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.
Rebecca Bellan here, and yup, I’m still steering the ship.
The biggest news this week has been Elon Musk’s visit to China, a move that has the potential to strengthen Tesla’s ties with the world’s largest auto market. It’s Musk’s first visit since the COVID-19 pandemic, and his commitment to China isn’t surprising given how much China’s vehicle sales carry the automaker’s global sales. In Q1, China accounted for over half of Tesla’s deliveries.
Even though Twitter is banned in China, Musk has still managed to make himself something of a legend to the Chinese people, reports Rita. The CEO has over 2 million followers on Weibo, where Musk shares his admiration for China, his opposition to cutting off supply chains and his plans to expand his business in China.
“The China space program is far more advanced than most people realize,” wrote Musk on Weibo.
His sweet-talking has earned him the nickname “Iron Man.”
The pieces of Musk’s visit to China are still falling, and we’ll keep updating, but here’s what we know so far. Musk kicked off his trip by dining with Zeng Yuqun, chairman of CATL, one of the largest battery manufacturing companies. There have been talks lately of CATL and Tesla partnering to build cheaper batteries in the U.S., but there’s nothing solid yet.
Musk also paid a visit to the Shanghai Gigafactory, where he met the staff behind Tesla’s popular Model 3 and Model Y.
We’re keeping our eyes out for more news of Musk’s happenings in China. And with that, onto the rest!
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Cake is expanding into India via a partnership with Pepfuels under the brand name CollarEV.
Cowboy is being sued by eBikeLabs, a French startup that builds embedded software for e-bikes, for patent infringement and copying eBikeLabs’ tech in its latest feature, AdaptivePower. Cowboy has refuted the claims and accused eBikeLabs of running a smear campaign. As Romain Dillet reports, “This is a messy story about a business relationship that fell apart between a small startup that doesn’t have deep pockets and a popular consumer brand that wants to protect its reputation.”
Zoomo will start offering Urban Arrow’s electric cargo bikes on its e-bike subscription platform.
Residents of Santa Barbara can check out e-bikes on a weekly basis from a new e-bike lending library.
Honda filed patents for two new moped-style electric scooters called Dax:e and Zoomer:e. Both are poised to enter the Indian market.
Zeus launched a solar panel charging pilot program in Regensburg, Germany. Under the pilot, scooters parked at the company’s three “Zolar stations” will get a charge from the sun. Maybe they should be called Helios stations, amiright?!
Porsche has launched two new e-bike cross-performance models that look like they can absolutely shred mountains.
City Spotlight: Atlanta
On June 7, TechCrunch is going to (virtually) be in Atlanta. We have a slate of amazing programming planned, including the mayor himself, Andre Dickens. 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 to tune in to the event.
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin (opens in a new window)
Deal of the week
Lucid Group plans to raise $3 billion through a stock offering, the majority of which will come from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). PIF already owns more than 60% of the company, and it’s agreed to buy 265.7 million shares in a private placement for about $1.8 billion, which suggests a price of about $6.80 per share. The rest will be raised from a public offering of 173.5 million shares of common stock, according to the company.
Shares immediately dropped 9% after-hours on the news as investors considered how much more money Lucid would need to surmount its rising losses and diminishing available capital. And all of this amid a looming recession, a Tesla-sparked price war, and the aftertaste of large-scale layoffs in March.
Sure, Lucid can bring in more cash, but the company really needs to cure its spending problem. In the first quarter, Lucid’s cash and cash equivalents dropped to $900 million, down from $1.74 billion at the end of Q4 2022.
Other deals that got my attention this week …
Boeing has fully acquired eVTOL startup Wisk Aero. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Boeing already owned part of Wisk and had committed $450 million in capital back in January.
A British consortium that includes mining company Glencore will invest $9 billion in Indonesia’s mining and EV battery sectors. Indonesia has the world’s biggest nickel reserves.
General Motors and South Korea’s Posco Chemical are getting C$150 million from Canada’s federal government and Quebec to build a battery materials facility. The companies aim to have the C$600 million project up and running by 2025.
Loewi, a Paris-based e-bike refurbishment startup, raised €1 million in funding to help it reach 300 refurbishments per month and expand globally.
Ola Electric, an Indian manufacturer of electric two-wheelers, is said to be preparing for an initial public offering before the year’s end. The company achieved a valuation of $5 billion during its most recent fundraising round in 2022.
Notable reads and other tidbits
A California bill that would require a trained human safety operator to be present anytime a heavy-duty autonomous vehicle operates on public roads passed the state’s Assembly floor. It’ll go to the Senate now and, if passed, to the governor’s desk. The AV industry argues the bill stifles California’s competitiveness and defeats the whole purpose of self-driving trucks. The bill’s authors are concerned about safety on highways and job security for truckers.
Cruise is expanding hours of operation in San Francisco for certain riders who have access to its free service. For some, rides will start at 9 p.m. and go until 5:30 a.m.
