EV SPACs hunt for cash, the SVB fallout continues and a new AV startup emerges
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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.
It's been quite a week. In 48 hours we saw the largest bank run in history with $42 billion withdrawn on March 9, leaving the bank with a negative cash balance of $958 million by the close of business that day. Regulators stepped in March 10 and took control.
TechCrunch has been deep into this story and will continue to be. You can find all of our coverage on the collapse of SVB here.
And yes, it absolutely has affected the transportation sector, specifically the hundreds of startups within the sector. I spoke to some founders who had moved over most or all of their funds; there are others who were not as successful. And then there were a handful who never had their funds in SVB to begin with.
I'm here in Austin for SXSW and the SVB collapse is the talk of the town — well at least among the thousands who are here from the tech sector.
I will be here through Thursday to moderate a couple of panels and check out all things mobility. A number of automakers (Porsche, VW, Mercedes-Benz), startups (where do I begin?) and execs (Cruise co-founder and CEO Kyle Vogt, GM CEO and Chair Mary Barra) are here this week. And I intend to meet up with as many of these folks as possible.
As for my panels, they are scheduled for March 14 and March 15.
The first panel, entitled "Can Collaborations Unlock the Future of Transportation?" will be held at 10 a.m. March 14 in the Austin Convention Center. The panel includes Christoph Acker, project manager of digitization and innovation at Porsche, Up.Labs president Katelyn Foley and Up.Partners co-founder and managing director Ben Marcus. I covered Up.Labs — an entity that's structured like a venture lab with a new kind of financial investment vehicle — when it launched last June with Porsche as the inaugural partner.
We'll dig into the Up.Labs origin story and get a progress report on its relationship with Porsche; we'll also zoom out and get a state of the mobility industry, venture funding for startups and the challenges that automakers face to stay relevant in an increasingly tech-forward and software-defined world.
The second panel, "Welcoming Our Autonomous Overlords" (and no, I had nothing to do with the title) will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 15 in the same room if you can believe it. Aurora co-founder and CPO Sterling Anderson, Rob Reich, an executive VP at Schneider, and Paccar VP and CTO John Rich will join me onstage to talk about trucks and e-commerce, autonomous vehicle tech and jobs. And yeah, probably a lot more. I have questions!
Have questions for the folks above? Want me to check something out while I'm in Austin? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec.
I hope to meet some readers during my stay. And if not, I will debrief y'all here next week.
Reminder that you can drop us a note at email@example.com. If you prefer to remain anonymous, click here to contact us, which includes SecureDrop (instructions here) and various encrypted messaging apps.
Cooltra's e-mopeds are now available to rent on the Cabify app in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia.
Check out the extremely Dutch Convercycle bike. It's an e-cargo bike with an expandable rear that can be folded out completely with no tools and a single movement, creating a loading area for luggage behind the saddle.
Cowboy announced AdaptivePower, a new OTA update that will allow its C4 and C4 ST bikes to automatically change power settings depending on hill, wind and weight. The company also announced new funding at a lower valuation.
Helbiz says it has regained compliance with the Nasdaq's trading requirements...but the company's stock is still trading at $0.14.
Honda patented a new type of airbag for motorcycles that hugs a riders torso, rapidly detaches and inflates during a crash.
Lyft has ended its bikeshare service in Minneapolis.
The team at Micromobility Industries has put together a helpful database of all the known micromobility subsidies in the world to help consumers find financial assistance for their small EV.
Segway unveiled new scooters with a focus on safety features like turn signals and better braking.
Specialized Bicycles has launched a new utility e-bike line, Globe, starring the Haul ST cargo bike, priced at $2,700.
French startup Upway has launched its online marketplace that sells refurbished e-bikes in the U.S.
Xiaomi has unveiled its powerful new 4 Ultra e-scooter.
Uber has revealed some updates to its airport pickup features, including expanded Uber Reserve availability, step-by-step directions from a terminal to your driver and walking ETAs.
Deal of the week
The past few weeks (OK, more like months) there has been a growing sense of ... what's the word? Ah, yes, "desperation" among some companies running low on capital. This hunt for cash is ramping up, particularly for the EV SPACs, which have high costs and in many cases no revenue yet.
Arrival, which went public in 2021 via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, posted preliminary fourth-quarter and full-year earnings reports this past week. The big message I got from the report was that the company was burning through cash and is hoping to secure more soon. Arrival plans to hold a business update March 13 so the company can "potentially finalize a transaction which, if consummated, would provide additional liquidity and further extend its runway.”
