Formula 1’s Fernando Alonso launches first e-bike at Miami Grand Prix

Kimoa, the sustainable lifestyle brand created by two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso, is launching an electric bike during the Formula One Miami Grand Prix 2022.

It’s not uncommon for F1 drivers to endorse products from sponsors, but this might be the first e-bike introduced by one. 

The Kimoa E-Bike is made-to-measure for each rider, due to its custom 3D-printed carbon fiber frame, which is built by Arevo, an additive manufacturing company. In 2020, Arevo launched its own 3D-printed e-bike company, Superstrata

Arevo’s lineup of 3D-printed bikes grants customers a bespoke fit that takes into account the rider’s height, leg length, arm length and riding position preference, allowing for up to 500,000 combinations, according to Kimoa

Aside from being lightweight, the frame has a smooth look and feel to it. That’s also due to Arevo’s method for 3D printing. 

“Unlike other carbon fiber bikes whose frames are glued and bolted together using dozens of individual parts and fabricated from previous-generation thermoset composite materials, the Kimoa bike frame is constructed without joints or glue for seamless strength,” said Kimoa in a statement. “Its next-generation thermoplastic materials make it extremely impact resistant, remarkably lightweight, and most importantly – incredibly sustainable.”

Kimoa’s e-bike has up to 55 miles of range and can be fully charged in two hours, the company said. 

For those who want to customize their ride further, the bike comes in road, gravel, commuting and cruising styles, as well as a choice between metal or carbon fiber wheel materials, as well as finishes of black, white, fluorescent yellow and turquoise. 

Alonso’s bike will be sold online at or in-store at SimplyEV and Simply Mac locations across the U.S. for $3,999.

Rivian files trademark for electric bikes

Electric vehicle maker Rivian filed a new trademark for bicycles and electric bikes, as well as their corresponding structural parts. The move might signal that Rivian is considering getting on the e-bike demand train and diversifying its portfolio with a product that is cheaper to produce at scale than electric pickup trucks and in line with its targeted “adventure” seeking demographic.

Rivian told TechCrunch it had nothing to share on the matter.

Companies often file trademarks for products they don’t end up using, but other automakers are beginning to see the value in the e-bike industry that saw a growth rate in sales of 240% over the 12 months leading up to July. Last year, Porsche launched two new e-bikes that were designed with the spirit of the Taycan Cross Turismo. BMW has also released plans to produce several e-bikes and other micromobility vehicles lately, as well, like its all-electric CE 04 scooter.

Last month, Rivian shared plans to use some of the $13.7 billion it raised when it went public to build a second factory in Georgia (its first is in Illinois) to double its production capacity and produce battery cells – cells which can ostensibly be used in batteries for other types of vehicles, as well.

According to the filing, which was first revealed by Rivian Forums, Rivian wants to expand the use of its trademark to include the following:

Bicycles; bicycle structural parts; electric bicycles; electric bicycle structural parts; electric bicycle components specially adapted for electric bicycles, namely, battery packs, motor controllers, electric motors, throttle controls, pedal assist sensors, display consoles, wiring harnesses, sprockets, cassettes, chains; bicycle frames; bicycle pedals; bicycle horns; bicycle brakes; bicycle chains; bicycle gears; bicycle wheels; bicycle seats; bicycle tires; bicycle cranks; bicycle tags; bicycle mudguards; bicycle motors; bicycle saddles; bicycle pumps; bicycle bells; bicycle handlebars; bicycle trailers; bicycle kickstands; bicycle seat posts; fitted bicycle covers; bicycle wheel spokes; bicycle wheel rims; bicycle stands; bicycle pedal straps; bicycle parts, namely, derailleurs; bicycle water bottle cages; bicycle carriers for vehicles; pumps for bicycle tires; inner tubes for bicycle tires; bicycle parts, namely disk wheels; bicycle parts, namely brake shoes

Rivian also recently filed a patent for an integrated tailgate cargo system for automotive vehicle, which is essentially a tailgate bike rack that will allow drivers to carry a bike in their pickup without losing bed space. Perhaps the company, which likes to provide accessories for its R1T truck, wants to design the whole package for its target audience – the eco-conscious rugged American explorer.

E-scooter startup Tier buys Nextbike to double down on commitment to e-bikes

Berlin-based Tier Mobility, one of the largest e-scooter operators in Europe, has just acquired German bikesharing platform Nextbike. The move signals Tier’s commitment to the same multi-modal approach that competitors like Lime and Voi have followed to take advantage of existing market share. It’s also the latest big acquisition in the micromobility industry that might herald further consolidation in the future.

