquisition that filed for an IPO.
Swiggy, the Indian food delivery startup, is in talks to raise more than $500 million in a new financing round that could value it at over $10 billion, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. Atlanta-headquartered Invesco is in talks to lead — or co-lead — the new financing round in the Bangalore-based startup, which counts SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Falcon Edge Capital and Prosus Ventures among its existing investors.
Toyota subsidiary Woven Planet Holdings has made its third acquisition in less than a year in its bid to invest in, develop and eventually bring to market future-of-transportation technologies like automated driving. This time, the company has acquired Renovo Motors, the automotive operating system developer based in Silicon Valley. Terms of the deal, which has closed, were not disclosed.
A little bird
Looks like Argo AI is setting up shop in Los Angeles.
Back in August, I wrote about Argo AI landing a permit in California that will allow the company to give people free rides in its self-driving vehicles on the state’s public roads. Argo has never officially indicated which city it is targeting for a robotaxi service in California.
The company has been testing its autonomous vehicle technology in Ford vehicles around Palo Alto since 2019. Today, the company’s test fleet in California is about one dozen self-driving test vehicles. It also has autonomous test vehicles in Miami, Austin, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh and Detroit. In July, Argo and Ford announced plans to launch at least 1,000 self-driving vehicles on Lyft’s ride-hailing network in a number of cities over the next five years, starting with Miami and Austin.
A source, at the time, said I should look south. Way south. My bet was San Diego. It looks like I was wrong.
A tweet from a new employee this week shows Argo is opening an office in Los Angeles. The tweet announced this person’s employment at Argo AI on its autonomy platform integration team. When asked if they were moving to Pittsburgh, the person responded:
“No, I’ll be remote until we open our LA office. I do like Pittsburgh though, so I’m not opposed to visiting the mothership.”
Hello everyone! Welcome back to Policy Corner. This week, we’re talking… jobs!
Let’s start with the big news: Ford’s bombshell announcement that it, along with its South Korea-based battery partner SK Innovation, would spend $11.4 billion to build two massive new manufacturing campuses in Tennessee and Kentucky. The automaker said the new campuses would generate a staggering 11,000 new jobs.
This is good news for President Joe Biden, who has been pushing automakers to bring more of their electric vehicle and battery manufacturing business to the United States. Other lawmakers are behind him, enough to even propose that a new EV purchase incentive should only be applicable to U.S.- and union-made vehicles. (Read more about the proposals to expand the tax credit here — spoiler alert: not all automakers are happy about it.)
But will these new jobs be union? It looks like it’s still an open question. A group of reporters over at Reuters wrote a really excellent piece on the issue — I encourage you to read it here. Essentially, both Tennessee and Kentucky are “right-to-work” states, meaning they ban companies from requiring (or not) union membership as a condition of employment. Reuters suggests that Ford is staying mum either way on whether the new jobs would be union because it doesn’t want to antagonize its political partners in the southern states, who still need to approve key funding and incentives for the automaker’s plans.
The stakes are high because there is a lot of concern amongst industry workers regarding the effects on employment of transitioning to electric vehicles. In general, electric vehicles require fewer workers to manufacture than internal combustion engine cars, because EVs have fewer moving parts and a simplified powertrain. Plus, union workers on average make 20% more than non-union workers. The Economic Policy Institute even estimated that “manufacturing policy inaction” combined with a rise in EV sales to 50% by 2030 could result in as many as 75,000 job losses by the end of the decade.
Not all is lost — greater domestic capacity to produce powertrains could mitigate the effects of the transition to EVs, the EPI finds. It, along with other think tanks like the Center for American Progress, agree that concurrent policy efforts to shift EV manufacturers to the U.S. and strategic investments in jobs will help ensure workers are not left behind by the mobility revolution.
One of Biden’s refrains throughout his entire presidency is that the electric revolution will bring about “good-paying union jobs,” so it’s clear where his preference lies. Of course, union membership is not a prerequisite to having a “good job,” and Ford hasn’t released any details regarding the anticipated salaries of these 11,000 jobs. But the fact that Ford is bringing so much manufacturing stateside is certainly a good sign for workers.
— Aria Alamalhodaei
Notable news and other tidbits
Holy hell, lots this week. That means I am going to skip some items. It’s just too much!
Aurora invited media, partners and investors (existing and potentially new ones) to get a closer look at its tech and operations. I was among those who visited. Here’s what I saw and experienced.
Cruise and Waymo were given the OK to start charging for autonomous vehicle services offered to the public in some areas of San Francisco. It’s gonna get interesting, folks.
Kodiak Robotics revealed its fourth generation AV truck, which has a modular sensor suite that includes Luminar and Hesai lidar sensors. I spent some time after their announcement talking with co-founder and CEO Don Burnette and digging into their business strategy and approach to automation. It deserves a bit of space, so look for it next week here.
Ford Motor and battery manufacturer SK Innovation made a huge announcement (as Aria noted earlier) about plans to spend $11.4 billion to build two massive campuses in Tennessee and Kentucky that will produce batteries as well as the next generation of electric F-Series trucks — a project the companies said will create 11,000 new jobs. Rebecca Bellan took a look at how Ford’s factory footprint will change.
Foxconn will build electric vehicles for Lordstown Motors as well as its other partner Fisker Inc. at a former GM factory in Ohio, under an agreement announced this week. What a wild world we live in.
Lamborghini has a vision for its future. Abigail Bassett digs in.
Lucid Group opened its factory to media, customers and analysts. Abigail Bassett and I were among those. Here is her take on the Lucid Air. Keep in mind, these were limited drives. Also, weird side note: Because the Lucid Air has lidar, it also had to get “approval” from the FDA. That term approval isn’t what you’re thinking; this isn’t like a drug approval. Basically, the lidar manufacturer that Lucid uses (they have yet to name them) had to file a report with specs etc. of the sensor showing it meets certain FDA requirements. Basically, it’s a self-certification like the FMVSS cert.
Rivian invited press to test its R1T pickup truck. I spent a few days driving the truck and talking to engineers and other employees. My take: Rivian has produced an electric truck we never knew we needed. Meaning, I think the company will sell to folks who have never considered a pickup truck before. Also, I put together this video of the final version of the camp kitchen.
If a measure to classify gig economy workers as independent contractors makes it to the November 2022 ballot and passes, drivers could end up earning as little as a quarter of the minimum wage, according to a University of California-Berkeley study published this week.
Honda laid out a plan to innovate in new business areas like electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOL), bipedal robots and space technology. The company’s R&D and innovation arms will be leading the effort on “outside-the-box research on technologies that will bring about new value for people by expanding the potential of mobility into the third dimension, then the fourth dimension, which defies the constraints of time and space, and ultimately into outer space,” according to the company.
That’s some real galaxy brain stuff there.
Gene Berdichevsky, co-founder and CEO of battery chemistry company Sila Nano, talked to TechCrunch’s Rebecca Bellan about the science of scaling up.