VanMoof skids off track, another mobility startup goes SPAC and e-bike batteries catch fire
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. Your usual host Kirsten Korosec is off having a glorious vacation, so I will be doing the roundup this week.
As the EV revolution takes hold, one problem keeps plaguing automakers: Batteries are heavy, and heavy means less efficient. As a result, billions of dollars are being poured into research for cheaper, lighter, more efficient and safer batteries. The potential answer? Solid-state batteries.
In TechCrunch this week, Haje Jan Kamps detailed the major players in the quest for solid-state batteries, from startups to legacy automakers and everything in between.
Before we jump into the news of the week, a bit of housekeeping. We put out a first look at our agenda for TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, taking place September 19–21 in San Francisco, where we will have a dedicated Sustainability Stage.
On this stage, we’ll cover the challenges for startups seeking to raise capital, explore how cities are turning to innovation to adapt to and mitigate climate change, and learn where there’s been progress and opportunities in the worlds of fast fashion, energy and agriculture.
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It’s been a week for VanMoof, the e-bike darling that appears to be going under. After noticing that VanMoof had stopped taking orders on its website, TC started the week with this scoop that details the departure of senior staff, including the CEO; a pause in orders; and a question of whether the company will survive.
A day later, VanMoof came out with its application for an official suspension of payment provision after it ran out of money. The application isn’t technically filing for bankruptcy, but it’s close. The company shut down pretty much all operations as it entered a cooling down period.
But what does that mean for the thousands of e-bikes out there that are entirely controlled by VanMoof’s app?! We’re glad you asked. An unlikely white knight, Belgian competitor Cowboy, came to the rescue with a new app called “Bikey” that will enable VanMoof riders to generate their unique digital key and keep riding.
E-bike rebates are stupidly popular in cities and states where they exist, so why aren’t governments doing more to back a mobility innovation that boosts health, protects the environment, relieves traffic flow and improves urban quality of life? (Pssst, Minnesota just announced an e-bike rebate for next year, so hopefully it’s catching.)
Battery fires in e-bikes have been rising, plaguing New York City in particular. Check out this deep dive into the issue, which will tell you everything you need to know about the lithium-ion battery fires — why they happen, how to stay safe, and what your government is doing to help.
I also looked into the unique problem of NYC delivery workers being disproportionately at risk of e-bike fires, and I asked whether gig companies like Uber, DoorDash, Grubhub Relay have a responsibility to help solve the problem.
Rad Power Bikes has given up on Europe and will focus on its U.S. market.
Want a one-stop shop for all micromobility vehicle reviews? Check out the aptly named Ride Review, from the team over at Micromobility Industries.
Voi and Swobbee have teamed up to bring battery-swapping stations to Hamburg.
Deal of the week
We’ve got another mobility SPAC on our hands.🍿
Marti Technologies became the first Turkish company to go public on the New York Stock Exchange this week after merging with Galata Acquisition Corp., giving the combined company a post-money valuation of $549 million. Marti expects to receive proceeds from the $62 million convertible note PIPE commitments, plus assumed incremental PIPE commitments of up to $88 million to be raised post-announcement.
Marti claims to be Turkey’s first transportation super app. The company offers a mixture of ride-hailing and shared micromobility, similar to Bolt in Europe, and says it has a 59% market share in Turkey.
The company’s stock immediately began to fall once it hit the market Tuesday. Marti opened at $8.69 per share, its high for the day, and dropped as low as $5.03 per share. By market close Friday, Marti was trading for $2.
Perhaps the market is reacting to Marti’s method of going public. The Turkish company isn’t the first SPAC to see its share price plummet immediately. We have trouble summoning up a single transportation SPAC that is doing well today and not at risk of being delisted from the stock market or bankrupted.
A quick look at Marti’s financials show that the company pulled in $25 million in revenue in 2022, a 45% increase from 2021. However, that’s on top of a net loss of $29 million. In 2023, Marti expects to just break even on revenue and expenses, but only after factoring in the PIPE money, according to Marti’s investor deck.
Other deals that got my attention…
Indian two- and three-wheeled EV battery-swapping startup Battery Smart raised $33 million in a pre-Series B round from Tiger Global, Blume Ventures, the Ecosystem Integrity Fund and British International Investment.
Bedrock, a developer of autonomous underwater vehicles for mapping coastal areas, raised $25.5 million. The round was co-led by Northzone and Primary Venture Partners.
Black Sesame, a Chinese auto chip maker and Nvidia rival, filed to go public in Hong Kong a couple weeks ago. Rita Liao dug into the company’s filing and found that Black Sesame’s revenue tripled between 2020 and 2022 to $7.33 million, but its losses ballooned to $140 million in 2022, a more than 200% increase from 2020.
California-based EV maker Fisker plans to sell $340 million in convertible debt to support corporate operations and add a battery pack line to support growth in 2024 and beyond. The company hopes to secure net proceeds of $296.7 million from the sale.
RideTandem, a U.K.-based MaaS startup, has raised £2.3 million in new funding in a round led by Blackfinch Ventures.