Last year, Lime acquired Uber’s micromobility subsidiary Jump and all of its e-bikes and e-scooters as part of Uber’s $170 million investment in the company. Earlier this month, Lime raised $523 million which it says might be its last raise as it prepares to go public.

Tier and Nextbike did not disclose the terms of the deal, but Tier would have funded the acquisition with the $200 million all-equity Series D led by Softbank Vision Fund 2 round it raised last month to scale its multi-modal market presence globally and pursue strategic investments and acquisitions. The Series D followed $60 million debt raise this summer and a $250 million Series C last November, also led by Softbank.

Tier, which also has a fleet of e-mopeds, has been committing heavily to e-bikes in recent months with launches in London and Stockholm as part of a planned e-bike expansion across six countries. As part of the deal, Tier will acquire Nextbike’s fleet of around 115,000 analogue and electric bikes, as well as access to new territories per the 28 countries Nextbike currently operates in. It will also acquire Nextbike’s headaches in certain cities.

Nextbike has just had to suspend operations in Cardiff and the Vale of Glanmorgan in Wales after more than half its bikes were stolen and destroyed. The company, which has been operating its public bikeshare scheme since 2004, now has to repair and replace vandalized bikes, and the scheme might be permanently shut down in the area if the situation does not improve, but that problem will ostensibly now fall to Tier to handle.

Tier, which operates in over 160 cities across 16 countries in Europe and the Middle East, does not already have a presence in Wales. Combined with Nextbike, Tier will have over 250,000 vehicles in over 400 cities. Its fleet will include bicycles, e-bikes, cargo bikes, e-scooters and e-mopeds in free-floating, station-based and hybrid sharing systems, according to the company.

“The acquisition of Nextbike – with its unrivalled experience and relationships across hundreds of cities – is a unique opportunity to take bikeshare to the next level, getting more people out of cars and offering the most sustainable mobility solution,” Lawrence Leuschner, CEO and co-Founder of Tier, said in a statement. “Our shared values of sustainability and respect for cities across two strong leadership teams, underpinned by Tier’s financial backing and capital efficiency, present an unstoppable, joint mission to change mobility for good.”

E-mobility startup Swft raises $10M seed round to expand light-duty vehicle lineup

Electric mobility startup Swft has raised $10 million in seed funding that it will use to expand its light-duty vehicle offerings, grow its team and scale its inventory management and supply chain systems. The company, which already has a deal to offer its three new e-bikes and new e-moped with Best Buy, is also on the lookout for more retail partnerships.

Swft officially launched in February 2020 as a direct-to-consumer business and developed over the past year within NYC-based venture advisory firm On Spec. It first brought electric hoverboards to market in December, followed by e-bikes and an e-moped in August. Now, as the company establishes itself as a brand, it’s making quick moves to build out a complete line of personal EVs over the next 18 months, according to David Liniado, co-founder and CEO of Swft and co-founder of On Spec.

The young company joins the multitudes of e-bike manufacturers that are sustaining the increased demand in the industry, with strong competition from established companies like Rad Power Bikes, VanMoof, Cowboy and Aventon. Demand is likely to continue to remain high in the coming years, according to a report from market research firm NPD, which found that from July 2020 to July 2021, e-bike sales grew 240%, while general cycling equipment grew only 15%. If Swft can navigate global supply chain issues and meet that demand with its low-cost vehicles, it might be able to get a piece of that pie.

Liniado thinks logistics is where Swft has an edge. The CEO previously served as Cox Automotive’s VP of new ventures and business development, which is where he got a taste for the freedom micromobility can afford. One of his co-founders, Joey Wahba was formerly the CEO of electronics manufacturing company DGL Group. Combined, the two were able to developed “a really comprehensive supply chain down to the parts,” which has allowed Swft to secure at least 90% of its expected product from its vehicle manufacturing partners in China. Liniado says Swft is also on track to have all of its stock touch down on U.S. soil by Christmas, a true holiday miracle.

Expanding its lineup to reach more uses cases might help with that. In 2022, the scrappy startup intends to launch a street legal and an off-road e-motorcycle, which will be available for both consumers and commercial delivery partners. Swft also wants to build a low-speed four-wheel vehicle next year, something akin to a two-seat convertible, which Liniado says is currently being tested in the U.S.

