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The Station: VW resurrects Scout as an EV brand and mobility SPACs have a helluva week

·12 min read

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox.

Howdy 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.

Believe it or not, it's been a year since we launched our Q&A series featuring founders of transportation startups. And as promised, we are checking in with these founders as their one-year interview anniversary date comes up.

First up on our check-in list is Frank Reig with Revel.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2022 is just a few days away and I do hope some of my Station readers are there to hear from founders of Aurora, Luminar, Nuro, Veo, and Zoox; early-stage investors from Elemental, Muirwoods Ventures, and PearVC; strategic and institutional investors from Capital International Investors, GM Ventures, Intel Capital, and Snowbull Capital; and top engineers, designers, and executives from Arrival, Cruise, Motional, Nvidia, Stellantis, VW Group, and Waymo. Oh, and of course, watch the pitch-off, network with other builders and investors, and maybe even mix it up with some TechCrunch reporters and editors. A bunch of us will be there.

If you can't attend and still want the inside scoop, buy the online pass. For $45, you get analyst commentary alongside all recorded videos from the entire event starting May 20 for one week. You also get access to the online sponsor expo network with other attendees online.

"Mobility month," which I officially declared last week, continued with a TechCrunch Live event with Waabi founder and CEO Raquel Urtasun and Khosla Ventures partner Sven Strohband, who joined us to talk about raising monster rounds. Click the link to watch the session.

The next mobility-themed TechCrunch Live event will be held on May 25 at noon PDT. The session, focused on mobility marketplaces, will feature Mike Ghaffary, general partner at Canvas Ventures, and Walker Drewett, founder of on-demand vehicle brake repair services startup NuBrakes.

Register here and tune in to hear how Drewett raised capital and built NuBrakes on the lessons from his previous startup, NuWash (it's on-demand car washes, of course). Don't forget, we pick three startup founders attending the live event to give their pitch and get feedback from our two guests.

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'

It was a decent week for micromobility news, so let's jump right in:

Amazon is hiring a micromobility fleet manager to help decarbonize last-mile deliveries. Also, meet the skier delivering for Amazon in a remote Austrian village.

Bird and Lime are using Google's ARCore Geospatial API to power their smartphone camera-based scooter/bike parking solution.

Gogoro is launching its Smartscooters and battery-swapping technology in Tel Aviv this summer, with plans to expand into other Israeli cities.

Specialized has launched a sub-brand called Globe dedicated to building affordable, high-quality electric utility bikes that are designed to replace car trips.

Unagi is launching "Unagi On-Demand," the scooter manufacturer's own, more exclusive, version of shared micromobility.

Voi is expanding in Birmingham to more than 80 square kilometers of the city, doubling the size of its operations and allowing riders to travel across the city.

Cities 🤝 Micromobility

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the U.K.'s potential plans to legalize private e-scooters. Well, the Queen of England made her speech this week, announcing the legalization of private e-scooters has been passed, but with some strict guidance on speed limits and possibly helmet wearing and indicators.

China is in lockdown, but bike traffic is surging. In Shanghai, where lockdowns have eased slightly, bikes are the only available transportation for those who are allowed to leave their homes.

Denver introduced a $400 rebate for e-bikes, plus additional $500 for an e-cargo bike, two weeks ago. Since then, 2,600 residents have applied.

Remember how cute some NYC blocks looked during the pandemic when restaurants expanded into the street? A campaign called NYC 25x25 is trying to keep streets open to pedestrians and cyclists, rather than letting things go back to car-centric normality. The campaign is demanding for 25% of street space to be converted from car use to walkable pedestrian plazas, green space, bus lanes, and dedicated cycle paths by 2025.

Seattle is renewing its shared micromobility permits and there are a few changes. Lime, LINK by Superpedestrian, and Bird, which is a newcomer to the market, have been awarded scooter permits. Lime and Veo also have permits for shared e-bikes. Wheels and Spin will not continue operating in Seattle and have few weeks to wind down their operations.

See ya next week!

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station
money the station

Just when I thought we had finally seen the end of mobility SPACs, Getaround signed up for the gig.

