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The general mood is mixed from startup founders in the mobility sector. But one theme keeps popping up in my conversations with them. The need for a bit more time. Time for the economic uncertainty to settle out; time to land more funding; and more time for their existing runway.
Brodmann17 co-founder and CEO Adi Pinhas shared many of those sentiments with me this week. His company — a six-year-old computer vision technology startup based in Israel — shut down. “We just needed more time,” he said.
Interestingly, I didn’t hear a lot of this last week during the TC Sessions: Space event in Los Angeles. Investors struck a bullish tone and founders seemed more optimistic.
Why, dear reader, do you think there is such a striking difference?
On a far rosier note, Rad Power Bikes launched what I think might be its most important product: an electric assist trike.
I can see you rolling your eyes. But hear me out. The trike, which I tried, is super accessible to a wide swath of people who might not otherwise ride a two-wheeled bicycle. It’s easy to get on and off, is stable and is surprisingly adept at sudden and sharp turns. It even goes in reverse.
The RadTrike, as it is branded, has been in the works for years. Actually it’s been on the mind of its founder Mike Radenbaugh since at least 2007, when a couple of customers asked for a bike that was stable, had a low standover height, power, could carry items and was easy to use. The RadTrike has a range of between 20 and 35 miles, a top speed of 14 miles per hour and can be used by anyone over 4 feet 10 inches tall.
“There’s this category of vehicle that is completely underserved in this country, which is light electric vehicles with a mobility and utility focus,” Radenbaugh told me in a recent interview.
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Taur co-founder Carson Brown is the latest founder to chat with me for my ongoing series over at TC+. If you’re unfamiliar, Taur is the e-scooter company daring to be different with a front-facing scooter. We talked about why Taur’s scooters are designed to make people feel comfortable riding on the road (even when there are no bike lanes), why scooter ownership will far outpace shared scooters and how to use design to get people to adapt their mindsets and adopt scooters for daily use.
Berlin Senate’s Transport Administration has voted to allow cyclists and e-scooter riders to park for free in car parking spaces in a move to tackle improperly parked light electric vehicles. The rule goes into effect January 1.
Biomega, a Danish e-bike company, has come up with a “weightless trailer” to attach to your bike. It has a 250W motor and a battery with a 52 to 93-mile range that makes towing cargo or kids much easier.
European Bolt partnered with Drover AI to bring tech that detects and corrects sidewalk riding to e-scooters.
Dott is using virtual reality to test scooter sounds that will alert other road users to scooters without causing noise pollution.
Hived founder Murvah Iqbal talked to Micromobility Industries about why micromobility is great for last-mile logistics.
Ola Electric CEO Bhavish Aggarwal predicts nearly 100% of India’s two-wheeler market will shift to EVs in three years.
RideUp has launched a network of cycle centers offering bike subscriptions across the U.K.
Shared micromobility in the United States is almost back to pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest Shared Micromobility in the U.S. report by the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
Tier-owned Spin has exited 10 U.S. markets due to low demand and an annoying combination of over-regulated and under-regulated markets. The departure has resulted in 30 layoffs.
Voi is cutting another 13% of staff, or 95 workers, on top of the 35 that were laid off last month.
Deal of the week
Apart from Mobileye and Porsche, the IPO arena has been a bit meh lately — at least in the mobility sector. But one more snuck in before the end of the year.
I’m talking about VinFast, the Vietnamese electric vehicle maker founded in 2017.
The company, which filed for an initial public offering in the United States, has been making a massive and aggressive push into this market. I can’t predict whether an IPO will speed up the process; it will certainly give the company more visibility.
The EV startup has been pursuing the U.S. market, most recently with a showcase of four SUVs presented at the LA Auto Show. Over the summer, VinFast received $1.2 billion in incentives to build a factory in North Carolina, where the automaker hopes to begin building cars by July 2024.
Other deals that got my attention …
Bumper, the U.K.-based car repairs payment platform, raised £26.1 million ($30 million) in investment from its Series A extension round with participation from Autotech Ventures, InMotion Ventures, ITOCHU and Revo Capital. As part of the Series A extension round, a new debt facility was agreed with Secure Trust Bank Commercial Finance worth £20 million ($23 million), with the additional investment coming in the form of equity.
Carvana’s troubles seem to be mounting, which is crushing its stock price. Some of its largest creditors, including Apollo Global Management Inc. and Pacific Investment Management Co. (which hold around $4 billion in unsecured debt), signed a pact binding them to act together in negotiations with the online used-vehicle retailer.