“The last of our expansion plans is the development of a three-wheel vehicle that looks most like a Vanderhall, but with our own proprietary designs, that will be ready for launch in early 2023,” Liniado told TechCrunch. “Due to our deep, longstanding relationships with our partners on the supply chain and product development side we’re really excited about how they’re all progressing.”

Swft’s supply chain savvy has not only helped the company secure vehicles, but Liniado says it’s also the reason why the company can provide products at a rather nice price point. The Fleet e-bike, a beach cruiser and the Volt, a steel road bike, are both priced at $999, can hit top speeds of around 20 miles per hour and have a range of 37 and 32 miles, respectively. The heavier-duty, lowrider Zip, complete with fat tires, is priced at $1,399. For comparison, Rad Power Bikes’ newest members cost around $1,999 for the RadRover 6 Plus and $1,799 for the RadCity 5 Plus.

“Our whole mantra with Swft is affordable luxury and bringing electric mobility to the masses,” said Liniado.

Swft aims to have 10,000 riders in the United States by the end of this year and hopes to be “many-fold above that” for next year. To get there, Swft is investing in collabs with fashion brands to get the word out, as well as finding ways to provide potential buyers with ways to test vehicles, from rent-to-own models, more partnerships and pop-up Swft stores in the second half of 2022, according to Liniado.

The company has aggressive plans for the future, says Liniado, so more funding will be needed soon in order to make all these dreams a reality. In the first quarter of next year, Swft aims to raise a Series A between $25 million and $50 million. Its current round of funding comes from strategic angel investors Martin Lauber, managing partner of 19 York, Mark Joseph, CEO of Mobitas Advisor and formerly CEO of Transdev and David Zwick, managing director of RedCap Technologies.

The Station: Lyft, Uber take action in Texas, Van Moof charges up with capital, an eVTOL SPAC deal gets knocked

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.

Before you jump into the transportation news of the week, a bit of TechCrunch company news!

Private equity firm Apollo Global Management completed its acquisition of Yahoo (formerly known as Verizon Media Group, itself formerly known as Oath) from Verizon. The deal is worth $5 billion, with $4.25 billion in cash, plus preferred interests of $750 million. Verizon will be retaining 10% of the newly rebranded company. The group, aside from Yahoo properties like Mail, Sports and Finance, includes TechCrunch, AOL, Engadget and interactive media brand, RYOT. All told, the umbrella brand encompasses around 900 million monthly active users globally and is currently the third-largest internet property, per Apollo’s figures.

Looking ahead: be on the lookout for automotive and tech news coming out of IAA Mobility in Munich this week. A bit of news that broke Sunday included Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and autonomous vehicle technology company Argo AI unveiling the first version of the ID Buzz AD. Mercedes also had a busy day in the world of EVs.

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


You might have noticed that the micromobbin’ section wasn’t featured in last week’s newsletter. Well, Rebecca Bellan is making up for that with an extra long write up this week. Take it away Rebecca.

Since Auckland, New Zealand is back in a massive lockdown, the highlight of my week has been getting to write about and, and thus relive, my test of the electric utility bike built by Kiwi company Ubco. If any other electric micro-vehicle companies want to send me a tester and brighten my day, I’m always open.

Tl;dr: the Ubco bike looks like a dirt bike and rides like a moped and absolutely shreds. Pros: Smooth ride, good battery life and can carry a lot of weight and accessories. Cons: A bit on the pricey side, regenerative brakes think they know what’s best for me when I’m speeding downhill and a touchy keyfob.

Last-mile deliveries

If you’re one of those smart lazy people who orders meal kits through the likes of HelloFresh or Blue Apron, you’ve probably interacted with AxleHire without knowing it. That’s about to change.

The last-mile logistics provider announced this week that it would be expanding two pilot programs to bring cool tech to the delivery scene. Over the past year or so, the company’s been partnering with URB-E and using its network of collapsible containers strapped onto e-bikes to make deliveries in NYC, as well as Tortoise’s remotely controlled adorable delivery bots in LA. Now, those programs, which helped AxleHire reduce emissions and beat traffic, are going national.

An Indian empire arises

Ola Electric, the electric scooter manufacturing arm of ride-hailing giant Ola, is in talks to raise between $250 million to $500 million in new financing as it looks to scale its business in the South Asian market.