The online peer-to-peer car-sharing rental startup has agreed to merge with special purpose acquisition company InterPrivate II Acquisition Corp. in a deal that will value the combined entity at $1.2 billion. The blank-check company said it will provide Getaround with at least $225 million and up to $434 million in gross proceeds, including a convertible note commitment of up to $175 million provided by affiliates of Mudrick Capital Management.

Both parties said the "net transaction proceeds will provide adequate funding to achieve adjusted EBITDA breakeven under its current business plan."

TechCrunch has been following Getaround since 2010, when it was barely a year old. The following spring, Getaround won TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield at Disrupt NYC.

The company has raised close to $600 million and has a long list of backers that includes SoftBank Vision Fund, Toyota, PeopleFund, Reid Hoffman and Mark Pincus’ Reinvent Capital, AmRest founder Henry McGovern, Pennant Investors, VectoIQ partners Steve Girsky, Mary Chan and Julia Steyn, and Menlo Ventures — just to name a few.

Other deals that got my attention this week ...

6K, a company developing engineered materials for lithium-ion batteries and additive manufacturing, raised $102 million in its Series D round led by Koch Strategic Platforms, a subsidiary of Koch Investments Group. Other new investors included Energy Impact Partners, Albemarle, and HG Ventures.

Bliq, the startup that developed a workflow management software for gig economy drivers, raised $13.5 million in a Series A round led by NEA, with participation from Speedinvest and existing investors Proeza Ventures, Revel Venture Partners, and Andreas Kupke.

Cabify secured a €40 million loan from the European Investment Bank to purchase 1,400 electric vehicles and associated EV charging infrastructure, which will help the ride-hail company achieve its target of a zero-emissions fleet in Spain by 2025.

Carma, the Australian online used car platform, raised $52 million in a Series A round led by General Catalyst Partners and Tiger Global.

GetHenry is one of the latest startups to crop up in answer to the growing demand for last-mile delivery. The company raised $17.4 million in seed funding to expand its business of providing utility e-bikes to couriers and fleet customers across Europe.

Instacart filed confidentially to go public this week. TC+ editor Alex Wilhelm weighed in on the long-awaited IPO and pointed to three important questions on the future of the company.

Reby, a European micromobility startup, was acquired by Canadian private equity firm House of Lithium for about $100 million. This will give Reby the financial capacity and capital markets expertise needed to continue its growth, the companies say.

Swiggy, the seven-year-old Indian fast delivery service startup, reached an agreement to acquire Dineout, a popular dining out and restaurant tech platform, for $200 million, sources told TechCrunch.

One week in a SPAC's life

the-station-delivery
the-station-delivery

Welp, it's been a topsy turvy helluva of a week for mobility SPACs, especially the EV ones. Take it as a giant red flashing signal that this will be a tough and volatile year for them.

A few of these companies reported earnings this past week — and it was mostly what you would expect from pre-revenue operations. The downside pressure of widening losses and depleting cash is a bigger issue for some companies than others.

Like Canoo, for instance. Canoo’s first-quarter earnings showed a company burning through cash, no near-term revenue, and a warning that it may not have enough money to stay in business. Yup, it issued a "going concern" warning.

Fisker was one SPAC that had some critical and good news to share. Fisker and Foxconn sealed a deal to build the EV maker's second all-electric model, the PEAR Urban Lifestyle EV, in Ohio. This was expected, but it did hinge on Foxconn purchasing a factory in Ohio from Lordstown Motors, another struggling SPAC.

Lordstown Motors completed this week the $230 million deal to sell Foxconn the former GM Assembly Plant, a sale that is nothing short of a lifeline for the SPAC. Lordstown said in a securities filing earlier in the week — and before the deal had closed — that its ability to continue as a company and achieve production targets for the Endurance depended upon the deal with Foxconn.

Had Lordstown failed to close the deal with Foxconn, it would have had to pay back the $200 million it has received in down payments from the company since November, including $50 million in the quarter just ended.

