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 was shredding off-road at the Rebelle Rally this week, so I’ll be taking over the newsletter. Let’s jump in with a few words about Tesla.
Ah, but before Rebecca does . . . it’s me, Kirsten, popping in here to share a bit of what I saw and experienced at Rebelle Rally 2023, a 2,120-kilometer off-road and navigation competition. In its eighth year, the Rebelle has become a proving ground of sorts for the 65 all-women teams who participate as well as stock manufacturer vehicles. The catch? GPS and other electronic devices are strictly prohibited.
So what am I checking out at this seemingly non-tech event? EVs and tech, of course. Oh, and green hydrogen, believe it or not.
There were 10 vehicles out of the 65 that fell into the electrified category such as the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe. Four of those vehicles — all of them Rivian R1T pickups — were electric. And this year, one Rivian team took first place in the 4×4 class (there are two classes in the Rebelle) — the first time an all-electric vehicle was on the top podium. The first place finishers, driver Lillian Macaruso and navigator Alexandra Anderson, are both employees of Rivian.
OK, Rebecca, back to you.
Tesla reported its third-quarter earnings this week, and once again, all eyes were on the automaker’s margins amid ongoing price cuts.
Tesla’s shares, which are priced more as a tech stock than as an automaker’s stock, were down after Q3 earnings. Investors were clearly feeling skittish after Tesla reported a gross margin of 17.9%, down from 25.1% in the same period last year. That’s also down from Q2’s margins of 18.2%. As a result, profits fell 44% to $1.85 billion in Q3 from the same year-ago period.
Investors see the falling margins and Tesla’s price cuts as proof that demand is lessening for the vehicles as other EVs take market share and rising interest rates make it difficult for many buyers to afford big ticket purchases. The company also reported that solar deployments slipped 48% in Q3 from the same period last year. But the company made up for it by pulling in a 90% spike in energy storage deployments.
Tesla also gave some updates about its long-delayed Cybertruck. Initial deliveries are set for an event at Giga Texas on November 30. Elon Musk noted that scaling the Cybertruck will be hard and it will take 18 months before the pickup is profitable.
“I mean, we dug our own grave with Cybertruck,” said Musk.
The billionaire executive also said Giga Texas will be able to produce about 250,000 Cybertrucks a year starting in 2025. But let’s remember that Musk isn’t great at making predictions. After all, he initially said the Cybertruck would be on the market by 2021. Expect some of these numbers to be pushed out, too.
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This week was the trade show Micromobility America. Here are some of the best bits that came out of it:
Bird is now doing e-bikes again? But instead of the VanMoof knockoff of previous years, Bird has partnered with TradeHubb, an e-bike supplier, and Spring, a strategic retail growth company, to launch the bike. You might recall that Bird last year ditched its retail bike offering to focus on shared rides in an attempt to reach profitability. The struggling company was also recently delisted from the stock market. Who knows what’s going on behind the scenes? I tried reaching out to learn more, but no response. If you have a tip, hit me up!
The team at Ride Review launched the Rider’s Choice Awards again, for those who want to vote. Winners will be announced January 25.
The folks behind Micromobility America also launched the Electric Rider Alliance, a 501c6 membership organization that is set up to “create a level playing field in the transportation industry for the small electric vehicle ecosystem through standards, lobbying and governance.”
In other news . . .
Bolt Mobility is introducing distance-based pricing for some of its micromobility vehicles. The aim here is to incentivize riders to slow down and ride more safely, rather than racing the clock.
An e-scooter that looks like a Cybertruck? Check out Infinite Machine’s first product, the P1, which is on sale now.
Meet Shane, a two-wheeled EV concept space-pod-looking thing from the creator of the original hoverboard, Shane Chen.
Deal of the week
Kirsten here again! Convoy isn’t a traditional deal of the week, but its collapse sure got my attention.
The digital freight broker told employees this past week it was shutting down due to what executives described as a “massive freight recession.” It turns out that disrupting the freight business is hard.
The abrupt closure, which wiped out investors, comes about 18 months since the Seattle-based company raised $260 million in fresh funding that pushed its valuation to $3.8 billion.
I went back and read an interview TechCrunch conducted with Convoy co-founder and CEO Dan Lewis. A few things he said stuck out, namely what led him to start the company in the first place. The former Amazon and Google executive, who has a background in strategy and management consulting, told TechCrunch that when he was struck by the urge to start a company, he researched the money-attracting industries of the world, and then, using AngelList, saw how many companies were trying to disrupt those industries.
Here’s the nugget:
His search yielded thousands of companies that were working on industries ranging from telecommunications and fashion to video games and food. Billions of dollars were going into trucking each year but fewer than 30 startups showed an interest in the field.
“I saw a massive opportunity and few people going after it,” Lewis told TechCrunch.
And then later, when asked if his method of deciding on a direction for a startup is still a good method, Lewis said, in short, yes. Read the whole interview from May 2022 here.
Other deals that got our attention . . .