Falcon Edge Capital, which is potentially leading the round, values the company between $2.75 billion and $3.5 billion, which is up $1 billion from its previous 2019 raise. Side note: Ola, the initial parent firm of Ola Electric, is currently looking to file for an initial public offering.

Big box bike sales

Best Buy has a fresh lineup of electric vehicles that are available online now and coming to select stores in October, including many we’ve written about here, like the Unagi scooter and the new Bird bike. Other top names include Segway-Ninebot, SUPER73 and SWFT.

Speaking of new swag, VAAST Bikes has just revealed the E/1, the latest in the company’s sustainable bike range. The urban e-bike boasts a top notch suspension system that separates pedaling from suspension movement for a more comfortable ride, no matter how much cargo you’re packing. A step-through frame provides a low center of gravity, making it an easy enough bike to mount for riders of all ages and shapes and sizes. The E/1 will be available to purchase in the U.S., U.K. and European markets starting October, and it costs anywhere from $7,499 to $9,999.

Foldable e-bike maker Fiido has raised over $1 million on Indiegogo to fund the production and delivery of its new Fiido X. It’s got a sweet-looking minimalist design with a light and sturdy body, as well as improved pedal-assist and cycling control. Fiido says this bike is the world’s first folding e-bike with a built-in seat pole that transmits battery power. It’s got a 417.6Wh ternary lithium battery, which means when it’s in “moped mode” the range is over 130 kilometers, or around 81 miles. Not bad at all. Price is anywhere from $1,098 to $1,601 at the moment.

Swedish electric motorbike manufacturer Cake also recently released a new super lightweight e-moped that’s built for city utility riding, but can probably handle some off-road fun. The Makka weighs about 132 pounds and comes in two forms: The Makka Range, at $3,500, which is available only in Europe, has a lower maximum speed of 15 miles per hour and a range of up to 35 miles. The Makka Flex, which is available in Europe and the U.S., costs $3,800 and can hit top speeds of 28 miles per hour. The range of this vehicle is slightly less, at 30 miles.

National Drive Electric Week (sans cars)

This is the first National Drive Electric Week that has nothing to do with cars! Fabulous. At this free, two-part expert webinar, a range of experts will talk about how to get moving on two e-wheels and discuss whether or not cars are overrated (they are). Find out how policymakers and advocates are thinking about how we can get electric micromobility and public transit to dominate the roads, rather than cars, even electric ones. The event takes place Saturday, September 25 from 11am to 1pm PST on Zoom. You can register here.

Van Moof’s big raise

VanMoof, the Amsterdam-based startup, raised a $128 million Series C funding round, fund it plans to use in its bid to become the world’s leading e-bike brand. It’s tactic, scale faster than the rest.

Asia-based private equity firm Hillhouse Investment led the round, with Gillian Tans, the former CEO of, also participating. Some existing investors also put some more money on the table, such as Norwest Venture Partners, Felix Capital, Balderton Capital and TriplePoint Capital.

The Series C represents a big jump compared to the company’s Series B. Last year, VanMoof raised a $40 million Series B. The startup has raised $182 million in total.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

This week, I want to focus on one deal that appears to be at risk.

Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., an influential shareholder adviser, issued a report this week recommending that investors in Ken Moelis’s Atlas Crest Investment Corp. should vote against a merger with Archer Aviation. The adviser said it would be better for investors if they redeemed their holdings in the blank-check company for cash.

If investors take that advice, it could derail the proposed merger between Atlas Crest and Archer, a startup that is developing vertical take-off and landing electric aircraft. ISS argues that Archer’s legal battle with Wisk Aero puts the company at risk. The firm also points to the falling valuation of the combined company.

As Bloomberg noted this week, ISS has targeted other SPAC deals involving eVTOL companies. ISS opposed the merger between Reinvent Technology Partners and Joby Aviation. Shareholders ignored ISS and vote to approve the merger. ISS also advised against investing in Qell Acquisition Corp.’s merger with Lililum GmbH. That deal is still pending.

While ISS seems to have a general distaste for eVTOL SPACs, the Archer deal is particularly sticky due to its current legal wrangling with Wisk Aero. For those who haven’t been following: Wisk Aero, the air mobility company born out of a joint venture between Kitty Hawk and Boeing, filed a lawsuit in April against Archer Aviation alleging patent infringement and trade secret misappropriation.

Archer didn’t scuttle into a corner. The company countersued in a lawsuit seeking $1 billion in damages from Wisk Aero.

