Welcome back to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.
I’m turning the wheel over to Rebecca Bellan next week, and she’s mostly steering things this week (I had to add a few of my thoughts in here cuz I can’t help myself). You’re in good hands!
The big news before the Memorial Day holiday weekend caught many by surprise. I’m talking about the Tesla-Ford agreement. The deal will mean Tesla tech, specifically its charging port, will be integrated into Ford’s second-generation EVs that are slated to come out in 2025.
The deal was announced by Ford CEO Jim Farley and Tesla CEO Elon Musk via, you guessed it, a Twitter Spaces — Musk’s latest push toward turning Twitter into an actual town square. No glitches for this one, at least.
In the future, Ford’s next generation of EVs will be equipped with Tesla’s charge port, called the North American Charging Standard, starting in 2025. This will give them access to 12,000 Tesla Superchargers in the U.S. and Canada, which is double the number Ford customers currently have access to. Ford’s BlueOval Charge Network has over 10,000 public DC fast-chargers.
During the event, Farley praised the location of Tesla’s Superchargers, the reliability of the routing software and the ease of use of Tesla’s connector.
The two CEOs have remained friendly at times despite competing against each other. Musk has applauded Ford in the past, noting on several occasions that only Tesla and Ford have avoided bankruptcy. As they chatted live with over 200,000 people listening in, Farley and Musk seemed to hint at future potential collaborations.
In response to Farley’s noting that making a “fully software updatable vehicle” is “super hard,” Musk responded that Tesla would be happy to “be helpful on the software front” and might “open source more code” to automakers.
Farley also asked Musk about Tesla’s new lithium refinery in Corpus Christi, which is notable given that Ford just secured a series of deals to ensure its own access to lithium.
Both Ford and Tesla shares jumped over 7% in after-hours trading as a result of the news.
So you might have heard, but in case you didn’t, TechCrunch is searching for 200 early-stage companies for Startup Battlefield at Disrupt this September. Comes with a chance to win a $100,000 in equity-free $$ and cool kid creds. Apply by May 31.
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Äike launched its e-scooter subscription service in San Francisco in partnership with Tempo, a new startup founded by former Scoot CEO Michael Keating that enables electric mobility brands to offer vehicle subscriptions. The exclusive partnership between the two means Äike customers can subscribe to the company’s Äike T scooter (which by the way can be charged with a regular USB-C laptop charger) on a month-to-month or annual basis.
Beam is trialing tactile signage on its e-scooters in New Zealand to allow those who are blind, deafblind or have low vision better identify e-scooters and report issues like badly parked scooters.
Dallas is opening itself back up to scooters after banning shared companies in 2020. Bird, Lime and Superpedestrian are the three to win the permit.
Cake launched its NYC flagship showroom this week. To celebrate, the company also launched the NYC edition of the Makka, its lightweight urban commuter.
Gogoro is expanding its partnership with Bikebank in South Korea to introduce its Smartscooters and battery swapping under the Dotstation brand in the third quarter. This will bring Gogoro’s battery swapping network to seven cities beyond Seoul, where the scooters and swaps have been operating for food deliveries since 2019.
NYC’s DOT is publishing six self-guided cycling routes — each with a different theme — to encourage more safe cycling in the city, and I think that’s swell. The first one is geared toward women’s empowerment and next month’s will include LGBTQIA+ landmarks for Pride Month in June.
Pave Motors launched its first electric motorbike, the Pave BK. It’s got a sleek and minimal design that demonstrates how lightweight it is. It has a range of up to 50 miles and can go up to 30 mph in just 3.7 seconds.
Virgo has launched a kickstarter for its full-face helmet that protects the head, chin and jaw. It’s lightweight and has a detachable LED rear light. As e-bikes get faster, it’s important to protect that precious skull.
Deal of the week
Lordstown Motors is jumping into the reverse stock split fray, an increasingly popular move among the struggling SPAC set. The reverse stock split is Lordstown’s last-ditch effort to pull itself out of the penny stock doldrums and salvage a deal with Foxconn.
The 1:15 reverse stock split was to be expected after Lordstown cautioned investors in early May that it might have to file for bankruptcy after Foxconn threatened to pull out of a critical funding deal. Foxconn had previously agreed to buy out 10% of Lordstown’s common stock for $47.3 million, but Lordstown’s sub $1 share price caused a dispute between the two.