Hayden AI, an AI and geospatial analytics company, raised $53 million in a Series B funding round led by the Drawdown Fund. The company’s tech is being used by government agencies to enforce traffic violations that obstruct transit buses and capture data to help increase ridership and improve traffic efficiency.
Laka, a European mobility insurtech company for e-bike riders, acquired Cylantro, a French e-bike insurance broker. The company also announced a €7.6 million round lead by Shift4Good alongside Ponooc, Autotech Ventures, ABN Amro Ventures, Porsche Ventures and others.
Commercial fleet insurance startup Nirvana Insurance has raised a $57 million Series B to expand its big data platform, hire new staff and grow its business in the trucking industry. Lightspeed Venture Partners led the round, with General Catalyst and Valor Equity Partners also participating. The round doubles Nirvana’s valuation to more than $350 million post-money.
Supply chain logistics company Transfix raised a $40 million Series F. The company is backed by New Enterprise Associates, G Squared and Canvas Ventures.
EV charging company Wallbox has acquired the operations and assets of German-based EV charging solutions startup ABL for €15 million. Together the plan is to deploy more than 1 million chargers globally.
Volta Trucks filed for bankruptcy proceedings in Sweden as difficulties with suppliers proved a hindrance to raising funds. Volta said the bankruptcy in August of Proterra, an EV parts supplier, and the uncertainty over its own battery supplier means it needed to cut down the number of trucks it could produce. Volta, which is based in Sweden but has operations in the U.K., also said it would file for bankruptcy in Britain.
Notable reads and other tidbits
Cruise, General Motors and Honda are launching a robotaxi service in Japan under a new joint venture. The service will launch with Origin vehicles in Tokyo in 2026.
Speaking of Cruise, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation into the GM subsidiary’s AV system following several incidents involving pedestrians in San Francisco. The most recent one left a woman stuck under a Cruise robotaxi after being hit by a human-driven vehicle.
Foxconn and Nvidia are building “AI factories” to help accelerate AVs, robotics and other smart applications. The AI factories position the two against Tesla, which is building the Dojo supercomputer to do more or less the same thing — take in vast amounts of data, train it, tweak code and send it back out to self-driving cars.
Waymo released a lightweight simulator called Waymax for the AV research community. The simulator is designed to train multiple agents to perform complex, realistic behaviors.
Electric vehicles, charging & batteries
BMW Group says it will adopt the NACS charging standard in the U.S. and Canada. Drivers of BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce brands will gain access to Tesla Superchargers in early 2025, and in that same year, BMW says it will implement NACS in EVs sold in the U.S. and Canada across those same brands.
Speaking of NACS, global EV charging network ChargePoint has officially opened its AC and DC piles and is now deploying NACS connectors across its network.
General Motors is delaying its $4 billion plan to convert the Orion Assembly plant into an EV truck factory to late 2025 amid softening EV demand and, we’re guessing, the ongoing UAW strike.
Kia has started taking reservations for its EV9 full-sized SUV. Reservations are $750 and can be applied to the purchase of the company. This is one of the first vehicles Kia has allowed customers to reserve in advance.
Lucid missed Wall Street delivery estimates in the third quarter by about 500 vehicles. The automaker delivered 1,457 of its luxury Air sedans, reporting flat growth year-over-year. The results sent shares down as investors worried about softening demand for Lucid’s only EV.
California-based EV startup Pebble unveiled a prototype of its flagship all-electric travel trailer. The $100,000 EV is designed to support a digital nomad looking to get lost in the wilderness — it can live off-grid for seven days.
Commercial EV startup REE Automotive has reported an order book that now totals $25 million for its modular battery EV platforms, dedicated to B2B customers.
About 10,000 of Rivian’s all-electric vans are delivering packages throughout the U.S. for Amazon.
Tesla has urged the Biden administration to adopt stricter fuel economy standards than the NHTSA has proposed. Most other automakers have already said the NHTSA’s proposal was unfeasible, so Tesla’s call on regulators to double down seems to be yet another way the EV maker can one-up its competitors.
Toyota has also joined the NACS bandwagon. The automaker will build certain Toyota and Lexus vehicles from 2025 onward with an NACS port.
Future of flight
EVTOL company Archer Aviation plans to start air taxi operations in Abu Dhabi in 2026. From there, Archer says it will expand across the UAE as part of a memorandum of understanding with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office.
The United Auto Workers strike is affecting CES. Stellantis canceled its planned presentations for the tech trade show in January, citing the cost of ongoing UAW strikes.
Zipcar is getting hit with a fine from the NHTSA for “renting vehicles with open, unrepaired recalls.” One recall concerns 2015–2017 Ford Transit Vans, which continued to appear on Zipcar’s platform despite safety issues with the vehicles.
Autobrains hired Uri Yacovy, a former SVP at Mobileye, as its chief operating officer.
Logistics company Flexport is laying off 20% of workers, or about 600 people, topping off a spate of staff upheavals at the company.