Foundry Lab raises $8M to quickly, cheaply create metal castings using a microwave

Remember Easy Bake Ovens? You’d mix up some colored powder and water until a dough or batter formed, put it in a mold, pop it in the oven, and before you knew it — ding! A disgusting treat. Foundry Lab, a New-Zealand based startup with backing from Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck, has figured out how to do something similar, except instead of chemicals and an “oven,” it’s metals and a microwave.

The company, which emerged from stealth on Monday with an $8 million Series A raise, is using “literally a microwave, but on steroids” to cast metal parts much quicker than metal 3D printing, according to David Moodie, founder and CEO of Foundry.

“It’s super easy for the user; they literally take the mold, throw in the cold metal powder or metal ingots, put it in the microwave, press the button and walk away,” Moodie told TechCrunch. “It even dings when it’s done. As easy as heating up a microwave dinner.”

(Foundry’s microwave has also been used to cook a typical New Zealand meat pie. It took only a few seconds and didn’t taste fantastic, according to Moodie.)

Typical casting systems like investment casting, 3D printing and die-casting take anywhere from one to six weeks to produce. Foundry says it has been able to turn around brake shoes for cars in under eight hours using molds that had been 3D printed using computer-aided design (CAD) molds and a giant microwave. The startup is currently working with zinc and aluminum, but has done some successful stainless steel trials and wants to move onto other metals like copper and brass in the future.

While Foundry’s tech has future applications in manufacturing industries where metal 3D printing can’t reach, the near-term goal is to help car manufacturing R&D teams develop production-identical, functional metal parts that can be used for testing and prototyping before committing to mass production.

“One of the companies we’re talking to is making up to 600 prototype cars before one reaches the market, so they’ll keep changing and keep iterating on it, and that can get expensive really quickly,” Moodie said, adding that tooling costs could be upwards of $50,000 to $100,000.

Moodie says before starting Foundry, he ran an industrial design consultancy business, designing products for mass manufacture. He felt frustrated that authorities would consistently reject patent applications because they were made with parts produced by 3D printers or CNC machines, and therefore, potentially made with the wrong physical structures.

“So I did the Kiwi thing and went to the shed and lucked my way into a system that worked,” he said, noting that much of his experimenting was done using standard microwaves during New Zealand’s latest lockdown, during which time Moodie couldn’t get into his workshop. “What we’re trying to solve is actual castings, trying to simulate a die casting but doing it fast and cheaply. If you machine to a tool to do a die casting, it’s typically three to six months to get that back.”

It’s still early days for Foundry. The company only has a couple of its very large microwaves out for trial with potential customers at the moment, but it will use the Series A funding, which came from Australian VC Blackbird, to get production-ready by the end of 2023.

Part of the funding will go toward hiring more staff. The company has grown quickly over the past few months, up from six staffers when it first started fundraising to 17 full-time employees now. The goal is to make it to around 35 over the coming months, a task that’s been difficult with New Zealand’s strict pandemic-related border closures.

“The whole border close thing is starting to hit us now,” said Moodie. “The country’s got two microwave experts, and they both have jobs. That’s been particularly difficult. So we’re trying to get someone to come across and help us.”

New Zealand is beginning to open up internally, with Auckland coming out of lockdown this week and the city borders opening up to the rest of the country in mid-December. Unless the new omicron variant holds things up, the country is expected to start inviting vaccinated travelers back starting April 30, 2022, giving Foundry and other New Zealand startups the chance to hire talent from abroad.

Even though Foundry is working out of New Zealand, it’s targeting markets in the United States and Europe. The company’s long game is to continue to work on the microwaves and get them to a point where they can produce the quantities needed for mass production.

Stellantis locks in lithium supply agreement to secure EV battery materials

Stellantis, the global corporation formed through a merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and French automaker Groupe PSA, signed a binding agreement with a lithium producer as more automakers look to secure key parts of the battery supply chain. The agreement is one in a flurry of deals between automakers and suppliers as the demand for EVs rises.

Vulcan Energy Resources will produce battery-grade lithium hydroxide from a brine project in the Upper Rhine Valley in Germany. Generally, lithium is produced either via hard rock mining or from brine deposit extraction. While both have environmental drawbacks, Vulcan’s site will use renewable geothermal energy to power the lithium extraction process.

The project will also re-inject the spent brine in a closed-loop cycle, leaving no residual waste, such as production tailings. The project in Germany will use a fraction of water and land compared to other brine projects, such as those found in South America – which means a smaller carbon footprint and potentially a lower operational expenditure, the German-Australian company added on its website.

Under the five-year supply agreement, Vulcan will send shipments of lithium extracted in Germany to Stellantis beginning in 2026. Over the lifetime of the deal, Vulcan will supply between 81,000 metric tons and 99,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide to the automaker. The two companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal, but it’s subject to both the commencement of commercial operations at the extraction site and product qualification.

The deal is part of Stellantis’ sweeping electrification strategy, which it outlined in July, that earmarks €30 billion ($35.5 billion) for EVs and new software over the next four years. The automaker aims to manufacture 130 gigawatt hours of battery capacity by 2025 and around 260 gigawatt hours across five factories in North America and Europe by 2030.