The EV maker is one of the latest in a series of transportation SPACs to turn to reverse stock splits in order to regain stock market compliance, including Bird, Helbiz and Arrival.
Other deals that got my attention …
Applied Intuition is acquiring Embark Trucks for $71 million. The acquisition comes a couple of months after Embark had to cut 70% of its workforce.
Indian startup Chalo has raised $45 million in equity and $12 million in debt as it works to deepen its mobility offerings, transform bus commutes and launch in international markets. The Series D round was led by Avataar Ventures, with existing investors, including Lightrock India, WaterBridge Ventures and Amit Singhal, a former Google exec.
ClearMotion, the software-defined chassis company based in Massachusetts, raised $32 million from NewView Capital, Acadia Woods, BAI Capital, NIO Capital and Liberty Street. This follows a $39 million investment led by NIO Capital in September 2022.
Nikola received a delisting notice from the Nasdaq because its stock price has been trading below $1 for the past 30 days. Nikola is among a growing list of EV SPACs that have suffered on the public markets and have risked delisting.
Stellantis’ venture arm has invested an undisclosed amount into Lyten, a company developing lithium sulfur battery technology. The investment is part of Lyten’s Series B, which the company didn’t share details about. However, here’s a little puzzle for you. Stellantis tells us that Lyten’s Series B is expected to exceed its Series A of $160 million. Stellantis Ventures made up a significant fraction of the B round. Fun fact about Lyten: Celina Mikolajczak, a well-known battery expert who has held top positions at Tesla, Panasonic, and most recently QuantumScape, is Lyten’s chief battery technology officer.
TechCrunch (virtually) in Atlanta
On June 7, TechCrunch will host City Spotlight: Atlanta. We have a slate of amazing programming planned, including a fireside chat with Ryan Glover, the co-founder of the fintech Greenwood, as well as a panel that examines the venture ecosystem within the Atlanta region and identifies the best ways to raise and meet with local venture capitalists. But that’s not all. If you are an early-stage Atlanta-based founder, apply to pitch to our panel of guest investors/judges for our live pitching competition; the winner gets a free booth at TechCrunch Disrupt this year to exhibit their company in our startup alley. Register here.
Notable reads and other tidbits
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called out Tesla’s Autopilot this week. “There’s a real concern that’s not limited to the technology itself but the interaction between the technology and driver,” he said. In other words, while the tech doesn’t need to be perfect yet, we can’t deny that drivers often have a false sense of security, which can lead to accidents.
Tesla launched FSD Beta in Europe and Australia. It’s a small-scale launch, with one Model S in Belgium and another in Germany getting an update and a Model 3 in Australia receiving the beta software. For those who don’t know, FSD is already available in New Zealand, according to a Tesla salesperson who took me on a test drive the other day.
Moia, Volkswagen’s on-demand ride-pooling company, will use Apex.AI’s operating system to develop their autonomous ride-pool service for the future self-driving “ID. Buzz AD.”
Ever wonder what the policy and regulatory barriers holding back self-driving vehicles are, and how we can remove them? Well, the firm Hatch has 80 pages of answers for you, including over 40 recommendations. Some of those recommendations include a new language for regulators to describe automated vehicles, a proposal for allocation of liability and responsibility among passengers and automated-driving systems and a program for the introduction of automated trucking.
Waymo and Uber have agreed to a multiyear strategic partnership that will see Waymo’s self-driving cars on Uber’s ride-hail and delivery platform, starting in Phoenix later this year.
Electric vehicles, batteries and charging
Australia reached an agreement with the U.S. to develop its critical minerals industry in cooperation with the U.S. The deal paves the way for Aussie suppliers of minerals like lithium, as well as renewable energy, to be treated as domestic suppliers under the U.S. Defense Production Act.
BMW and Meta reached a joint research breakthrough that will allow virtual reality headsets to work in moving cars. Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, says he thinks bringing VR headsets — the most immersive medium ever invented — to cars will kill people.