Then there is Faraday Future, which also reported earnings. This company, which somehow has managed to survive, said it is ready to start production of its FF 91 Futurist EV at the end of the month. That is, if it receives the remaining funds expected from investors and if suppliers are able to meet its requirements. And company execs indicated plans to raise another $50 million.
CEO Xuefeng Chen said during the company’s earnings call that he was confident the funds would be received. However, its fundraising days are not over. The company’s CFO indicated that Faraday Future is looking to raise at least another $50 million.
And then there is Rivian, which is not a SPAC but is a publicly traded company that is spending lots and lots of money to ramp production of its R1T and R1S vehicles as well as its commercial van. The company said in a filing that it plans to raise $1.3 billion in cash via a sale of convertible notes. Now Rivian is certainly not in the same company as Arrival or Faraday Future. The company ended the year with $11.6 billion in cash and cash equivalents, which gives Rivian a runway of about two years at its current cash burn rate.
There is one other way to preserve cash. And that's to cut costs. GM CEO and Chair Mary Barra is aiming to do exactly that.
In a letter to employees, Barra wrote that as part of the company's plan to reduce structural costs by $2 billion over the next two years it was making buyout offers to 58,000 of its salaried "white collar" workers in the United States. This is a voluntary program. Let's see how many take the offer.
A few other deals that got my attention ...
ClearFlame Engine Technologies, a company that has developed a way for diesel engines to run renewable fuel, raised $30 million in Series B round led by Mercuria Energy Group. Existing investor Breakthrough Energy Ventures as well as new backers Rio Tinto and WIND Ventures, the strategic venture arm of Copec, also participated.
Envisics, a U.K. startup that designs holographic in-car technology that projects navigation, safety alerts and other data on the inside of the windscreen, raised $50 million in funding from a number of strategic backers that includes Hyundai Mobis, InMotion Ventures (the investment arm of Jaguar Land Rover) and Stellantis.
Ghost Autonomy, the Silicon Valley-based automated driving startup, raised about $45.3 million, according to a regulatory filing.
Itselectric, a Brooklyn-based EV curbside charging startup, raised $2.2 million in a pre-seed round led by Brooklyn Bridge Ventures. The Helm, XFactor, Graham & Walker, Clean Energy Venture Group and Pericles also participated.
Volta Trucks, the Swedish EV truck maker, is in advanced discussions to raise as much as €250 million ($263.58 million), Reuters reported.
ZeroNox, an off-highway vehicle electrification company, plans to go public via merger with special purpose acquisition company The Growth for Good Acquisition Corporation. Upon closing, ZeroNox's common stock is expected to trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol "ZNOX".
Notable news and other tidbits
Peer reviewed research from Noah Goodall, entitled "Normalizing crash risk of partially automated vehicles under sparse data," is worth a read.
Bryan Salesky and Pete Rander, the founders of the now-shuttered Argo AI, are officially up to something. Bloomberg beat me to the story I was working on, but there is still a lot unknown, including who its backer(s) are. We do know this is an autonomous vehicle startup, likely related to trucking or logistics. I have heard who the primary backer is but have yet to verify the accuracy. Know something? Reach out to me.
Gatik founder and CEO Gautam Narang was interviewed as part of our ongoing founders series over at TC+.
Teleo, an AV company focused on heavy construction equipment, reached deals to provide 15 remote-operated wheel loaders, bulldozers and dump trucks to construction customers John Aarts Group, Teichert and Tomahawk Construction.
Waymo added iHeart Radio to its robotaxis.
Bird reported earnings and the results are well, interesting. Bird reported revenue of $69.7 million for the fourth quarter of 2022, a big improvement from the $49.5 million reported in the same quarter of 2021. However, that Q4 revenue included $28.8 million of unredeemed preloaded wallet balances collected over the past two years. That means revenue for Q4 is more like $40.9 million — a dip from prior periods. Rebecca Bellan does a deep dive into the earnings and interviews the CEO.
Lordstown reported earnings and -- welp! -- it's not great. The company's net loss widened to $102.3 million from $81.2 million a year earlier. And it only delivered three Endurance pickups to customers during the fourth quarter. The company did report that it had about $221.7 million in cash at the end of 2022.
Electric vehicles, batteries & charging
Mercedes-Benz said its new 2023 EQE SUV, which will be assembled at its factory in Alabama, will have a starting price of $77,900 and will arrive in U.S. dealerships in spring.
Tesla slashed prices of its Model S sedan and Model X SUV in the United States. Speaking of Tesla, federal safety regulators are investigating the company over concerns of steering wheels falling off 2023 Model Y vehicles. Oh but! The company did launch some fresh features on the Model S and Model X, including a new ultra red color, a high-visibility glass roof and round (goodbye yoke) steering wheel.