It’s the latest sign that global automakers are looking to secure their slice of finite raw materials like lithium, a key mineral in electric vehicle batteries. General Motors has made similar investments in a California lithium extraction project, while Tesla has inked its own supply deals for minerals like nickel.

Meanwhile, Renault signed its own agreement with Vulcan last week for up to 32,000 metric tons of European-made lithium.

Paris asks scooter sharing services to restrict speed to 10km/h

Riding a scooter in Paris will soon feel incredibly… slow. The City of Paris has announced that scooter sharing services should restrict the maximum top speed to 10km/h (that’s 6.2mph). That decision comes following a number of pedestrian injuries that involved a scooter.

Paris has been an important market for scooter sharing companies. It’s a dense city with an important network of bike lanes. There are also a lot of tourists looking for different ways to explore the city.

For those reasons, the situation used to be a bit out of control. At some point, 16 different scooter startups wanted to operate a fleet of scooters in Paris. Paris ended up selecting three companies and implementing a set of rules. Dott, Lime and Tier won permits to operate shared electric scooters for two years.

Since then, things have been going well for those three companies. This year alone, Dott raised $85 million in a mix of equity and asset-backed debt financing, Tier recently raised $200 million in debt and equity, and Lime closed a $523 million raise in convertible debt and term loan financing. Except that scooters became a public safety issues for riders, but also for people just walking down the street. According to the AFP, scooters have been involved in 298 accidents in 2021 alone. 329 people have been injured and two persons died.

In particular, a dramatic event occurred back in June 2021. Two women were riding a scooter near the Seine at night. They hit a pedestrian and left her there. A couple of days later, she passed away at the hospital.

The relationship between the City of Paris and scooter startups never really went back to normal following the accident. On July 1st, Paris listed a dozen areas with a high density of pedestrians, such as the Tuileries and Palais Royal gardens or the Bastille and République squares. Scooter sharing companies agreed to limit the maximum speed to 10km/h in these areas using real-time geolocation.

In September, the City of Paris asked each arrondissement administration to list areas where the top speed of scooters should be limited to 10km/h. The result was a patchwork of 700 slow zones. And scooter startups agreed to implement those zones in their respective service.

But the City of Paris wants to go even further than that. The entire city is now a slow zone for scooter startups, except a couple of streets that have wide lanes for bikes, scooters and other micromobility vehicles. Of couse, if you have your own scooter, those restrictions won’t apply to your personal device. The new restrictions on scooter sharing services will be implemented during the first half of December.

The only good news is that the scooter tender has been extended by six months. Dott, Lime and Tier will keep their scooter permits until February 2023. But today’s new rules could have some significant consequences on usage in Paris.

Regulating mopeds

In other news, the City of Paris is also going to regulate free-floating electric mopeds. There are currently five companies operating in Paris — Cityscoot, Cooltra, Lime, Yego and Troopy. Other companies are also working on a launch in Paris.

Paris wants to regulate mopeds with permits. It’ll work a bit like scooter permits, except that those permits will last five years. Only two or three companies will be able to operate a fleet of mopeds in Paris. The new system will start on September 1st, 2022.

The 2022 Polestar 2 is more appealing, affordable and repairable

When Polestar launched its first all-electric vehicle last year, it came in a single flavor: a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive configuration that cost around $50,000 before incentives. Next year, the automaker is adding some variety.

Polestar is rolling out a more affordable, single-motor, two-wheel-drive version of the sedan that still offers many of the features of the dual-motor Polestar 2 along with a few changes that make it a bit more affordable, appealing and greener for those looking to make the electric switch. In a recent drive, we put it to the test.

Single or dual motor

2022 Polestar 2 single motor

Image Credits: Kirsten Korosec

The 2022 Polestar 2 single motor offers a Polestar-estimated 270 miles of range, a bit less oomph and fewer options yet plenty of technology to make your drive easier.

Rather than having two motors that power all four wheels — like it does with the dual motor — this single-motor version pushes all its 231 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. The 2022 Polestar 2 single motor comes with a 78 kWh battery pack that sits under the floor between the front and rear wheels. Polestar says that its usable capacity is 75 kWh. The same battery pack is in the Polestar 2 dual motor. Polestar can and has pushed over-the-air updates to all of its vehicles to help make charging faster and tweak battery settings to make them more efficient.

The 2022 Polestar 2 Single motor sedans also get the optional addition of a mechanical heat pump (available in the Plus Pack for $4,000 more) that helps maintain that charge in more adverse climates. Polestar says that under certain climate conditions the heat pump will scavenge heat from the outside air to extend the range of the vehicle by as much as 10%. Using Polestar’s estimate, that means that the 2022 Polestar 2 Single motor could gain an additional 27 miles of range thanks to the heat pump.

For this model year, the fully loaded Launch Edition has been eliminated. The Polestar 2 Single motor replaces it and comes with a simplified and less loaded setup including a metal roof instead of the Launch Edition’s glass one, environmentally-friendly upholstery and a choice of a handful of option “packs,” as Polestar calls them.