Rocsys, a Dutch startup that wants to automate EV charging, raised a $36 million Series A. The round was led by SEB Greentech Venture Capital, with participation from Graduate Entrepreneur, the European Investment Bank.
Surf Air Mobility, an electric aircraft carrier, is expected to go public on the NYSE this week via a direct listing, after previously considering a SPAC. The company raised nearly $100 million from Anthem Venture Partners and ff Venture Capital.
Swiggy, an Indian food delivery startup with a $10.7 billion valuation, will buy Indian retail logistics startup LYNK.
Notable reads and other tidbits
Ford dropped its BlueCruise 1.3 ADAS this week, and we explored the company’s strategy to iterate on new software regularly so that it can ensure that drivers keep their hands off the wheel for as long as possible.
Chinese automaker Nio has launched its Navigate on Pilot (NOP ) ADAS in Beijing.
EVTOLs are coming to the U.S., and the industry is pushing cities to ready their infrastructure. The vehicles are being hailed as the next thing in ride-hailing, but they’ll likely find a use case in aiding law enforcement and firefighting, as well as providing emergency medical and freight transportation.
A California bill that would require all autonomous trucks operating on public roads to have a human safety driver behind the wheel passed the state Senate. This as the DMV pushes doggedly ahead in its rule-making workshop for regulating AV trucks.
The California Public Utilities Commission pushed back a hearing for the second time that would approve the expansion of Cruise and Waymo robotaxis in San Francisco. The delay comes as residents, city agencies, taxi drivers and safe streets advocates have pushed back on the expansion, which would give the companies permission to operate fully autonomously in all parts of the city 24/7.
Waymo and Cruise have gone on the offensive, each putting out campaigns that paint human drivers as the real problem. Waymo published a blog post with a study showing how drivers speed too much, and Cruise put out full-page ads in major newspapers that say, “Humans are terrible drivers.”
NHTSA is expected to publish a notice of proposed rule-making on automated driving systems this fall, which may result in an increase in the number of driverless vehicles allowed to drive on U.S. roads.
Canoo has delivered three “specially designed” EVs to NASA that will shuttle the Artemis crew and equipment to a launchpad at JFK Space Center in Florida.
Ford appears to have built too many Mustang Mach-Es. Thousands are sitting on lots across the country, and dealers can’t move them.
Michigan has been a hub of EV manufacturing, but now the state has a NIMBY problem as some residents don’t want to see large factories sprouting up in their backyards.
Europe and the U.K. passed two big laws that make EV charging a lot easier. The EU will mandate 400 to 600 kW charging every 60 kilometers, and the U.K. will mandate a 99% charging station reliability.
Kia will invest $200 million in its Georgia factory so it can begin production of its three-row EV9 SUV there next year.
Tesla said the $7,500 federal tax credits for its Model 3 and Model Y EVs are likely to be reduced after December 31. The automaker didn’t say why, but it could have something to do with stricter battery and critical minerals requirements going into effect next year.
Tesla is also reportedly thinking about investing in India to set up an EV factory and use the country as an export base to ship cars to countries in the Indo-Pacific region. CEO Elon Musk, who has been on a bit of a world tour courting leaders around the globe, has said nothing on the matter, so take it with a grain of salt.
Texas has delayed voting on grants of federal funds to build EV chargers with Tesla’s charging standard amid pushback from the charging industry.
Lucid Motors’ stock tanked 12% after the company missed Wall Street delivery expectations. Lucid delivered 1,404 Air sedans in the second quarter, short about 600 from analysts’ expectations. The startup also built fewer vehicles in Q2 than in Q1.
Bosch will invest around $2.8 billion in hydrogen fuel cell technology until 2026 and expects to bring in roughly 5 billion in sales from it by 2030.
Car-sharing revenue could be a first step to mainstream adoption of web3 in the enterprise.
Elon Musk, notorious billionaire couch-surfer, wants a house that looks like an Apple store. At least, that’s what an internal Tesla probe — which is investigating whether the CEO embezzled Tesla money for materials to build himself a glass house — has found. Real talk, though, maybe Musk needs a glass house to stop himself from throwing stones.
General Motors is ditching Apple’s CarPlay, instead focusing on building cars with Google built in, and dealers are concerned.
Struggling British commercial EV-maker Arrival has lost a board member. Kristen O’Hara served on the board’s compensation committee and as chair of the nominating and corporate governance committee for the last two years and handed in her resignation July 5.
Joby Aviation brought on Claire Boland as sustainability lead. Claire previously held ESG and life cycle assessment roles at PepsiCo and PVH Corp.
India’s Motive, formerly KeepTruckin’, laid off 6% of its workforce.
Trucks VC welcomes Puneeth Meruva as a new partner. Meruva started his tenure at Trucks VC as an intern while studying at MIT.
Uber CFO Nelson Chai is reportedly planning to leave the company.
Beep beep! TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, taking place in San Francisco on September 19–21, is where you’ll get the inside scoop on the future of mobility. Come and hear from today’s leading mobility entrepreneurs on what it takes to build and innovate for a more sustainable future. Save up to $600 when you buy your pass now through August 11, and save 15% on top of that with promo code STATION. Learn more.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.