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Transportation editor Kirsten Korosec was out for a few days this week, so I (Rebecca Bellan) am here to give you all the important future of transportation news that happened this week.
But first! With less than two months to go until TC Sessions: Mobility, I wanted to share that you have until April 1 to save $300 on passes.
After two years as a virtual event, we’re back in person and TechCrunch is going big with a main stage, outdoor space for demos and exhibits, and even a pitch-off.
The event, which will be held in-person on May 18 and 19 in San Mateo, California, and includes an online component on May 20, is absolutely packed with everything future-of-mobility-related. We’re even planning on at least one vehicle debut that we think you’ll want to see.
I’m interested in hearing what investors from Intel Capital, GM Ventures and Snow Bull Capital have to say about the industry and what strategic mobility investors are looking for in a startup. We’ll also sit down with Wisk Aero CEO Gary Gysin and Cyrus Sigari, the co-founder and managing partner at UP.Partner — plus one more yet-to-be announced guest — to talk about urban air mobility and cities.
Finally, if you, like me, are curious about how micromobility platforms are unlocking profits, and what tech is enabling this, you’re going to want to pay attention to this one. Alex Nesic, co-founder of Drover AI, and Janelle Wang, Acton co-founder and CEO, plus one other panelist, are joining us on stage to discuss all this and more.
As always, you can email Kirsten Korosec at email@example.com or me, Rebecca Bellan, at firstname.lastname@example.org to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions or tips. You also can follow me on Twitter — @rebeccabellan.
Hello micromobbin’ frens, let’s kick things off by turning our attention to New York City.
A couple of weeks ago, the NYC Department of Transportation said it would extend the NYC e-scooter pilot beyond its year-long period. The agency announced this week it will double the program’s geographic footprint in June, extending further into the Bronx. As part of that program, Bird is piloting a motorized wheelchair attachment to find ways to increase mobility access for people with disabilities.
Meanwhile, Spin said its scooters should be available to locate and purchase in 60 cities on the Lyft app by the end of 2022. This is the first time Spin has done a native integration with another transit app, and the first time Lyft has integrated another company’s micromobility into its app.
Voi says it has just reached 100 million micromobility rides across 80 cities in less than four years.
Moving on from scooters to motorcycles and bikes …
Check out this interesting deep dive into the reasons why gig drivers sometimes shy away from an app that previously brought them income. In this case, it’s the drivers of SafeBoda, a Ugandan motorcycle ride-hailing service that we’ve written about previously. Drivers are leaving the app in droves because the company has stopped paying bonuses — one of the main incentives to attract and retain workers.
Tembici, a Brazil-based bikeshare startup, saw its revenue jump 40% in 2021 YoY after diversifying revenue by including delivery rentals, commuter rides and advertising sponsorships.
The city of Boston is launching an 18-month e-cargo bike pilot that will receive nearly $500,000 from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the state’s Department of Energy Resources. The pilot will focus on deliveries to and from small businesses.
Deal of the week
South Korea’s LG Energy Solution is setting up operations in the U.S. in a big way. This week, the company said it was investing $1.4 billion in a cylindrical battery plant in Arizona, which would supply batteries to electric vehicles. The 11 GWh-capacity site is set to begin in the second quarter of 2022, with mass production starting in 2024.
LG Energy has contracts with automakers in place, but wouldn’t name any of its future customers. However, it has a history of providing batteries to Tesla, Lucid Motors, Proterra, General Motors and Stellantis, to name a few.
Speaking of Stellantis, LG Energy also said it would invest more than $4.1 billion, alongside the automaker, to build a facility in Ontario, Canada, to manufacture batteries for EVs, as well. This will be a 45 GWh-capacity site that is expected to launch production operations in Q1 2024, and be fully operational by 2025.
LG Energy’s big announcement reflects a broader push by automakers and suppliers to increase battery cell manufacturing capacity. There is particular interest in adding more capacity in the U.S., in a bid to localize manufacturing and become less dependent on sources overseas.
Automakers promising to pump out new EVs in the next few years already were keen to shore up their source of battery cells. Now, with fresh supply chain constraints due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, these automakers are even more keen to have batteries safe and sound on national soil.
Other deals that got my attention…
Japan’s Terra Drone raised a $70 million Series B led by Mitsui Corporation. The company develops solutions to uncrewed aircraft traffic management.
Luminar acquired Freedom Photonics in an all-stock transaction that involves Luminar transferring 3 million shares of its common stock, or about $42.3 million at today’s share price, to Freedom’s employees.