You can opt for the Plus Pack, which includes the heat pump, a glass panoramic roof, Harman Kardon premium audio and a wireless phone charger (amongst other things). This pack was on the prototype Polestar 2 I drove. You can also opt for the the Pilot Pack ($3,200 more) that includes things like adaptive cruise control and LED exterior lighting. Sadly, the vehicle I drove did not have the upgraded ADAS system so I was not able to test out what Polestar says offers Level 2 driver support aids on my drive.

Native Android OS and OTA updates

2022 Polestar 2 interior google

Image Credits: Kirsten Korosec

The Polestar 2 has the distinction of being the first vehicle to use Google’s Android Automotive operating system. While Volvo has also rolled out the Android Automotive OS in some of its vehicles like the Volvo XC40 Recharge, the entire Polestar brand uses the platform.

Android Automotive OS is an open source operating system that runs on Linux and is used as the underlying operating system in vehicle infotainment systems, including Polestar. As a result, Google services such as Google Assistant, Google Maps and the Google Play Store are embedded into the car. Android OS is not the same as Android Auto, a secondary interface that lies on top of an operating system and lets users project the functions and feel of their smartphone to the vehicle’s center display.

In the 2022 Polestar 2, users can choose to access almost everything in the vehicle via voice control by using the convenient “Hey Google,” initiation phrase. This phrase gets you access to climate control and driving directions. Since the public has been so deeply steeped in the Google infrastructure for so long now, it’s all highly intuitive.

Tell the system your feet are hot and Google OS will lower the temperature in the footwell. Want to find the best taco place in Santa Barbara? Just ask Google to search then navigate there like I did. I rarely touched the touchscreen while driving, as I could pretty much do everything I needed just by asking Google to do it for me.

Natural language recognition is something Google has been working on diligently for many years and it keeps getting better. A few times, when using the system, I botched a request or awkwardly asked for something like adding a stop at a local beach to take photos. The system didn’t miss a beat and untangled my language to do just what I asked it to do.

In the Polestar 2 Single motor I drove, charging locations were somewhat integrated to the Google Maps platform on Android OS. There are some caveats, however.

Ask Google to find charging stations along your route, and you can filter by brand. While doing so in Google Maps, the system won’t tell you if a charger is available or working. Polestar has partnered with ChargePoint to provide charging access, and you can use the ChargePoint App, installed on the center screen, to learn more about your selected charger. It does take some tapping around the screen before hitting the road, which means you’ll still need to pull over and stop before heading to the nearest charger. On my 200-mile roundtrip from the Pacific Design Center in Hollywood to Santa Barbara I didn’t need to stop to recharge.

If I had needed to recharge, Polestar says that on DC fast chargers, I could have expected to get to 80% charge in just about 30 minutes. That’s down from the 40 minutes it used to take to get to an 80% charge, according to Glenn Parker, a Polestar technical operations specialist. Parker also said that continued over-the-air updates will improve the efficiency and range of the entire portfolio as the company rolls out updates to all owners.

While finding an available charger is still clunky, the integration of Google Maps into the very technological fabric of the Polestar 2 means that your estimated range is displayed each time you navigate to a new place or add a stop along the way. On my day trip, I arrived at each destination with a few miles more range than the system originally thought I’d have, which was a nice surprise given that I timed my return to LA badly and sat in Westside traffic for 45 minutes, while the range hovered down around 20%.

On the road

Animated image of a car passing by on a curve with flashing headlights and tail lights.

Separate drive of 2022 Polestar 2 Dual motor. Video Credits: Kirsten Korosec

The Polestar 2 Single motor is quiet, comfortable and quick. Polestar says that it does 0 to 60 mph in seven seconds, and while that doesn’t seem like much, it’s plenty to get you merged into traffic on the highway, especially because the low-end torque is so readily available.

On the prototype I drove, I could adjust a few driving features, including steering feel and one-pedal braking and could toggle some of the driver assistance systems like lane departure warning on and off. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, my test vehicle did not have any of the advanced driver aids that Polestar offers in the Pilot pack so I didn’t get to test those.

One of the joys of electric vehicles is the availability of braking mode (B Mode), or one-pedal driving. Essentially you’re adjusting the level of regeneration you get from the rolling wheels when you lift off the accelerator.

In the Polestar 2, you can roll to a stop, or toggle on the “Creep” mode setting through the infotainment screen and the vehicle will move slowly without the accelerator pedal being necessary. I drive most electric vehicles with the most aggressive braking setting, as it’s the most efficient and most enjoyable mode to employ in Los Angeles traffic. While most people may find the highest setting in the Polestar 2 to be a bit surprising, after a few minutes of getting used to it, it becomes intuitive to use. I did however turn off the “Creep” function as it felt unnatural when paired with the regenerative braking mode.

I also spent 90% of my time behind the wheel using the most aggressive steering setting, called “Firm.” Essentially the system changes the steering ratio based on the setting you’ve chosen. Firm offers the most direct-feeling response, while the softer settings make the Polestar feel a bit more roly-poly and slow to respond.

Right to repair, recondition, recycle

Polestar makes no bones about its commitment to greener manufacturing and materials. To that end, the company is proactively considering the entire lifecycle of the batteries in its vehicles. According to Parker, the company uses blockchain to track the mining of cobalt for its batteries and is looking into using the system to track other elements used in building their vehicles.

