Tesla rolls into a pressure cooker, Paris mulls its scooter future, and the double SPAC arrives

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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. 

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Top of mind for me this week is Tesla. I know, weird.

But really, it seems that pressure is coming from all sides these days. The company’s decision to slash prices has angered recent buyers (one only need to turn to Twitter to view the ire), shareholders are becoming more vocal about the lagging stock price (it fell more than 64% in the past year) and its facing mounting regulatory pressure over Autopilot and its so-called FSD software beta product that promises full self-driving. To be clear, Tesla vehicles are not self driving. The system is an advanced driver assistance product.

At any rate, these problems keep piling up. How much can the company take?

In the past, Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk have managed to wriggle free of criticism or concerns it was stagnating, often by showcasing a potential future product or hitting ambitious production and delivery goals.

But Tesla narrowly missed its own production and delivery guidance for the year, and Wall Street’s Q4 expectations. And shareholders, consumers and regulators seem to be tiring of this cycle. To me, this is just another indication that Tesla is starting to be viewed (and treated) more as a legacy automaker and not a whiz-bang upstart that can do no wrong.

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Micromobbin’

Rebecca Bellan was out this past week, but I still wanted to share a couple of interesting micromobbin’ stories reported by yours truly and Romain Dillet, who hails from France.

First up is Romain’s article that takes a look at Paris and its looming scooter decision that could upend the micromobility industry there. I recommend you read the entire article. Here’s a small taste.

On March 23rd, the fate of the 15,000 colorful electric scooters that currently spill across the streets of Paris could drastically change as the French capital weighs up whether or not to renew licenses for the three scooter companies currently operating in the city.

Romain gets right to the implications, which stretch far beyond Paris.

And this isn’t just going to impact Dott, Tier and Uber-affiliated Lime — the three companies that have held those licenses since 2020. The decision will set a precedent for the many cities around the world that have also let scooters onto their streets. If things don’t go their way, a negative decision in Paris could have a chilling effect on micromobility startups globally.


Image Credits: Bugatti/Bytech

Next up is a more luxurious, high-performance scooter story. I’m talking about Bugatti, yes Bugatti, and its new electric scooter.

Bugatti, through a partnership with tech accessory company Bytech, launched a $1,200 electric scooter in 2022. The two companies paired up again for a second-generation scooter that is beefier, equipped with new features and colors, and has larger “self-repairing” tires.

The 2023 scooter is 10% larger than its predecessor and is equipped with a 36-volt/15.6Ah battery and an electric motor with a maximum output of 1,000 watts, according to the companies.

That battery and motor combo allows the scooter to handle up to an 18-degree incline, max speed of 22 miles per hour and can cover 35 miles on a single charge, according to the company. (That’s up from the 22-mile range in the previous model.)

No word yet on the pricing for this bigger second-generation model. Perhaps this is one of those “if you have to ask” moments. ;D

See ya next week!

Deal of the week

money the station

We’ve seen lots of SPACs the past two years. but what about a double SPAC? Yes, it has happened.

I’m talking about Wejo, the British automotive data exchange platform that went public in November 2021 after merging with special purpose acquisition company via Virtuoso Acquisition Corp at an implied $800 million valuation.

But what’s this? The company announced January 10 it has now agreed to merge with a SPAC created by private equity firm TKB Capital, in a deal that could raise up $100 million. And that’s money Wejo needs.

It seems that this latest SPAC is the buoy Wejo is using to keep it afloat. It’s not just that Wejo’s share price fell below $1 a share; the company is also burning through cash.

Wejo warned in November it had a $15 million cash balance, which would sustain the company for a “very short period of time.”

Wejo is about two years away from generating life-sustaining-nope-we’re-not-going-to-file-for-bankruptcy revenue. To add a little extra financial drama to the scenario, Wejo also owes Palantir millions of dollars, per an op-ed piece by Chris Bryant in Bloomberg.

This double SPAC is an odd one. I have this nagging feeling that some other failing SPACs will try this same tactic.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

Apollo Future Mobility Group agreed to buy Chinese electric vehicle maker WM Motor Holdings for $2.02 billion. The acquisition must still meet regulatory approvals.

Hystar, a green hydrogen startup based in Norway, raised $26 million in a Series B round co-led AP Ventures and Mitsubishi Corp. Other investors included Nippon Steel Trading, Belgium-based investment company Finindus, Hillhouse Investment, Trustbridge Partners, SINTEF Ventures and Firda.

Ottopia, an Israeli teleoperations company focused on the agriculture, construction, last-mile delivery, logistics and mobility industries, raised $14.5 million in its Series A funding round that attracted public transport giant ComfortDelGro as an investor. Other participants included AI Alliance Fund, MizMaa Ventures, IN Venture and Next Gear Ventures. T

Oxbotica, a startup out of England that develops software to power autonomous vehicles, raised $140 million in a Series C round that included investment from Japan’s Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance Co. and corporate VC ENEOS Innovation Partners. Existing investors BGF, safety equipment group Halma, hospitality and recreation investor Hostplus, Kiko Ventures, the online shopping company Ocado Group, Tencent, Venture Science and automotive component maker ZF also participated.

Tianqi Lithium Corp. agreed to buy Australian lithium explorer Essential Metals Ltd in a A$136 million ($94 million) deal that is estimated to provide enough supply for around 10 million electric vehicles.

Notable reads and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Aurora gives a progress report to FreightWaves.

What next for Pittsburgh’s autonomous vehicle scene?

ADAS

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is apparently “working really fast” on the Tesla Autopilot investigation it opened in August 2021. Speaking of pressure on Tesla, there may be even more coming after The Intercept published videos and photos of an eight-car pile-up on San Francisco’s Bay Bridge caused by a Tesla Model S. The driver claimed “Full Self-Driving” was active at the time of the crash.

Electric vehicles, batteries and charging

Lucid Group produced 7,180 of its luxury Air sedans in 2022, exceeding its previously lowered guidance for the year. Lucid adjusted its guidance last fall, stating it would produce 6,000 to 7,000 vehicles in 2022.

Nikola is officially moving its battery manufacturing from Cypress, California to its Coolidge, Arizona manufacturing facility. The move is expected to be completed early in the third quarter. Manufacturing will continue in Cypress through the second quarter.

Proterra produced its first commercial EV battery at its new factory in Greer, South Carolina. The company is calling the factory “Powered 1,” and believes it will be the largest battery manufacturing facility in the United States dedicated to electric commercial vehicles. 

Tesla plans to invest about $770 million into an expansion of its factory near Austin that includes a die shop, a facility for battery cell testing and another to manufacture cathode and drive units. Tesla indicated it wants to build the new facilities this year.

Zeekr, the premium brand under Geely Holding Co., started serial production of its second model, an electric van called Zeekr 009.

People

Carvana, the online used car dealer, continues to struggle and it’s cutting workers as sales slow and it attempts to manage its $7 billion debt load.

Cruise has Nilka Thomas as its new chief human resources officer. Thomas, who most recently served in a similar position at Lyft, succeeds Arden Hoffman at Cruise. Thomas also spent 13 years at Google leading efforts focused on recruitment, D&I, employee engagement, HR governance and employee relations.

Hyzon Motors, the heavy-duty fuel cell electric vehicle supplier, appointed John Edgley as president of international operations.

Scale AI, the San Francisco–based company that uses software and people to label image, text, voice and video data for companies building machine learning algorithms, laid off 20% of its workforce. The company did not say how many people work at Scale AI. However, back in February 2022, the company told TechCrunch it employed about 450 people.

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