April 20, 2024

An autoworkers strike trifecta and another speed bump for Cruise and Waymo

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 will be at the center of the startup universe this next week. Where is that, you say? Disrupt 2023 in San Francisco, of course. I hope to see y’all there!

A history-making moment occurred Thursday night when the United Auto Workers decided to strike against all three big U.S. automakers — GM, Ford and North America’s Stellantis (known as Chrysler) — after both sides failed to reach a deal.

Workers didn’t strike all facilities at once, instead picketing at targeted locations for now. This is a fluid situation and there has already been some repercussions. GM said it expects to idle its Fairfax Assembly plant in Kansas because of a shortage of stampings made at the Missouri factory where workers are striking. Ford also issued temporary layoffs to 600 workers at its Michigan Assembly plant near Detroit.


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Micromobbin’

Lime once again touted its ability to turn a profit in the unforgiving scooter game this week, and once again I wished the company would show me its balance sheets so I could back up those claims.

And perhaps soon I will be able to peer behind the curtain. Along with the news that Lime had reached an impressive adjusted EBITDA profitability of $27 million in H1 2023 ($20.6 million unadjusted) and is on the path toward free cash flow positivity in 2023, Lime said that it’s finally, actually considering going public.

Lime has been teasing plans to go public for years, but market forces like a pandemic and an economic downturn have thwarted the company’s path. Now it looks like the market mood is lifting, with plenty of other startups looking to IPO in 2023 and beyond.

“If the market reacts well, and as more companies come out [with IPOs], we have the economics, the growth, the profitability to take Lime public hopefully as soon as the market permits,” CEO Wayne Ting told TechCrunch.

In other news . . . 

Germany appears to be mulling over whether it wants scooters on its streets — just a couple of weeks after the Paris ban on shared e-scooters went into effect.

Honda has a new e-scooter called the Motocompacto, which has an aesthetic that managing editor Darrell Etherington describes as “irresistibly, heartbreakingly dorky and adorable.”

NYC voted to establish a trade-in program that will make it easier for New Yorkers to swap their e-bikes and lithium-ion batteries made with aftermarket parts for ones that meet industry safety standards, either for free or at a low cost.

Deal of the week

money the station

Battery companies continue to land absolutely bonkers amounts of money from investors and governments.

Take Verkor, the Renault-backed French battery company that produces pouch and cylindrical battery modules for electric vehicles and energy-storage sites. The company said it secured “more than €2 billion” ($2.1 billion) to speed up construction of its Dunkirk gigafactory. Yeah, you read that right.

The huge sum includes an €850 million Series C funding round as well as €600 million in loans from the EU’s European Investment Bank. The $2.15 billion figure also counts €650 million in yet-to-be-approved French subsides, pending a final OK from the European Commission. Macquarie, French infrastructure investor Meridiam and Renault participated in the Series C round.

As TechCrunch reporter Harri Weber notes, this eye-popping round follows other sizable raises from battery startups, including Lyten, which announced this week that its raised $200 million in a Series B round. That round was led by Prime Movers Labs, a venture firm from OpenGov co-founder Dakin Sloss, and included investments from Stellantis, FedEx and Honeywell.

Other deals that got my attention . . . 

Dance, the German startup that offers electric bikes and mopeds via subscription packages, added a handful of investors to top up its recent €12 million funding round and said it now has 10,000 active and paying members.

Evolectric, a Long Beach, California–based EV tech company, raised $15 million from Seismic Capital.

Kolors, a Mexico City–based startup that connects intercity bus riders with bus drivers, acquired B2B van pooling provider Urbvan for $12 million cash.

Revel, the car subscription startup from Spain, raised €115 million ($123 million). The funding is a combination of debt and equity: €100 million is structured financing earmarked to build out the car network, and €15 million is equity invested in the business itself. Investors include KKR, Santander Consumer Finance and others that are not being named.

Turo, the peer-to-peer car-sharing company, maybe just maybe is getting ready for the IPO roadshow, if its latest filing is any indication and if a report from Bloomberg citing unnamed sources is to be believed. But don’t hold your breath. We’ve been here before. The company first filed its S-1 (intentions to go public) in January 2022, and it repeatedly put a pin in those plans as it awaited better economic conditions. Is now the time?

Notable reads and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

The California Senate passed a bill that requires a trained human safety operator to be present any time a self-driving, heavy-duty vehicle operates on public roads in the state — effectively banning driverless AV trucks. The bill, AB 316, is now sitting on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk.

Cruise revealed a prototype of a custom-built, wheelchair-accessible, self-driving robotaxi and said that closed-course testing of the driverless vehicle would begin in October. The vehicle, called the Cruise WAV, is the result of three years of product design, development and testing by Cruise and GM, along with its partners on the project BraunAbility and Q’Straint.

San Francisco formally requested that state regulators redo an August hearing that expanded robotaxi permits for Cruise and Waymo.

Electric vehicles, charging & batteries

Canoo is, welp, not doing great over in the land of public markets. A filing on Friday shows the company has requested a transfer to Nasdaq Capital Market, a tier for early-stage companies with low market capitalizations. Why? Canoo has been faced with delisting because its stock price is so low.

The new Elon Musk biography by Walter Isaacson contained lots of Tesla tidbits, including an image of a two-door, two-seater “Cybertruck-like” compact robotaxi concept.

The European Commission is considering imposing punitive tariffs to protect European Union automakers against cheaper Chinese electric vehicle imports, which the agency says benefits from state subsidies.

Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe discussed in an interview at the Morgan Stanley Laguna Conference how a hardware upgrade in its R1 vehicles — improvements that will be rolled out next year — will reduce costs. One of the biggest payoffs will come from overhauling the electronic control unit architecture.

Tesla is planning to nearly double its component sourcing from India to up to $1.9 billion this year, according to the nation’s trade minister.

Gig economy

Lyft rolled out a new feature in five U.S. cities, including Chicago and San Francisco, that lets women and nonbinary drivers set a preference for picking up only women riders. The preference feature, called Women+ Connect, could help Lyft attract more women drivers to the app, which today stands at about 23%.

In-car tech

Google announced that vehicles with Google built-in, starting with Polestar 2 and select Volvo cars, will now have Amazon Prime video. The company also rolled out new apps on its Android Auto product, including Zoom and Webex by Cisco for audio-only conference calls.

Grab your pass to TC Disrupt 2023

We’re covering all things sustainable mobility at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, taking place in San Francisco on September 19–21. Last-minute passes are still available. Save 15% with code STATION. Register now!

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