Tire-making giant Bridgestone has taken a minority stake in May Mobility, a Michigan-based autonomous shuttle startup, marking yet another investment into an autonomous vehicle startup.
Kyte raised $200 million in asset-backed credit financing from Goldman Sachs and Ares Global Management to pay for new vehicles that will fuel the on-demand car rental startup’s expansion.
China’s PIX raised an $11 million pre-Series A round to help it expand beyond an autonomous skateboard platform into a company that mass produces its own branded robobuses and skateboard chassis platforms.
Skyports, an electric air taxi infrastructure provider, raised $23 million in a Series B.
Autonomous shuttle solutions provider Beep raised a $25 million Series A-1 round led by ABS Capital with participation from Intel.
E-bike manufacturer Ride1Up closed a $6.5 million Series A led by Ecosystem Integrity Fund.
Fast charging company StoreDot secured a multimillion-dollar investment from Ola Electric, an Indian EV manufacturer, as part of a Series D. The goal is to bring StoreDot’s 5-minute fast charging to Ola’s scooters.
The Routing Company, a startup that’s bringing the ease of on-demand ride-hailing to public transit, raised a $15 million Series A, led by Galvanize Climate Solutions.
Locomation has signed an eight-year agreement with Christenson Transportation to boost the company’s fleet capacity with autonomous vehicle tech.
Notable news and other tidbits
Aurora is launching a small test fleet of Toyota Siennas for ride-hail operations in Texas, with a focus on high-speed routes.
Nvidia is signing up more automakers and AV companies to integrate its self-driving software, sensor and compute toolkit, Hyperion, such as BYD, Lucid Motors, WeRide and DeepRoute.ai. It also announced the next generation of Hyperion, which will include a more robust sensor platform and more compute power. In addition, the company is launching a mapping product for the AV industry.
WeRide said its robobus and robotaxi fleets have accomplished road tests in Heihe, China, and Abu Dhabi, UAE, where temperatures reach as low as -13 degrees and 113 degrees Fahrenheit.
Joby Aviation reported its Q4 and full-year 2021 earnings. The company reported a net income of $5 million and an operating loss of $77.2 million. Adjusted EBITDA loss of $65.2 million was reflected primarily in the costs associated with development, certification and manufacturing of aircraft.
Rocket Lab has confirmed its next Electron launch window for April 1.
Cadillac began production on Monday of its first-ever electric vehicle, the $60,000 Lyriq crossover.
Einride is partnering with shipping company Maersk to bring 300 connected electric trucks to Maersk’s North American warehousing, distribution and transportation business. They want to electrify over 1 million shipments over the next five years.
Lucid Motors opened its newest studio in Ontario, its 23rd in North America, and plans to begin Canadian deliveries of the Lucid Air in the spring. The EV startup has collaborated with Electrify Canada to offer those who reserve an Air by June 30 two years of complimentary charging on the company’s charging network.
Hyundai’s new Sonata will feature solar cells built into its roof, which has the possibility to add three to four miles to the car’s range. Not massive, but it’s not nothin’.
Ford and Cisco are partnering to develop a WebEx app capable of running on Ford’s infotainment system, so that not even driving in a car will allow you to escape from video conference calls.
Elon Musk is tweeting about his Master Plan for how to scale Tesla to the “extreme” and hinting at the next part of the long-term playbook, which heavily features AI.
Maserati unveiled a prototype for its first all-electric vehicle, a crossover called the Grecale, that will also come in a gas version because it’s Maserati.
Polestar is bringing its most affordable model, the Polestar 2 with a single motor and 270 miles of range, to the U.S. The car starts at $45,900, compared to the dual-motor Polestar 2 at $51,200, but the company says it can be sold for as low as $33,400 after federal and state incentives.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is urging a court not to let Elon Musk get away with skirting the rules of a 2018 settlement that said Musk would need to get pre-approval for certain Tesla-related public communications.
Former Cruise CEO Dan Ammann is now going to be heading up ExxonMobil’s Low Carbon Solutions business unit.
Finn, a European car subscription platform, is expanding into Western Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington, D.C. following an initial U.S. launch in December.
Uber reached an agreement to list all NYC taxis on its app, which will both help the company combat its driver shortage and rising fares and help taxi drivers who were once at risk of being absolutely shafted by the ride-hailing app. Likely as a result of this, Curb, a ride-hailing app for licensed taxis and for-hire rides, is also partnering with Uber in NYC, enabling Curb-connected drivers to receive trip requests from Uber users.