Investors won’t be able to take the wait-and-see approach. The vote to approve the SPAC merger will be held long before this legal fight is resolved.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

Carsome Group, the Malaysian-based online marketplace for buying and selling used cars, raised $170 million from investors, including from semiconductor maker MediaTek, investment company Catcha Group and Malaysian government fund Penjana Kapital, Forbes reported. The company’s post-funding valuation is $1.3 billion.

Cox Automotive acquired Oklahoma City-based Spiers New Technologies (SNT), a business that provides repair, remanufacturing, refurbishing and repurposing services for EV battery packs. The two companies did not disclose the terms of the deal.

Foretellix, a company that has developed a platform to verify and validate automated driving systems, raised $32 million in a Series B funding round led by MoreTech Ventures, with participation from several strategic investors, including Volvo Group, Nationwide, NI and Japan-Israel Ventures. Previous investors 83North Ventures, Jump Capital, OurCrowd and NextGear also participated. The company, founded in 2018, has raised more than $50 million to date.

Gatik AI, an autonomous vehicle startup focused on middle-mile logistics, announced it’s expanding into Texas — its fourth market — with a fresh bundle of capital. Gatik said it has raised $85 million in a Series B round led by new investor Koch Disruptive Technologies, the venture arm of Koch Industries. Existing investors Innovation Endeavours, Wittington Ventures, FM Capital, Dynamo Ventures, Trucks VC, Intact Ventures and others also participated. Gatik has raised $114.5 million to date.

HAAS Alert, a SaaS company that provides real-time automotive collision prevention for public safety and roadway fleets, raised $5 million in a seed funding round led by R^2 and Blu Ventures and joined by TechNexus, Stacked Capital, Urban Us, Techstars, Ride Ventures and Gramercy Fund. The company says it will use the funds to scale sales and outreach efforts and prioritize R&D with vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) technology partnerships.

Ideanomics, a fintech and electric mobility firm based in New York, acquired commercial electric vehicle manufacturer Via Motors in an all-stock deal valued at $450 million.

Iconiq Motors, a Chinese electric vehicle firm, is considering going public in the U.S. through a merger with a blank-check company, Bloomberg reported. The startup is working with an adviser on a potential deal that could value the combined company at about $4 billion, according to one source cited by the media outlet.

Kevala, the startup that collects and analyzes energy grid infrastructure data for utility companies, renewable energy providers, EV charging companies, regulators and other energy industry stakeholders, raised $21 million in a Series A round. The company says it will use the funds to grow its team from 60 employees to around 100 by the end of 2021 and increase the deployment of its grid analytics tools.

Sunday, an insurtech startup based in Bangkok, raised a $45 million in a Series B round that included investment from Tencent, SCB 10X, Vertex Growth, Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India, Quona Capital, Aflac Ventures and Z Venture Capital. The company says the round was oversubscribed, and that it doubled its revenue growth in 2020.

Yandex, the Russian internet giant that also operates a ride-haling company, acquired Uber’s stake in its Self-Driving Group (SDG), as well as Uber’s indirect interest in Yandex.Eats, Yandex.Lavka and Yandex.Delivery. The total cost of the deal came to $1 billion, giving the Russian company 100% ownership over all four businesses.

Zeekr, the electric vehicle brand by Geely, raised $500 million in its first external funding from a list of investors, including Intel Capital, battery maker CATL and online entertainment firm Bilibili. The round puts Zeekr’s valuation at aboout $9 billion, Reuters reported.

Policy corner


Welcome back to policy corner! Let’s talk safety. ​​Traffic deaths spiked in the first quarter of this year, according to preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. The agency estimated that there was a 10 percent increase in fatalities from previous projections, finding that 8,730 people died in motor traffic accidents, up from the 7,900 projected. Oddly, deaths spiked even though there was an overall decrease in the number of people on the road.

“We must address the tragic loss of life we saw on the roads in 2020 by taking a transformational and collaborative approach to safety,” NHTSA’s acting administrator, Steven Cliff, said in a statement. “Everyone — including those who design, operate, build and use the road system — shares responsibility for road safety.”

NHTSA is arguably starting to come up against some of the greatest challenges in the agency’s history, as technological development has brought about a greater degree of driving autonomy and driver assistance systems.