In addition to this, Polestar has also thought relatively comprehensively about the battery and owner lifecycle.

The stacked packs in the Polestar 2 Single motor can be individually replaced as parts fail. Parker said that if one component fails, the company collects that material back to form a closed-loop system. “We’re exploring remanufacturing and reusing those components that come back,” he said. Polestar also offers complete repair instruction and access to a catalog of parts that owners can purchase directly from the company itself, too.

Prices for the Polestar 2 Single motor start at $45,900 and vehicles will be available starting January 2022, not including the destination fee or taxes. With the $7,500 federal tax incentive — as well as incentives from certain states — that price can come down to around $35,000 (again not including taxes and the destination fee).

Ionity lands €700 million investment from BlackRock, automakers to expand EV fast-charging network

Ionity, an electric vehicle fast-charging charging network provider whose owners include Daimler AG and Volkswagen Group, has scored a €700 million ($783 million) investment from BlackRock Global and existing shareholders to expand its footprint across Europe.

The company, which was founded in 2017, installs ultra-high-speed EV charging stations. It was launched as a joint venture between a coalition of major automakers that includes Hyundai Motor Group, Ford and BMW. The investment will allow Ionity to increase the number of charging points to 7,000 by 2025 — a more than four-fold increase from the 1,500 that are installed today.

The new charging stations will be situated on highways and other major roads as well as near major cities. Six to 12 charging points will be at each location, Ionity said in a statement. The firm is also planning on adding more charging points to existing sites with high demand.

Ionity’s planned expansion includes owning and operating full service stations for drivers to “recharge” while charging their vehicles. These stations, a concept it’s calling “Oasis,” are similar to roadside rest stops today.

BlackRock is the first non-automotive company to invest in Ionity, through its Global Renewable Power equity investment vehicle. The investment management company raised $4.8 billion for the fund in April, a sign that institutional investors are increasingly interested in decarbonization technologies.

Its investment also speaks to the growing surety amongst powerful investment players in the forthcoming electric revolution in transportation. Thus far, BlackRock has mostly invested in onshore and offshore wind, and solar-powered projects, so its interest in EV charging is notable.

Einride founder Robert Falck on his moral obligation to electrify autonomous trucking

Robert Falck used to work at a Russian trucking factory by day, and by night, he built a nightclub guest list startup. He also collects old books, and once guessed that Chinese author Gao Xingjian would win the Nobel Prize in literature. He grew up on a farm, but has degrees in finance, economics and mechanical engineering.

No, this isn’t a game of two truths and a lie — indeed, these are snippets from the life of a serial entrepreneur who harbors a vendetta against the carbon emissions produced by the world’s trucking industry.

Falck, now the CEO and founder of Swedish autonomous freight company Einride, also worked as the director of manufacturing engineering assembly at Volvo GTO Powertrain. He learned how heavy duty vehicles are produced en masse during his three-and-a-half years there, and also helped start and invest in other companies. Einride, which he founded in 2016, is his seventh company.

Einride’s business is threefold. It currently operates one of Europe’s largest fleets of electric trucks, but its main offering is its electric autonomous pods, self-driving freight trucks built without a front cab and no room for a human operator. The startup also offers an IoT system called Saga that runs through its fleet and helps the company and its shipping partners optimize routes, and manage and electrify fleets.

Einride launched its U.S. operations this month and plans to operate its pods, trucks and OS with partners like GE Appliances, Bridgestone and Oatly. In May, the company raised $110 million to help fund its U.S. expansion, bringing its total funding to $150 million.

We sat down with Falck to talk about Einride’s strategy for scaling revenue, the need for autonomous vehicles to be built on electric platforms and why the future is in startups’ hands.

“The average OEM will need to write off between six and seven years of profit to get rid of the legacy investments in diesel platforms.”

The following interview, part of an ongoing series with founders who are building transportation companies, has been edited for length and clarity.

TechCrunch: In addition to your work at Volvo, you’ve started two nightclub-related platforms and a hunting app. Why start an autonomous trucking company?

Robert Falck: Working at Volvo, producing diesel engines, gearboxes and trucks, made it clear to me the challenges the industry was facing and that I have a moral obligation. I mean, the heavy freight transport industry stands for between 7% to 8% of global CO2 emissions, and the engines that I helped to produce contribute roughly 1% of global CO2 emissions. That’s how much of an impact my previous position was actually making, and I realized that I was part of the problem.

It doesn’t exactly make sense to start a company. You’re either crazy, or if you’re in it for money, you’re not going to get there, because there are much easier ways to make money. But for me, I consider the CO2 emissions to be our generation’s greatest challenge. And it’s quite fascinating how secondary failure becomes when you know that you do it for the right reasons.

You have been described as a serial entrepreneur. Are you with Einride for the long run, or are you already thinking about your next startup?

I think all entrepreneurs get a thrill out of entrepreneurship. And I’m definitely more of an entrepreneur and company builder than I am an administrator and manager. I’m not the kind of person to sit there and keep the status quo. It’s not my thing.

So will your next startup tackle CO2 emissions, but just in a different industry?

A lot of the very traditional industries are ready for disruption, and that’s going to challenge and change society at its core. The main driver behind it is that if you look globally, there’s a huge demand for sustainability.

