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This past week, I drove a 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4XE Summit 4×4 (a press vehicle courtesy of Jeep) to Moab, Utah ahead of the Easter Jeep Safari event to check out what the Stellantis brand has been working on.
Jeep, which hosts media in March every year for its annual off-roading and concept roadshow, put electrification front and center. While the seven concept vehicles (all of which I drove) were equipped with an array of powertrains, it was hard to ignore the variety of plug-in hybrid and battery-electric setups.
There were some fun internal combustion-powered vehicles, like the Jeep Scrambler 392 concept equipped with a 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 engine that’s inspired by the 1981 Jeep Scrambler (CJ-8). And one neat electrified throwback — a resto-modded Jeep Cherokee 4xe concept that gives homage to the two-door 1978 Jeep Cherokee SJ. But I spent most of my time learning about Magneto 3.0., its third and last all-electric concept.
Why do I care so much about a concept? I was looking for clues for what might end up in the Jeep Recon and Wagoneer S, the first fully electric Jeeps for the U.S. market when they enter production in 2024. Now, it’s unlikely that the Jeep Recon will debut with 40-inch tires or a manual transmission — two features in the Magneto 3.0.
But I was intrigued by why Jeep continued to put a manual transmission in all three versions of the Magneto. I was told that Jeep used this unusual hybrid six-speed manual transmission — you don’t need to use the clutch as you set off, just if you want to change gears while underway — in order to harness the 650 horsepower and 900 pound-feet of torque.
When I asked if Jeep engineers have figured out how to achieve performance, power, torque AND control without this hybrid manual transmission, I was told YES. Which means it’s doubtful the manual will make it into production. However, I do expect more selective controls designed to leverage the benefits of an all-electric off roader.
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Aidea’s AA Cargo a4 is a cross between an e-moped and a pickup truck, complete with space in the back to haul cargo and a windscreen/roof that keeps away probably most of the rain. It recently got approval for use in commercial settings in Japan.
BMW’s first Mini electric bike will be developed with Angell Mobility in France and hopefully available to consumers between this year and next. By the way, here is a list of all the automakers that are making e-bikes now.
We’re living in the golden age of electric cargo bikes.
Fluctuo published a report for shared micromobility in Europe, which found there were 850,000 vehicles that clocked up 550 million trips and generated €3.1 billion ($3.37B) in end user revenue.
Gogoro is doubling down on that B2B push. The company announced a partnership with Zomato, a food ordering and delivery platform, in India and Kotak Mahindra Prime Limited to help delivery drivers get more favorable loan terms for buying e-mopeds.
Mark your calendars! Our friends over at Micromobility Industries have set a date for their Micromobility America conference: October 19-20 in San Francisco. Register now for super early bird prices.
Keep an eye out in the next day for my review of the Niu KQi3 Max e-scooter. It’s a fun, zippy ride with plenty of power for tackling big hills, but I found it to be not super stable and far too heavy to be convenient when it comes to taking it on public transit or going up and down stairs.
All eyes are on Paris which is holding a referendum Sunday on whether or not to ban shared e-scooters. Ahead of that, the French government unveiled a new regulatory plan for e-scooters that increases the age limit to ride from 12 to 14 and hikes fines for riding with another person from €35 to €135. The rules apply to both privately owned scooters and free-floating ones available to rent via apps.
Deal of the week
I’m highlighting this “deal” to note the absolute kookiness of it that feels like desperation.
I’m talking about shared micromobility company Helbiz, which announced a rebranding and a reverse stock split in an attempt to get back into compliance with the Nasdaq. Reminder, the company was issued a delisting notice last July because its stock was trading too low.
Helbiz is now known as Micromobility.com Inc., an effort to position itself as a micromobility brand that offers retail, rentals, shared micromobility, and *checks notes* sports streaming services. Fun fact: the domain for Micromobility.com was purchased from Bolt, the scooter sharing company that disappeared without a trace last year.
The rebrand comes alongside the launch of a new brick-and-mortar retail business, which will include the setting up of physical stores across the U.S., starting with its first store in SoHo, New York City in the next 60 days. There’s also an e-commerce site up today, featuring a small selection of e-scooters, e-bikes, helmets and water bottles.
Reporter Rebecca Bellan was unable to reach the company for comment. And she has a lot of questions, including, how the company is paying for even one brick-and-mortar store with the meager cash it had in the bank at the end of 2022?
Other deals that got my attention …
Cabify, a Madrid-based platform that competes against Uber in Spain and Latin America, said it raised $110 million in funding. While know that the funding is a mix of equity and debt, we don’t know the exact amount of new funding. The $110 million also includes a €40 million loan ($43.8 million) from the European Investment Bank actually announced in December 2022, and it also includes the proceeds of a funding round of an unconfirmed amount that Cabify secured in July 2022.
The equity comes from Orilla Asset Management (the family office for Francisco Riberas, a major shareholders of Spanish automotive manufacturing giant Gestamp), financial services giant AXIS and others that are not being named.
Dunzo, an Indian hyperlocal delivery startup, is in late-stage discussions to secure about $50 million in a new financing round, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.
Northvolt, the Swedish battery developer and manufacturer, is reportedly in talks to raise up to $5 billion in new funding.