The forthcoming investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot could be a watershed moment for ADAS safety standards. If you aren’t caught up: NHTSA opened an investigation into 11 instances of a Tesla crashing into a parked emergency vehicle, and just added another crash to its investigation earlier this week. In an 11-page letter to the electric vehicle maker, NHTSA gave the company until October 22 to provide extensive data on any hardware and software related to Tesla’s Level 2 capabilities (including Autopilot).

The probe comes as more and more groups — including the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, as well as the National Traffic Safety Board — call on NHTSA to exercise greater authority over regulating ADAS systems. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on this investigation as it unfolds in the coming months.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable news and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Motional revealed the first images of its planned robotaxi, a Hyundai all-electric Ioniq 5 SUV that will be the centerpiece of a driverless ride-hailing service the company wants customers to be able to access starting in 2023 through the Lyft app.

The purpose-built vehicle, which will be assembled by Hyundai, is integrated with Motional’s autonomous vehicle technology, including a suite of more than 30 sensors including lidar, radar and cameras that can be seen throughout the interior and exterior. That sensing system provides 360 degrees of vision, and the ability to see up to 300 meters away, according to Motional.

Electric vehicles

ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corp. unveiled a “cargo” version of its flagship three-wheeled, single-occupant, all-electric SOLO at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in California.

Power Global, a two-year-old startup, wants to disrupt the auto rickshaw market by offering a retrofit kit for diesel-powered vehicles and swappable battery pack to transition the more common lead-acid batteries to lithium-ion.

Rivian announced that the first edition version of its all-electric R1T pickup truck has an official EPA range of 314 miles, while its R1T SUV comes in a skosh higher at 316 miles.

Siemens said it will expand its U.S. manufacturing operations to support electric vehicle infrastructure. Specifically, the company plans to open a third facility to its VersiCharge Level 2 AC series product line of commercial and residential EV chargers. The additional facility, which is expected to come online in early 2022, will allow Siemens to manufacture more than 1 million electric vehicle chargers for the United States over the next four years.

TechCrunch editor Mike Butcher digs into YASA, the British electric motor startup that Mercedes-Benz acquired back in July The company, founded in 2009 after spinning out of Oxford University, developed an ‘axial-flux’ motor. YASA will now develop ultra-high-performance electric motors for Mercedes-Benz’s AMG.EA electric-only platform.

Wallbox, an electric vehicle charging company, has selected Arlington, Texas as the location of its first U.S. manufacturing facility. Production at the 130,000-square-foot plant is expected to start as early as June 2022. Production lines for its AC chargers lines, DC bidirectional charger, and DC fast charger for public use, are anticipated to follow in the first half of 2023. Wallbox said it expects to manufacture a total of 290,000 units annually in this facility by 2027 and reach its full capacity of 500,000 units by 2030.

Gig economy

DoorDash workers in California protested outside of the home of DoorDash CEO Tony Xu in response to a recent California superior court judge ruling calling 2020’s Proposition 22 unconstitutional. Prop 22, which was passed last November in California, would allow app-based companies like DoorDash, Uber and Lyft to continue classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees.

The group of about 50 DoorDash workers who are affiliated with advocacy groups We Drive Progress and Gig Workers Rising  demanded that DoorDash provide transparency for tips and 120% of minimum wage or around $17 per hour, stop unfair deactivations and provide free personal protective equipment, as well as adequate pay for car and equipment sanitizing.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey gave a coalition of app-based service providers that includes Uber and Lyft the go-ahead to start collecting signatures needed to put a proposed ballot measure before voters that would define drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. Backers of the initiative, which is essentially a MA version of Proposition 22, would need to gather tens of thousands of signatures for the measure to make it to the November 2022 ballot.

Uber and Lyft separately announced plans to cover the legal fees of drivers using their ride-hailing apps who are sued under Texas’s new abortion law.

The new law bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is typically around six weeks, and gives any individual the right to sue anyone who aids or abets an abortion. That means ride-hailing app drivers, who might transport a woman to a clinic, can be sued.

Uber CEO Dara Khoswarshari and Lyft CEO Logan Green both took to Twitter express their opposition to the new law and announce their support to drivers.

“TX SB8 threatens to punish drivers for getting people where they need to go– especially women exercising their right to choose,” Green wrote on Twitter. “@Lyft has created a Driver Legal Defense Fund to cover 100% of legal fees for drivers sued under SB8 while driving on our platform.

Khosrowshahi retweeted Green’s tweet and made the same commitment. “Right on @logangreen – drivers shouldn’t be put at risk for getting people where they want to go. Team @Uber is in too and will cover legal fees in the same way. Thanks for the push.”