I think most of the companies that are going to change or save the planet will be created in the next five to 10 years, and there’s lot of potential in some of the more traditional parts of the economy. Everything from trucking and the automotive space to real estate, a lot of those big plays are still up for grabs. I think energy — smart grids and how we structure energy production — is going to be another one of them.

So you think most of the climate tech that’ll solve the biggest issues will come from startups rather than legacy companies?

Volvo Cars Tech Fund invests $2M in optics and imaging startup Spectralics

The venture arm of Volvo Cars, an automaker long synonymous with safety, has invested in an optics and imaging startup developing technology that can be integrated into a car’s windshield or windows to deliver images to drivers and passengers.

Volvo Cars Tech Fund invested $2 million into optics and imaging developer Spectralics, funds it will use to accelerate the development of its optical film that the company says could make cars safer and provide a better user experience. While the investment might not seem significant, the relationship with Volvo could prove fruitful, particularly if its tech ends up in production vehicles. 

Spectralics is developing see-through optical overlay, also known as a “multi-layered thin combiner,” that can be integrated onto a car’s windshield or windows. Spectralics says this creates a wider field of view and, crucially, a sense of distance – both necessary for a safe augmented reality overlay.

Outside of the vehicle, the tech could also be used for smart glasses, optical systems and other head up displays. It’s the latest sign that augmented and virtual reality are moving beyond gaming and consumer goods and into the vehicle. It’s arguably part of a wider shift of automotive OEMs distinguishing new cars not by horsepower but by user experiences and technology offerings.

Spectralics founders Ran Bar Yosef, Eran Falk, Yuval Kashtar, Yuval Keinan. Image Credits: Tal Givoni for Spectralis (opens in a new window)

While the uptake of AR/VR in cars has faced a number of bottlenecks, automakers are leading the pack in investing in companies developing this tech for in-cabin applications. as Abigail Basset notes for TechCrunch+.

If Volvo’s investment in Spectralics wasn’t signal enough, a spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that the Swedish car giant is looking to adopt this tech in its cars. “Spectralics is a good portfolio fit for us and we believe that their technology has the potential to set a standard for the next generation of displays and cameras,” Volvo Cars Tech Fund’s head Lee Ma said in a statement.

Spectralics is an alum of MobilityXlab, an accelerator in Götenborg, Sweden, and is also part of Drive-TLV, a mobility hub in Tel Aviv that connects startups with automotive industry investors. Volvo’s investment arm has been part of both initiatives since 2017, and has recently invested in a handful of other Israeli startups, including MDGo, which develops accident detection sensors, and vehicle inspection tech developer UVEye.

The new funding now brings the Israel-based startup’s total raised to $5 million.

Polestar is bringing its electric Precept sedan to market in 2024 with a new name

The Polestar Precept sedan — the concept vehicle turned production project — has a new name and an official launch date. The company, the electric performance brand that spun out from Volvo Car Group, has dubbed the shark-nosed sedan Polestar 5 and announced it will go into production in 2024.

When Polestar first revealed the Precept in early 2020 it was viewed as a mere concept car, albeit a striking one meant to signal where this new company was headed. By September that same year, Polestar announced the Precept would be headed to production. At the time, Polestar didn’t indicate when that might happen beyond a vague sometime “before 2025.”

Since then, Polestar has been trickling out teasers and a few details of its Precept sedan, including a couple of YouTube videos meant to give an inside look at the entire design, development and presumably the production process. Polestar’s newest video focuses on what inspired the exterior design.

The video spends the bulk of its near 4-minute time with Nahum Escobedo, the exterior design manager of the Precept. So what inspired the sharp exterior lines? Sharks and airplanes — at least partially, Escobedo said.

polestar 5 precept

Image Credits: Polestar/screenshot

“For this project we also wanted something that was very elegant, but also something that has a certain speed,” he says in the video. “So for me, the shark had this certain feeling.”

The dramatic rear end of the Polestar 5 shows the long aero blade light, another early design feature that appears to be sticking around for the production version.

polestar 5 precept

Image Credits: Polestar/screenshot

Polestar did not share any specs like battery range or the powertrain in this new video. We do know it will follow the Polestar 3, an all-electric SUV, is expected to go into production in 2022.

Polestar’s first production vehicle was the plug-inn hybrid grand tourer Polestar 1. The all-electric Polestar 2 sedan followed in 2020. No word yet on what Polestar 4 is — assuming the company will continue with the numeric nomenclature.

The latest insight into Polestar 5, the electric vehicle formally known as the Precept, follows two major expansion and financial moves by the company earlier this year. Polestar announced in late September it reached an agreement to go public via a merger with special purpose acquisition with Gores Guggenheim Inc. in a deal that is expected to value the combined company $20 billion. Once the merger closes, the combined company will be held by a new public company named Polestar Automotive Holding UK Limited. The company is expected to be listed on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “PSNY.”

In June, the company announced it will manufacture the Polestar 3 in the United States. The Polestar 3 will be assembled at a plant shared with Volvo Cars at a factory in Ridgeville, South Carolina. Production of Polestar 3 is expected to begin globally in 2022.

