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Welp, somehow we’re in the final month of the year. The pace of news has slowed a skosh, allowing me to take a breath — or at least think about doing that — and reflect on what occurred this year and what it means for 2022. Later this month, we’ll have some recaps of the year and outlooks for what is coming next. Have some thoughts? Share them with me and I might just include them here. Give me your predictions on micromobility, EVs, in-car tech, autonomous vehicles and evtols.
The Miami City Commission has thankfully voted to reinstate its e-scooter pilot program, which it had briefly shut down due to safety concerns. They probably read my rant last week and were convinced, nbd. Anyway, e-scooters will be coming back to Miami on January 15, but with strict new safety measures in place, including riders being required to wear helmets and ride at 10 miles per hour on sidewalks, no side-by-side riding and only two operators can be on a block at a time. Do I smell an impending turf war?
Segway, every shared micromobility operator’s favorite scooter manufacturer, is dipping its toes into sidewalk delivery robots. Actually, it’s more like a whole foot. The company is partnering with robotics company Coco to provide the robotic base for the startup’s newest vehicles. Segway will build 1,000 bots for Coco to be launched in the first quarter of 2022.
Luna, the computer vision company that’s trialing its tech with e-scooter company Voi to keep riders off sidewalks, created a demo for a low-cost, app-based solution for operators that want riders to verify parking compliance. It basically asks for an “AI parking selfie” so the algorithm can detect if the scooter is in a respectable location or not. This tech isn’t all that new, but as cities are getting more strict about sidewalk riding and parking, this could be a good, cheap solution for many operators.
Gogoro and belt drive tech company Gates have partnered to co-develop “Flo Drive,” a two-wheel vehicle drivetrain system based on Gates Carbon Drive that will be exclusively available to vehicle makers within the Powered by Gogoro Network. The tech was displayed on the Gogoro Viva Mix Smartscooter at ECMA 2021 in Milan last week.
The Equitable Commute Project hosted an e-bike distribution and training event at the HOPE Program offices in the Bronx. The plan is to equip 5,000 frontline workers with e-bikes that have been subsidized and subject to accessible financing solutions. Vendors at the event included Van Moof, The Hub NYC, Zoomo, Rad Power and Ridepanda.
Urtopia, an e-bike company from China, debuted with what reporter James Trew calls “the most technology advanced model you’ll see this year.” The bike has a 250W hub motor with three levels of ride assist, an estimated 30- to 80-mile range, an integrated dot-matrix display, fingerprint reader, GPS, 4G, mmWave sensors for vehicle detection, an integrated alarm and so much more. And it’s pretty easy on the eyes, with a sleek aesthetic designed by Mathis Heller, who has worked with BMW and Ikea in the past. The bike is available for pre-order via Indiegogo at $2,000, but that price will double once it goes to retail.
Bangalore-based Bounce has priced its first electric scooter (the moped-looking kind, not a kick-scooter) at around $480. Look out, Ola, Bounce is comin’ for you! The Infinity E1 features a swappable battery and some serious shock absorbers and front suspension system that can hopefully withstand Indian roads.
Never thought I’d see Tesla on my micromobility roundup, yet here we are. The company, which is keeping us on the edge of our seats waiting for its Cybertruck, will be selling a mini Cyberquad for kids in the next two to four weeks. It’ll cost $1,900, which is expensive for a toy, but cheap for a Tesla.
— Rebecca Bellan
Deal of the week
This isn’t a deal as much as an unwinding of one. Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi said it has started the process of delisting from the New York Stock Exchange. The decision came days after Bloomberg reported the Chinese government had asked Didi to delist from the U.S. out of security fears.
As Rita Liao reports, the move is anything but surprising. The SoftBank-backed mobility powerhouse has faced immense regulatory pressure since it failed to assure Beijing its data practices were secure before its blockbuster IPO earlier this year that gave it a valuation of $73 billion. Troubles since then have pushed its market cap down to about $37.6 billion.