P97, a Houston startup that partners with fuel brands, gas station retailers, EV charging companies, mobile wallet providers and connected car OS makers to make it easier to select and pay for fuel, raised $40 million in equity funding. Portage, a firm known for making fintech investments, led the round, with other investors undisclosed.
Scandinavian Enviro Systems and Antin Infrastructure Partners are forming a joint venture backed by Michelin to create the world’s first large-scale tire recycling group. The initial investment in the JV will be funded by Antin’s NextGen platform, which will be the majority owner of the venture.
Venti Technologies, an autonomous vehicle technology company focused on logistics and industrial applications, raised $28.8 million in a Series A led by LG Technology Ventures, the VC arm of the LG Group. Safar Partners, UOB Venture Management, and previous investors Alpha JWC and LDV Partners also participated. The company said the funds will be used to continue to build its software, partner with third parties for hardware (that is, vehicles) and to secure more deals.
Notable reads and other tidbits
Bill Gates wrote up some thoughts about where AV tech is headed. His blog also highlights a recent robotaxi ride he took with Wayve, a British AV company that has raised $258 million from backers that includes Microsoft.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed HB 1003, a bill that establishes a legal framework for autonomous vehicles (AVs) to test and deploy in the state.
Oxbotica is partnering with Google Cloud and will use its products like compute, storage, network, data and analytics to help develop, test, validate, and verify its self-driving technology. It will also leverage Google Cloud’s cyber-security technologies to help ensure secure use of autonomous mobility technology.
Waymo has taken its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan out of service as it transitions its fleet to the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace vehicles equipped with its fifth-generation self-driving system. I wrote up a little historical feature on the vehicle, which was the company’s first commercialized autonomous vehicle.
Meanwhile, Waymo also said it is testing its fifth generation driver in Austin, Texas. The company didn’t confirm that Austin would be its next commercial launch, but it would make sense if Waymo is trying to keep up with Cruise.
Electric vehicles, charging & batteries
Canoo agreed to a $1.5 million settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Kia revealed the next EV in its portfolio, a three-row flagship SUV called the EV9 that will be key product in the company’s mission to reach annual sales of 1.2 million battery electric vehicles by 2030. The SUV will go on sale in selected global markets in the second half of 2023.
Lamborghini took the wraps off of the 2024 Lamborghini Revuelto, the Italian automaker’s first plug-in hybrid supercar and the replacement to the Aventador. Don’t worry, Lamborghini packed a lot into the Reveulto. Just look at the powertrain specs. The vehicle has 6.5-liter V12 engine that is then combined with three electric motors. The end result is an output of 1,015 CV (or about 1,001 horsepower) and a vehicle that can travel from 0-100 km/h (62 miles per hour) in only 2.5 seconds and a top speed of more than 350 km (217 mph).
Nio began its trial of EV battery swapping in China, which the company hopes will provide a quicker alternative to fast-charging stations. Nio already has 1,323 swapping stations in operation today and has set a target of 2,300 globally by year’s end.
Tesla brought back its referral program to Europe, a strategy that taps into the brand loyalty of customers as it seeks to preserve market share and boost sales before the first quarter of 2023 closes.
The U.S. signed a trade deal with Japan on EV battery minerals that will help both countries strengthen battery supply chains and grants Japanese automakers more access to the U.S.’s $7,500 EV tax credit.
General Motors shared its in-vehicle infotainment strategy and the big takeaway is that it will no longer equip future vehicles with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, the middleware that lets users project their phone onto the center display. That’s an interesting change, especially because I remember when the Chevy Bolt first launched and it was not equipped with any in-house navigation and instead relied on Apple Carplay or Android Auto. GM will equip future vehicles with a number of embedded Google services, including Google Maps and Google
Assistant and other third-party apps like Audible and Spotify.
Ride-hailing and delivery
Grubhub is partnering with Transact Campus to integrate and provide a mobile-first app with capabilities for food ordering, pickup and delivery on college campuses.
Uber expanded Comfort Electric, the ride-hailing giant’s premium electric vehicle offering, to 14 new markets across the U.S. and Canada. The offers is now available in 40 North American markets.
Lucid Group is cutting its workforce by 18%, or 1,300 people, as part of a restructuring. The layoffs, which will be across the organization and will include executive positions, are expected to be completed by the end of the second quarter.
Lyft made a surprising move (although perhaps not to staff behind the scenes) and announced its co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer, who have been leading the company since its founding, are moving out of the executive spots to make way for new leadership. David Risher, who is taking over as Lyft’s CEO in mid-April, already has some ideas of how to reach profitability. In a wide-ranging interview with TechCrunch, Risher said the company may kill off shared rides and other features that get away from its core offering. And no, Lyft is not following Uber into delivery, so he says.
Shift Technologies, the online used vehicle retailer, cut its workforce by 30% in the first quarter as the company sought to reduce costs and eliminate duplicate positions following its merger with CarLotz. The layoffs came as the company saw its revenue plummet in the fourth quarter and its operating losses expand.
Virgin Orbit announced it will lay off around 85% of its workforce in order to further reduce expenses, after the troubled space company said it was unable to secure additional funding to keep it afloat.