Einride announced a partnership with the UAE Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure to deploy 2,000 EVs, 200 autonomous vehicles, eight charging stations and Einride’s SaaS product Saga across 550 km of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. The partnership is expected to play out over the next five years. Einride did not share the financial terms.
Serve Robotics and Uber have expanded their existing partnership. Over the next couple of years, about 2,000 of Serve’s little autonomous sidewalk delivery robots will deliver food via the Uber Eats platform in multiple markets across the U.S.
Electric vehicles, batteries and charging
Arcimoto unveiled its new tiny, three-wheeled flatbed truck called the MUV. It has a customizable rear storage space, top speed of 75 mph, and about 102 miles of city range. The MUV is available now for $23,500, and Arcimoto is aiming to sell fleets.
Select 2024 Audi and other VW Group cars will have Webex available to download from the automaker’s in-app car store. Webex is also available on the 2024 Mercedes-Benz E-Class and in Ford vehicles.
Fiat’s new Topolino tiny EV is so cute we could scream. The remade Citroen Ami is a retro-looking quadricycle with a convertible top and ropes instead of doors, and aside from a teaser image, that’s really all we know about it. It probably won’t go any faster than the Ami, which hits around 28 mph, so it’ll be a no-go for the States. Which is sad because, again, it’s super cute and better for the environment and urban landscapes than an electric Hummer.
Ford’s CEO Jim Farley said the automaker might not break even on its EVs until 2030.
Geely is preparing to enter Thailand’s electric vehicle market.
The 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV is a practical, luxurious car with top-notch tech in the form of a Hyperscreen and a handful of driver-assist features. It’s great for tech-forward families who like the finer things in life and plenty of space. Only downside? The exterior is a bit meh. As Tim Stevens describes it, “The result is a bit of a blob that absolutely disappears into any parking lot.”
Polestar’s latest software update includes YouTube. Like other similar iterations, users can stream video while stopped, like if they’re waiting for a pickup or charging their vehicles. The Polestar 2 software update also includes an updated version of Apple CarPlay that lets you project Apple Maps onto the instrument cluster.
Rivian has teased its smaller, lower-cost R2 SUV design over the Memorial Day weekend during an Instagram Q&A. CEO RJ Scaringe stood in front of a clay model of an R2 covered with a black cloth, outlining a boxy-looking compact vehicle.
Tesla says all of its Model 3 sedans now qualify for the full $7,500 EV tax credit.
Toyota has committed another $2.1 billion to its battery factory in North Carolina. The automaker also said its first U.S.-made electric SUV will be built at its Kentucky factory.
Volkswagen has finally debuted its U.S. version of the Volkswagen ID.Buzz minivan after years of teasing. The specs on the U.S. van are, unsurprisingly, much bigger than the European bus. The whole feel of it is retro-meets-cool, and indeed, we have ourselves asking, Can VW make minivans cool? Once factoring in the nostalgia aspect, the answer is undoubtedly yes. And VW will need that as it coasts into EV-land.
Volvo revealed some details about the interior of its new EX30. From what we can tell, that good old Scandinavian design is really pulling through to optimize space in the small SUV.
Attending Apple’s WWDC this month? Check out this new website from flight tracking tool Flighty to find others who are traveling to the event and connect with them, maybe even en route!
Delta Air Lines is being sued in a class action lawsuit for allegedly greenwashing. The company made a $1 billion pledge in 2020 to become carbon neutral, but the plan relied on carbon credits to offset the airline’s pollution.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a new rule that would require all new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. to be equipped with automatic emergency braking systems.
Tesla has been given the all-clear by NHTSA after the agency closed an investigation into Tesla for allowing in-dash gaming while its vehicles were moving.
Bored of the standard navigation voice on Waze? Now you can have Roger Federer give you turn-by-turn directions, because why not?
Wingcopter and Siemens have signed an MoU to develop and roll out an integrated drone delivery solution to transport lab diagnostics and other medical supplies in Africa.
Ford launched a new pilot called Ford Drive that will give Uber drivers in San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles access to flexible leases on Mustang Mach-Es.
Revel is diversifying its all-Tesla ride-share fleet with about 50 Kia Niro EVs.
Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other app-based ride-hail and delivery companies will have to reimburse California gig workers potentially millions of dollars for unpaid vehicle expenses between 2022 and 2023. The backpay comes from a provision in Prop 22 that gives low-earning drivers a vehicle reimbursement fee of $0.30 per active mile driven. That fee was meant to increase with the rate of inflation, but for the past year and a half, it has remained stagnant.
Uber is dropping the 5% discounts on rides that it used to offer members of its Uber One subscription service. Instead, riders can now earn 6% Uber Cash on rides that can be spent on more Uber stuff. It’s a bold move, and one that might see the instant gratification seekers among us ditch their memberships. But if it works out for Uber, the company might see even more spend coming from its subscribers.
* A previous newsletter inadvertently had some missing words in the following write-up. Here is the complete sentence. QuantumScape, the solid-state battery company, is (sort of) pivoting. The company said it is planning to focus more on the consumer-electronics sector in an effort to bring in the capital it needs to commercialize automotive-grade cells.