One of its biggest issues is access to the Didi app. The company, which had about 500 million annual users as of March, pulled itself from Chinese app stores after it came under a cybersecurity review in early July. People with the app installed on their phones can continue using it but new users or those who have switched phones will have to download Didi alternatives, Liao noted.
Didi does intend to stay a public company, just not on the American exchange. It will apply to list on the Hong Kong exchange.
Other deals that got my attention this week …
CloudTrucks, a California-based startup that sells business management software to trucking operators, raised a $115 million Series B round led by Tiger Global with participation from Menlo Ventures, as well as investment from Flexport and angel investors Michael Ovitz and Opendoor CEO Eric Wu, and brought the startup’s total funding amount to $141.6 million.
DispatchTrack, a last-mile logistics software-as-a-service company, acquired Beetrack, the Latin American logistics software firm. The acquisition will expand DispatchTrack’s global footprint with the addition of more than 850 customers across 20 countries in Latin America, including Chile, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Costa Rica. Terms were not disclosed.
Factorial Energy, a startup working on solid-state batteries for electric vehicles, has added two more major automakers to its investor sheet: Mercedes-Benz and Stellantis, both of which plan to co-develop batteries in separate joint collaboration agreements.
JOKR, an instant grocery delivery startup based in New York and operating in the Americas, took in $260 million in a Series B, just five months after raising $170 million in Series A funding that was led by GGV Capital, Balderton Capital and Tiger Global Management. The new round also lifts JOKR into unicorn territory with a valuation of $1.2 billion.
Nubrakes, an on-demand mobile auto maintenance company, has raised a $9 million Series A led by Canvas Ventures, bringing the startup’s total funding to $12 million. The company, which operates in nine markets across Texas, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, will use the capital to more than double its team, expand nationwide and offer additional services.
Phoenix Motor has become the latest EV-related company to head to the public markets. The company, which is being spun out of SPI Energy, has filed for a $150 million IPO. The company says it designs, assembles and integrates electric drive systems and light and medium-duty electric vehicles and markets and sells electric vehicle chargers for the commercial and residential markets. One of its many subsidiaries is EdisonFuture Inc.
Porsche Ventures took an undisclosed minority stake in 1Komma5°, a five-month-old German startup aiming to offer households everything needed for a carbon neutral home, including energy storage, charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and solar.
Upway, a French startup that is building a marketplace for second-hand electric bikes, raised a $5.7 million (€5 million) seed round from Sequoia Capital and Global Founders Capital.
Via, an on-demand shuttle and software company, raised another $130 million, capital that has pushed its valuation to about $3.3 billion as demand from cities to update its legacy transit systems rises. The round was led by Janus Henderson with participation from funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, ION Crossover Partners, Koch Disruptive Technologies and existing investor Exor. To date, the company has raised $800 million.
Hello everyone! Welcome back to Policy Corner.
Let’s talk about state public utilities commissions. (Are you starting to snore already? Stay with me!) These powerful regulators don’t often get much mainstream media attention, but each year they craft a whole host of policies that have implications for the future of decarbonization and — most salient for us at Policy Corner — the adoption of electric vehicles.
How? Well, utilities commissions have the authority to create what are essentially taxes on electric utility ratepayers — funds that could go toward incentive programs for EV chargers. Here’s a more specific example: Evergy Inc., the Kansas City-based electric utility, could start offering customers a one-time rebate of $500 to wire their homes for EV chargers. These costs would be fronted by Evergy and later recouped by ratepayers.
It’s a powerful way to essentially use the structure of a tax without having to go through the hassle of passing a new tax regulation. Of course, electric utilities are not angels, and there can be inflationary issues when it comes time for customers to pay for these programs (this article provides more context). But well-crafted policies could help drive the transition to EVs by lowering the upfront cost for consumers.
Now let’s turn to the ongoing semiconductor shortage. This week, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said that EV adoption goals as outlined in President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan will be impossible to meet without greater investment in domestic chip manufacturing.