BMW also extended its partnership with AirConsole to bring gaming to its new 5 Series sedan, which promises an all-electric i5 variant as well as a performance M5 sports sedan. The 5 Series is surprisingly spacious and unsurprisingly luxury filled, including a new digital dashboard and BMW’s so-called hands-free driver-assistance system.
The California Air Resources Board is urging the Biden administration to grant approval for its proposal to ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles in the state by 2035. The Board had already approved its own plan in August, but it still needs a green light from the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce it.
Ford has gone back on its decision to build new vehicles without AM radio after pressure from lawmakers. Many automakers, including Tesla, BMW, and Volkswagen, have said they plan to ditch AM radio because it interferes with electrical engines. So policymakers introduced a bill calling NHTSA to require AM radio in vehicles for public safety reasons. Ford CEO Jim Farley had a chat with some of them and apparently was convinced. Will other automakers follow?
Speaking of Ford, the company revealed details about its next-gen full-sized SUV EV, which CEO Jim Farley referred to as “a personal bullet train.” The new EV platform, which will go into the T3 e-truck and three-row SUV that’ll go into production in 2025, demonstrates a new strategy by Ford to reduce battery pack size while maintaining performance and range.
General Motors plans to unveil an all-electric Cadillac Escalade later this year. GM revealed almost no details about the so-called Escalade IQ, but we’re pretty sure it’ll be built off GM’s next-gen Ultium platform and could feature around a 450-mile range.
Hyundai is partnering with LG Energy to build a $4.3 billion EV battery factory in the U.S. to take advantage of tax credits. This is Hyundai’s second U.S. battery partnership announcement in recent weeks. The automaker is also partnering with SK On.
Tata Motors, owned by Jaguar Land Rover, is reportedly choosing Britain over Spain for its multi-billion-pound electric car battery plant.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk hinted in a joint Twitter Spaces announcement with Ford that the automaker might “open up some of its automotive operating system code to other automakers.”
Uber is launching Uber Green in India, an effort to introduce more EVs to the platform. The company will add 25,000 EVs to its platform in partnership with fleet providers like Lithium, Everest and Moove, and it’ll roll out 10,000 electric two-wheelers in Delhi by 2024 with Zypp Electric.
VinFast issued its first recall for some of its 2023 VF8 vehicles due to a software glitch that caused the dashboard screen to go blank. The dashboard in VinFast’s cars shows critical information like the speedometer or warning lights. The automaker will fix the problem with an OTA update.
Volvo has shared new details on its upcoming EX30 electric SUV, and by new details, we mean promotional images showing a vehicle for ANTS. Volvo claims the vehicle’s carbon footprint is smaller “than any Volvo car ever before.”
In a disappointing turn for labor rights activists, Minnesota governor Tim Walz vetoed a bill that would have guaranteed a minimum wage and other protections for Uber and Lyft drivers.
Candela has revealed its Candela C-8 Polestar edition hydrofoil boat, which the company says combines Polestar’s Scandinavian take on luxury EV design with Candela’s boat tech.
Nvidia will integrate its GPU chiplet into MediaTek’s automotive system-on-chips to jointly deliver a range of in-vehicle AI cabin solutions for software-defined vehicles.
German authorities are investigating a potential data leak by Tesla. The automaker reportedly failed to adequately protect data of customers, employees and business partners, according to local business newspaper Handelsblatt. The paper received 100 gigabytes of confidential leaked data.
Bosch created a new regional board to oversee its mobility business in North and South America, led by Paul Thomas as president of the Americas for Bosch Mobility.
EVR Motors, an Israel-based electric motor company, appointed Nick Rogers to its board. Rogers was a former executive director of product engineering and board member at Jaguar Land Rover.
Kodiak Robotics hired Steve Kenner as its vice president of safety. Kenner has a long career in tech and automotive with stints at Apple, Ford, General Motors and Uber.
Swvl Holdings appointed Ayman Ismail Mohamed Ahmed to its board of directors.
Urban Air Mobility
Vertical Aerospace said South Korean ride-hailing service Kakao Mobility has pre-ordered up to 50 of Vertical’s VX4 aircraft. Recall that last year, Kakao and Vertical joined LG Uplus, Pablo Air, Jeju Air and GS Caltex to participate in South Korea’s K-UAM Grand Challenge to commercialize urban air mobility.