GM acquires 25% stake in electric boat company Pure Watercraft

General Motors has taken a 25% stake in Seattle-based electric boating company Pure Watercraft. GM’s move reflects a broadening interest in all things EV, including boats and other vehicles, and comes as part of the automaker’s commitment to invest $35 billion in electric and autonomous technology through 2025.

Pure Watercraft makes all-electric outboard motor systems, which it calls Pure Outboard, that can be used as a drop-in replacement for boats that would use a 25 to 50 horsepower gas-powered motor. The company has also partnered with major boat manufacturers to sell complete electric boats, including a pontoon barge, fishing boat and two rigid inflatable boats.

Pure Watercraft says its electric systems require zero maintenance compared to gas engines, in addition to eliminating fossil fuel pollution. The range is also likely to suit a pretty wide range of consumer use cases — the company notes on its website that Pure Outboard could support a nearly four-hour, 20-mile fishing trip with 15% charge to spare.

The company raised a $23 million Series A led by L37 last September to spin up production, nine years after the company was founded by CEO Andy Rebele. With this latest investment from GM, the two companies will co-develop and commercialize battery technology, “integrating GM technology into a variety of applications,” the automaker said in a statement.

This is just the latest signal that electric technologies are starting to move far beyond road vehicles or even aircraft, to transportation and mobility formats that have continued to be dominated by conventional gas propulsion. Ten-month-old electric watercraft startup Arc has raised $7 million in total funding, including bringing on several new investors last month. Seattle startup Zin Boats is also developing an electric speedboat.

It’s also a noteworthy move for GM, which is already exploring ways to use its technology in other mobility industries, like rail and aerospace. Earlier this year, the company partnered with Wabtec to develop electric freight locomotives using hydrogen fuel and batteries. GM also announced a partnership with Liebherr-Aerospace to jointly develop a hydrogen fuel cell demonstration system for aircraft.

The Station: Inside the infrastructure bill, Canoo makes a move and EVs in LA

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox.

Hello readers: Welcome to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.

I’ve been in Los Angeles this past week to meet up with startups, investors and of course, check out the LA Auto Show. So considering my busy schedule, I’ve handed the reins to Aria Alamalhodaei. See you next week.

As always, you can email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions or tips. You also can send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

Let’s start the day off with a chortle. Last week’s Saturday Night Live featured an e-bike shout-out during the show’s “Weekend Update” news anchor skit. 

“A new report shows that the fastest growing form of electric vehicle is the e-bike, which is particularly popular in cities,” said comedian Michael Che. “At this point, experts believe the only thing that can slow these bikes down are car doors.”

In only a few words, Che sums up the irony behind the growing popularity of e-bikes. Despite increased usage and modal shifts, cars unfortunately remain the kings of the concrete jungle — at least until cities step up and prioritize more egalitarian, greener forms of transport.

While a deal to end car emissions by 2040 didn’t quite make it to light at COP26, a new report revealed that urban residents need to start making 40% of trips by foot, bike, micromobility or transit within the next 10 years or we won’t be able to reach our climate goals. 

Some cities are making strides. A few cities in the U.S., like Oakland, Bakersfield and Pittsburgh, have started experimenting with “universal basic mobility” pilots that subsidize buses, e-scooters and e-bikes so people can more freely move about. The end goal is to usher in more economic activity to cities. 

At CoMotion LA, an urban mobility conference, Spin announced it would be one of the micromobility companies to work with local community nonprofits in Bakersfield, like the Dream Center, to identify 100 eligible participants to receive access to free public transit, Spin e-scooters and e-bikes for a year. Bakersfield will be the third UBM pilot Spin is participating in.

During the event, Spin also announced a partnership with Blue Systems to provide a data dashboard to select U.S. cities aimed at boosting pedestrian safety and eliminating sidewalk riding and improper parking. 

Fetch.ai, an AI lab with an open-access decentralized ML network for smart infrastructure, has partnered with Datarella, a blockchain company, to launch the MOBIX Micromobility Marketplace, a platform that will hopefully incentivize users through rewards to use micromobility services. MOBIX users can earn miles by recording micromobility trips, which can then be converted into tokens to be used on future trips or traded at crypto exchanges. Users anywhere can download the app on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. 

Lime partnered with SafeUP, a community safety network offering guardians for women if they feel unsafe, to provide free rides on Lime scooters and bikes to SafeUP guardians in NYC, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, Washington, DC, Austin and Tel Aviv. 

Bird had its first public earnings call since becoming a public company via SPAC. The company’s revenues only slightly missed expectations, but the company boosted its guidance for the full-year 2021 period. It’s relying on an uptick in commuting and tourism, as well as an easing of supply chain constraints. 

Australian startup Zoomo raised a $60 million Series B to expand its e-bike subscription service. The company offers e-bikes for gig workers or enterprise fleets, and wants to disrupt the last-mile delivery industry. 

Zembo, a French startup with operations in Uganda selling e-motorcycles through a lease-to-own program, raised $3.4 million to begin scaling operations across Africa. It’s backed by Mobility 54, a corporate VC subsidiary of Toyota Tsusho Corp, which will leverage Toyota’s automotive footprint to help Zembo expand.