Green and Khosrowshahi are among the few CEOs (a list that includes Austin-based Bumble and Dallas-based Match Group) with operations in Texas that have come out in strong opposition to law.

In-car tech

GM announced it will idle nearly all its assembly plants in North America due to the ongoing semiconductor chip shortage. The automaker is making a few strategic exceptions. Production of its profitable full-size SUVs will continue this week at its Arlington Assembly plant in Texas. The Flint Assembly facility, where it makes heavy-duty GMC and Chevy pickup trucks and Bowling Green Assembly in Kentucky, where it makes the Corvette, will also continue.

Misc. stuff

BMW Group has committed to a 50% reduction from 2019 levels in global carbon dioxide emissions during the use-phase of its vehicles by 2030, as well as a 40% reduction in emissions during the life cycle of the vehicle. These goals, including a plan to focus on the principles of a circular economy to achieve a more sustainable vehicle life cycle, will manifest in the company’s Neue Klasse platform, which should be available by 2025.

Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and husband, Chasten, announced they are parents to twins.

Buttigieg tweeted: “Chasten and I are beyond thankful for all the kind wishes since first sharing the news that we’re becoming parents. We are delighted to welcome Penelope Rose and Joseph August Buttigieg to our family.”

Nikola Corp. reached a new agreement with Bosch for its hydrogen fuel cell modules. The modules will be used to power two of Nikola’s hydrogen-fueled semi-trucks, the short-haul Nikola Tre and Nikola Two sleeper. Bosch invested at least $100 million in the hydrogen truck startup in 2019 but reduced its shares in the company the following year. Bosch also said last year it would supply fuel cells for Nikola’s European operations.

Cake launches the Makka, a $3,500 electric moped for city riding

Swedish electric motorcycle manufacturer Cake has released its newest vehicle, the Makka, a super lightweight e-moped that’s built for urban convenience. The bike starts at $3,500 and is now available for pre-order in the U.S. and Europe.

The Makka is a step outside the norm for Cake, which is best-known for off-road motorbikes like its flagship high-performance Kalk and its utility machine Ösa. This third platform will be Cake’s first motorbike specifically made for city riding like short-haul commercial transportation and commuting needs. 

“These new electric mopeds further define Cake’s ambition of making two-wheeled electric vehicles accessible to everyone, while constantly pushing the envelope of performance, durability and relevancy in line with the company’s mission to inspire towards a zero-emission lifestyle,” the company said in a statement.

The Makka weighs about 132 pounds and comes standard with a rear cargo rack. Mounts and other accessories like saddlebags, a child seat or even a passenger seat can be attached to the rack.

The e-moped comes in white or gray and is street legal. In the U.S., it’s classified as a motor-driven cycle, meaning it produces 5-brake horsepower or less, and requires a car or motorcycle license. In the EU, the Makka has an L1e-b classification, which means the motor does not exceed 45 kilometers per hour (28 miles per hour), and requires a moped or car license.

[gallery ids="2196758,2196759,2196760"]

Cake’s newest moped comes in two forms. The Makka Range, which is available only in Europe, has a lower maximum speed of 15 miles per hour and a range of up to 35 miles. The Makka Flex, which is available in Europe and the U.S., costs $3,800 and can hit top speeds of 28 miles per hour,. The range of this vehicle is slightly less at 30 miles.

Both bikes feature a foot board and aluminum step-through frame, which rides on top of two 14 by 3 inch motorcycle tires. The Makka range comes with a touchscreen display that shows information like battery, speedometer, odometer, ride mode (for extended range or balanced performance) and brake mode selection.

The Makka’s drivetrain has 3.6 kW of power and a battery capacity of 1.5 kWh. It takes about two hours to charge the battery up to 80%, which can be done by removing the battery or plugging the bike in. It takes three hours to charge the battery to 100%. The electronic motorcycle braking system with hand levers for both front and rear braking regenerates braking power into the battery to increase range.

Cake isn’t the only manufacturer to see the utility in repurposing off-road bikes for urban use. Ubco, a New Zealand electric utility bike brand, has recently raised $10 million to expand sales of its moped, which has a similar look and feel to the Makka, internationally to the U.S. Cake’s last funding round was a $14 million Series A in 2019.

Bird is the latest operator to integrate its e-scooters and e-bikes with Google Maps

Micromobility company Bird has officially joined the ranks of e-scooter and e-bike operators that are integrated with Google Maps, which now surfaces nearby vehicles for users in the U.S.