Despite the challenges, the company said in its earnings report that it hopes by July to build a limited number of pre-production vehicles for testing, certification, validation, and regulatory approvals, and to demonstrate the capabilities of the Endurance pickup truck to potential customers.

Embark, which is developing autonomous vehicle technology for trucking, also had a problematic week, at least in terms of its share price. The SPAC didn't report earnings this week, and yet its share price fell off a cliff, dropping 62% from the opening bell on May 9 to the market close on May 10. It has since rebounded.

The share price fall was curious, especially since the company reported on that same day that it had successfully completed on-road testing in snowy conditions in Montana. Have investors lost their patience with demos and testing? Or is something else afoot?

Notable reads and other tidbits

Let's get to it.

Autonomous vehicles

Aurora is embarking on an autonomous trucking pilot with Covenant Logistics, a U.S. freight carrier.

Some police departments are using the recordings taken by autonomous vehicles like Cruise and Waymo for intel on investigative leads.

Kodiak Robotics publicly demonstrated its so-called "fallback" system, which means its self-driving truck can pull itself over to the side of the road in the event of a failure.

"To launch an autonomous vehicle without a human driver, you must ensure the vehicle will protect motorists in the case of a truck or autonomous system failure," Kodiak founder and CEO Don Burnette said in a statement, adding the feature is a fundamental necessity to achieving that level of safety.

Moovit, the Israel-based trip planning app owned by Intel through its Mobileye subsidiary, is integrating with Orlando-based autonomous shuttle startup Beep. The integration will allow riders to view options for taking Beep shuttles alongside other forms of transit, like buses or trains.

Electric vehicles & batteries

Batteries have become VC and PE's most electric investment opportunity, writes TC+ reporter Tim De Chant.

Elon Musk gave a wide-ranging interview at FT's Future of the Car event in London. We provide a roundup of some of his most interesting comments on the transportation front, including that Tesla could stop taking orders for its cars until it works through the current backlog.

Ford gave a bevy of reporters access to its new all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck. TechCrunch couldn't attend, but luckily many others were.

Harley-Davidson unveiled a second electric motorcycle called the Del Mar. The launch edition of the Del Mar has already sold out.

McLaren Racing confirmed it will compete in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship next season, which is the start of the Gen3 era of the all-electric racing series. The McLaren Formula E Team will be formed through the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team. Ian James, team principal of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team, will continue to lead the team.

Rivian's first-quarter losses widened nearly fourfold as the EV maker burned through cash, battling supply chain constraints and production bottlenecks to bring its electric vehicles to market. Despite missing analysts' expectations, shares popped, likely in response to the company sticking to its production guidance for the year and CEO RJ Scaringe's insistence that the company has the cash needed to execute its future plans.

Tesla is punting on plans to build EVs in India, Reuters reported.

VW Group's supervisory board approved plans to launch a new EV brand in the U.S. called Scout, which will produce a rugged SUV and a pickup truck. TechCrunch had the scoop, including some leaked renderings, which have since been released by the company. There are a lot of important details in the story, including that these EVs will not be built on VW's underlying MEB platform.

Also, there will be another VW factory coming to the states; we just don't know where yet. My bet? Well, it won't be at its existing Chattanooga factory.

In-car tech

Google gives Android Auto a major update, including a refreshed UI.

Mercedes-Benz will start offering its Level 3 automated driving system, approved for public roads in Germany, beginning May 17. The Drive Pilot system will be offered as an option on S-Class and EQS models and will cost 5,000 euros ($5,300) on the S-Class and 7,430 euros on the EQS in Germany.

Seeing Machines will be delivering its Driver Monitoring System to a "leading Japanese carmaker." Three guesses who!

Ride-hailing

Uber shareholders voted against a proposal that would have required the ride-hailing company to fully disclose its direct and indirect lobbying activities and expenditures. While the measure has been proposed and rejected by shareholders before, this year’s results show a growing number of shareholders are keen to require full disclosure. About 45% of shareholders voted in favor of the measure as opposed to around 30% last year. Two-thirds of shareholders need to vote in favor for a proposal to be approved.