To solve this problem, she wants Congress to pass the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America Act, or CHIPS Act, one part of a broader bill to boost American competitiveness and decrease reliance on China. The CHIPS Act in particular would earmark more than $50 billion to U.S. companies that manufacture semiconductors.
“We will not hit those goals if Congress does not quickly pass the Chips Act,” Raimondo reportedly said. “We are wasting time, precious time, every day that the Chips Act isn’t passed and appropriated in Congress.”
Industry agrees. This week, more than 50 CEOs — including those of Apple, Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen America, Toyota North America and Nvidia — sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to take action on the bill.
“Unfortunately, demand for these critical components [semiconductors] has outstripped supply, creating a global chip shortage and resulting in lost growth and jobs in the economy,” the letter says. “The shortage has exposed vulnerabilities in the semiconductor supply chain and highlighted the need for increased domestic manufacturing capacity.”
— Aria Alamalhodaei
Notable reads and other tidbits
Aurora shares its perspective on safety in a blog post that outlines the questions that every company planning to remove the safety operator from behind the wheel should be able to answer.
Daimler Truck, which is working with Waymo Via and Torc on autonomous Class 8 trucks, has developed a scalable autonomous truck platform that it says is suited to SAE Level 4 autonomous driving. It includes redundancy systems needed to achieve safe operations, like a braking system, steering system, low voltage power net and network communications.
7-Eleven is pairing up with Nuro to pilot a commercial delivery service using autonomous vehicles in the Silicon Valley enclave of Mountain View, California. This is a limited pilot that is using Nuro’s self-driving Priuses. The aim is to expand the service and switch Nuro’s R2 delivery vehicles, which were custom built to delivery only packages — not people.
Electrify America has installed more than 30 megawatts of energy storage capacity at more than 140 ultra-fast DC charging stations around the United States, reaching a goal it first announced in 2019. The battery energy storage systems, which are Tesla Powerpacks, store power when electricity costs are low and supplement power during high points of consumption, minimizing impact on the electrical grid and mitigating demand surges.
Polaris is launching the RANGER XP Kinetic, the first powersports vehicle out of the company’s rEVd up initiative and electrification strategy which was announced in September 2020. Through rEV’d up, Polaris and Zero Motorcycles have signed a 10-year exclusive partnership agreement in off-road vehicles and snowmobiles. The company also announced a partnership with EV home charging company Qmerit.
Polestar laid out its three-year plan and gave a peek at its upcoming Polestar 3 SUV. Reporter Alex Kalogiannis also did a deep dive into the Precept concept and explains how it provides a physical representation of the company’s future, which could help consumers and eventual shareholders better understand what the EV automaker intends to become.
In a sign of the crypto times, Holoride has begun publicly selling its Ride cryptocurrency token. For the unfamiliar, Holoride is the Audi-backed startup that’s creating an in-vehicle virtual reality entertainment system designed for passengers.
The launch of the crypto is the latest move by Holoride to build up its extended reality (XR) ecosystem of games and experiences created by a community of developers. Vehicle passengers keen to experience virtual worlds or play games — all of which are in tune with the movement the car they’re riding in — will have to use the Ride utility token to make purchases.
Holoride is aiming to offer its XR system in private vehicles next year, although details of which brands and when it might launch are scant. The company had previously said it would launch in summer 2022, but has since pulled back on specific timing for next year.
Lucid Group has hired or promoted several executives recently. Ralph Jakobs was named as vice president of program management, Emad Dlala, who has been with the company since 2015, is now a vice president of powertrain and Zak Edson is vice president of sales and service.
Zum has hired Liz Sanchez as its first-ever executive vice president of school transportation. In this role, Sanchez will be responsible for building and scaling student transportation operations and Zum’s overall footprint across the U.S. Sanchez has more than three decades of school transportation experience, including serving as COO of North America Student Transportation for National Express School.