Superpedestrian is the latest micromobility operator to be featured on the Moovit app, following behind Lime, Spin and Bird. Now, Moovit users planning trips with the app will be able to find LINK scooters where available. 

Lyft is expanding its partnership with Mastercard in the Bay Area to include bikeshare. Mastercard will help Bay Wheels, which is available on the Lyft app, build an additional 35 bikeshare stations next year.

Also in San Francisco, Scoot/Bird have teamed up with Scootaround to pilot an accessible mobility program in the city. Initially piloted in the Bronx, the program allows riders with disabilities to find, reserve and pay for one of three accessible vehicle types. 

Tier bought Nextbike, a German bike-sharing platform, signaling both the company’s commitment to a multimodal approach and, perhaps, more micromobility consolidations in the future. 

Electric scooter maker Niu has hinted it would be expanding its urban mobility portfolio at EICMA, or the Milan Motorcycle show, next week. This sounds like it could be a new type of vehicle, and Electrek is guessing it might be the company’s three-wheeled canopied scooter concept, which was revealed at CES 2020. Fingers crossed! The micromobility world really needs a solution for rainy days.

– Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the weekmoney the station

Last week was all about Rivian’s much-hyped IPO. This week I want to talk about Lucid Group, which completed its first quarter as a publicly traded company this week. It looks like its market cap now exceeds both Ford and General Motors, after a stock boost that added $17 billion to its valuation.

What comes next for the new EV entrant? Deliveries, according to investors during the earnings call, starting with its Lucid Air Dream Edition, followed by the Grand Touring, Touring and Air Pure. CEO Peter Rawlinson said he’s confident the company will be able to manufacture 20,000 vehicles next year.

Meanwhile, reservations have reportedly increased to 17,000 — up from around 13,000 at the end of the third quarter.

One other big deal — or more accurately, dead deal — to note this week: Ford CEO Jim Farley said Friday that the automaker has ended its planned vehicle collaboration with Rivian. The company still is a major shareholder of Rivian.

Deals that got our attention …

Eatron raised $11 million to expand its technology platform that enables OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers to decouple auto software from its hardware. The Series A round was led by the U.K.’s MMC Ventures.

Helm.ai raised $26 million in Series B funding to scale the development of its ADAS and Level 4 driving software. JM Partners, Base Capital Funding and Freeman Group participated, with additional participation from Nicolas Berggruen, ACVC Partners, OneWay Ventures, Binnacle Partners, Nadia Asoyan, Vlad Tenev, Mark Leslie, Jeff Rothschild and Neil King.

Mangrove Lithium, a company that has developed a platform to produce battery-grade lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate, closed a $10 million Series A round led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

Merchants Fleet placed an order with General Motors’ BrightDrop electric delivery unit for 5,400 EV410 vans. That brings the company’s total order to 18,000 vehicles, including its previous commitment to purchase 12,600 of BrightDrop’s flagship EV600 van.

Mitra Chem raised a $20 million Series A to boost the North American battery supply chain industry that’s currently dominated by China, by producing an iron-based cathode for non-Chinese applications.

Nexar, a company best known for its line of smart dash cams, raised $53 million in new financing to scale its “digital twin” service built off crowdsourced dash cam footage for automotive OEMs and cities.

PreAct Technologies, a company that develops sensing technology for automotive applications, raised $13 million in Series A funding led by State Farm Ventures.

Sono Group, the parent company of Sono Motors, went public this week, with shares hitting a high of $38.74 before the market closed. Sono Motors is developing a solar electric vehicle that it says will reach consumers by the first half of 2023.

Swvl is acquiring a controlling interest in Viapool, a transit platform operating in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile. It’s the latest sign that the company is expanding its reach in Latin America. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of next year.

Zoomo raised $60 million in Series B financing to expand its last-mile electric delivery services, which include both fleet offerings and subscriptions for couriers and delivery workers.

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Hello everyone! Welcome back to Policy Corner. 

The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill contains a whole slew of new provisions and funds that target vehicles. Big budgets for things like EV charging and electric school buses have been the most headline-grabbing, but they’re far from the only significant provisions included in the legislation.

The infrastructure bill is also taking aim at driver safety. Besides introducing provisions to include anti-drunk driving tech in new vehicles, the legislation also opened the door for adaptive headlights to come to the U.S. Within 24 months, the Secretary of Transportation will be required to revise the regulations around headlights “to allow for the use on vehicles of adaptive driving beam headlamp systems.” That means that soon, headlights in America won’t have just two modes — bright and super-bright — but instead will be able to dynamically respond to the environment and adjust brightness and beam lighting accordingly. 

The bill also authorizes the transportation secretary to determine when to mandate tech like automated emergency braking, lane-assist and forward-collision warnings. Read: when, not if. That means these features will soon be available in all new cars. Cars may also need to be equipped with rear seat occupancy warnings that would go off to prevent a pet or child being left in the backseat. 

Other news that caught my attention this week…

The New York City Council is considering a bill that would require the Taxi and Limousine Commission to create a set of rules relating to the licensing and use of autonomous vehicles as taxis. Looks like the state is trying to be proactive about this tech. 