Customcells raised €60 million in a Series A round led by World Fund to advance its cell technology that’s focused on aviation. Abacon Capital, Vsquared Ventures and Porsche also chipped in.
Einride raised $500 million in equity and debt financing. The equity-based $200 million Series C portion came from backers including Northzone, EQT Ventures, Temasek, Swedish pension fund AMF, Polar Structure and Norrsken VC. The Swedish company also secured $300 million in debt funding led by Barclays Europe.
FreeWire Technologies, the EV charging station and energy management solutions company, acquired Mobilyze.ai, which developed an EV charging analytics and prediction software platform. Financial terms were not disclosed. As part of the acquisition, Mobilyze.ai’s founders, David Keith and James Long, are joining FreeWire’s product management team.
Helbiz scored another $5 million from Yorkville Advisors Global, but its stock is still in the $0.20 range.
Kodiak Robotics won a $49.9 million two-year contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to help the Army automate future ground vehicles to conduct high-risk missions like reconnaissance and surveillance. Kodiak beat out 33 other companies to win the contract to develop, test and deploy autonomous software that can navigate complex, off-road terrain, diverse operational conditions and GPS-challenged environments.
Moove, a Nigerian mobility fintech startup, has raised $30 million to fund its expansion to UAE.
Onomotion, a German-based startup, raised €21 million to expand its e-cargo bike urban logistics business across Europe and the U.S.
Sonatus raised $75 million in a round led by Foxconn. The company wants to expand its software-defined vehicle tech into new markets. Sonatus’ platform is already in production in Hyundai, Kia and Genesis vehicles.
Notable reads and other tidbits
Perhaps one of the biggest AV news items this week (at least in my view) was the breakup between TuSimple and truck manufacturer Navistar.
The move to end the partnership comes less than a month after Cheng Lu returned to his role as CEO of TuSimple after previously being ousted. Lu returned after the company board fired co-founder Xiaodi Hou following an internal probe that showed certain employees having ties and sharing information with Hydron, a China-backed hydrogen-powered trucking company. Hou and co-founder Mo Chen then fired the board.
Uber and Motional launched a robotaxi service in Las Vegas — the first step in the companies’ 10-year plan to co-scale across major North American cities. While Motional has already launched similar services in Las Vegas on both the Lyft and Via networks, this is Uber’s first time offering autonomous rides (with a human safety operator behind the wheel, for now) to the public.
Electric vehicles, batteries & charging
American Battery Factory received the OK from city officials to locate its first plant in Tucson, Arizona. ABF says it will pump around $1.2 billion into the facility, claiming it will be the “country’s largest gigafactory” for lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) battery cells when it’s completed, with a footprint of about 2 million square feet.
BrightDrop, General Motors’ electric delivery van subsidiary, added DHL Express Canada to its portfolio of customers, marking the company’s entrance into its first international market.
GM said Canadian EV charging company Flo will provide the 40,000 Level 2 chargers it plans to install in communities (with help from its dealership network) across the U.S. and Canada. GM will cover the cost of the chargers and shipping, while dealerships will pay for things like cable management, maintenance and warranties.
GM workers at a battery plant in northeast Ohio voted in favor of representation with the United Auto Workers.
Sono Motors co-founders Jona Christians and Laurin Hahn are making a last-ditch effort to keep its Sion solar EV program alive. The publicly traded company has launched a 50-day campaign called #saveSion.
Weiming Soh, the Singaporean auto veteran who’s the current CEO of Renault China, is planning to build super-premium EVs that can monitor the health of its passengers.
Uber agreed to a $10 million settlement with the City of Chicago for listing local restaurants in the Uber Eats and Postmates food delivery apps without the restaurants’ consent, as well as for charging excess commission fees.
Google plans to combine the teams working on its Maps product and on Waze, a mapping service that Google acquired in 2013. Waze’s team of 500 employees will fall under Google’s Geo organization, which oversees Maps, Earth and Street View, starting Friday. Neha Parikh, Waze’s current CEO, will leave her role.
Navier, the electric leisure boat startup, managed to bring its concept hydrofoiling watercraft into reality, and has opened preorders.
Tesla plans to add a new radar product to its vehicles in mid-January, according to documents posted with the Federal Communications Commission.
Volkswagen Group CEO Oliver Blume will outline a new software and vehicle platform strategy to the automaker’s supervisory board on December 15.