Self-Driving Coalition is drawing a line in the sand: it wants policymakers, journalists (hello!) and other stakeholders to clearly distinguish between autonomous driving systems and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). The group has long insisted — rightly, in our opinion — that conflation of the two technologies could lead to drivers misusing ADAS and not fully understanding its capabilities and limitations. 

The California Energy Commission approved a staggering $1.4 billion plan to boost the adoption of electric vehicles, with nearly 80% of the money earmarked for EV charging and hydrogen refueling stations. Notably, the majority of that is dedicated to medium- and heavy-duty infrastructure — chargers for things like buses, school buses and trucks. 

 Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable news and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Apple is reportedly making moves to develop its electric car, and it’s planning to make it autonomous, as well. The “fluid” plan is to have the car ready to go by 2025, but Apple’s already had a range of setbacks with this car and it declined to comment on the news. 

Baidu reckons it has the largest robotaxi service in the world, based on its 115,000 rides. The service, Apollo Go, aims to be in 65 cities by 2025 and 100 cities by 2030, the firm’s CEO Robin Li said during an earnings call

Baraja has released a lidar system that it says is ready for “Level 4 autonomy at scale.” Spectrum HD will cost under $1,000 and will be available for sampling next year.

Honda is moving forward with an off-road autonomous work vehicle, which it’s testing at a solar panel construction site. The vehicles can tow trailers of up to 1,653 pounds and carry construction materials of up to 880 pounds across the 1,000 acre worksite.

Pony.ai restructured its passenger car and autonomous trucking R&D units in September, and TechCrunch has since learned a few key executives left after, at least one of whom think the different use cases of urban driving and highway driving should have separate product teams. Two of the employees left to start their own L4 trucking business. Sources have confirmed to TechCrunch that Pony’s autonomous trucking operations in the States have been suspended, but the company is still testing in China.

Qualcomm is collaborating with BMW Group to design and develop BMW’s next-gen ADAS and autonomous systems stack.

REE Automotive has come up with a fully autonomous concept vehicle based on a brand new ultra-modular EV platform design. The concept is geared for last-mile autonomous and electric delivery companies, fleet operators, e-retailers and tech companies looking to build fully autonomous solutions. 

Electric vehicles

The Los Angeles Auto Show was this week, so let’s start with some of the top automaker reveals:

Biliti Electric announced at the event that it wanted to bring its electric tuk tuks to the U.S. market. The three-wheeled, open-cabin, electric delivery vehicles are already being used in Asia and Europe, and might be an answer to last- or middle-mile delivery in the U.S. 

Fisker’s all-electric Ocean SUV debuts with a rotating screen, one of manufacturer Foxconn’s obvious touches. Fisker’s first EV will have a 17.1 inch central screen that can rotate from portrait to landscape mode depending on whether the driver is using GPS or just chilling and watching movies in the car. 

Hyundai launched its Hyundai SEVEN Concept vehicle, featuring a “hygienic” interior, because ew, COVID. The concept is built on Hyundai’s Electric Global Modular Platform, which is the same platform as the Ioniq 5, and features lounge-like interiors with swiveling seats and a whole bunch of hygienic bits and bobs. For example, a hygiene air flow system for tailored airflow and a UVC sterilization cycle. 

Porsche unveiled the Taycan GTS sedan and a third body style called Taycan GTS Sport Turismo, rounding out the Taycan vehicle portfolio, which the company has invested more than $1 billion in developing.

Subaru revealed its first all-electric crossover, the 2023 Subaru Solterra. The crossover is a sign Subaru is catering to the American audience and trying to get a foothold into the EV market. 

The new Subaru’s doppelgänger, the Toyota bZ4X, was also revealed at the LA Auto Show. It’s the first EV under Toyota’s bZ brand, and it should come to the U.S. in mid-2022 with an estimated range of up to 250 miles. 

In other EV news…

Canoo announced plans to establish its HQ and an advanced manufacturing industrialized facility in Bentonville, Arkansas. (Do we detect a future deal with Walmart?). During the company’s Q3 earnings call, Canoo said it’s getting close to producing vehicles on its gamma platform. The company also announced Panasonic as its battery supplier and plans to establish tech hubs in Tulsa and Fayetteville.

Luxury EV startup Lucid Group completed its first quarter as a public company after merging with Churchill Capital IV Corp in July. The company shared it has already garnered 17,000 reservations for EVs since the end of the third quarter. 

Misc.

Caribou is partnering with Uber to bring its auto refinancing process to the ridesharing giant’s drivers that have access to the UberPro app.

DoorDash has launched a new business arm it’s calling DoorDash Labs, focused on robotics and automation. The company has brought on Ashu Rege, a former senior VP at Zoox, to lead as VP of Autonomy.

Joanna Wu, a longtime LinkedIn executive, is moving to Uber. Wu, who has decades of experience in user experience and product design, led the complete redesign of LinkedIn’s website and app. She’ll be starting in January as Uber’s VP of product design.

Jupiter Research estimates that in-vehicle transaction volumes will exceed a staggering $4.7 billion by 2026 — a growth of 5,300% in the next 5 years, according to its new report.

Zipline launched its commercial service in the U.S. this week, using its autonomous aircraft to make deliveries in northwest Arkansas on behalf of Walmart.

– Rebecca Bellan