Bird’s announcement comes just a day after Spin also announced its integration with Google Maps and just a few weeks after Lime, which has been integrated with Google Maps since 2019, announced an integration with transit planning app Moovit.

Bird already works with mobility-as-a-service platforms including Skipr, Tranzer and soon Whim in Antwerp and throughout Belgium. The company has also recently partnered with major national rail companies SNCF in France and Trenitalia in Italy. It plans to expand its Google Maps integration with Bird’s partner cities outside of the U.S. in the future, according to a spokesperson for the company. These sorts of integrations are par for the course as micromobility companies seek to become further entwined with the broader transportation ecosystem.

“As demand for sustainable transportation increases, Bird is committed to meeting this need while simultaneously reducing street traffic in already congested cities and towns,” said Bird CEO and founder Travis VanderZanden, in a statement. “Through our integration with Google Maps, we are making it easier for individuals to embrace new modes of eco-friendly travel and to ultimately eliminate our collective reliance on congestion inducing, gas-powered cars – especially in urban settings across the globe where a majority of trips are under five miles.”

As with Lime and Spin, Bird’s vehicles will show up as an option under the bike toggle of the Google Maps app. The app will show information such as estimated travel time, cost and environmental impact. Bird did not respond in time for publication to a request for information on whether estimated battery range would also be available, which is displayed with Lime and Spin’s vehicles on the app.

Users who choose to take a trip with Bird will have to click on the “unlock” button displayed on the bottom of the Google Maps screen, which will direct them to the Bird app, available on iOS and Android, to unlock and pay for a vehicle.

Bird’s news about its integration with Google Maps comes on the same day that the operator, along with Veo and Lime, launch New York City’s first e-scooter pilot in the Bronx. The timing of this launch alone would make this integration beneficial for Bird, but the scooter company potentially stands to gain even more in NYC. Last month, Google Maps began trialling a feature in the big apple to show users which train cars were the busiest in order to help riders social distance better. Now, those users can ostensibly choose to seek out a Bird or Lime vehicle via the app rather than cram into a packed subway car.

Micromobility software provider Joyride raises $3.7 million seed round

Joyride, a Toronto-based company that provides white label apps, back-end analytics and multi-modal fleet management for shared micromobility startups, has raised $3.7 million — seed money that it says will help it reach a greater number of small, local operators. 

The company, which operates in more than 160 markets in every continent besides Antarctica, has primarily been able to generate enough revenue to support its business since its founding in 2014. With the fresh capital, Joyride will double down on its ability to help local operators find and finance the right vehicles, access insurance programs from trusted partners and learn how to deploy a profitable fleet. Joyride has already offered these services to an extent alongside its SaaS business model, but wants to feature them more prominently as its business grows.

“Really early on in the pandemic, we saw companies like Bird and Lime pull out of almost every market they were in, and then almost right away we started to get a lot of local entrepreneurs from those cities contacting us and saying, ‘Hey, Bird and Lime just left. I see a real opportunity here for me to run a micromobility business for myself,’” Joyride’s founder and CEO Vince Cifani told TechCrunch.

Since last year, Joyride has seen interest from entrepreneurs looking to start small scooter and e-bike share businesses increase four-fold compared to pre-pandemic numbers, Cifani said. That looks like about 150 requests per week. Joyride’s stats point to an emerging trend of local operators beginning to spring up in the parts of the world perhaps deemed too small fry for the big operators. 

Over the last couple of years, the industry seems to have been on the consolidation path, especially when we look at acquisitions like Lime buying Jump and Boosted and Bird buying Circ and Scoot. But we haven’t really seen consolidation among the hundreds of smaller businesses operating locally, said Cifani. And while they may be small individually, they’re mighty in numbers, quietly cropping up in towns and cities across the globe and privately at hotels and on campuses. In some cases, like with The Hague in the Netherlands, fleets are being operated by public transit. 

As local operators proliferate, the opportunity for companies like Joyride grows. In Germany, a similar software provider Wunder Mobility recently launched a lending division to help micromobility startups finance fleets.

“We’ve identified that there are over 10,000 different markets for these types of local operators to run this type of business,” said Cifani. “So if it’s taken Bird, say, half a billion dollars to get into 100 plus markets, are they actually going to raise $100 billion to try and get into every single market opportunity in the world? The inflection point for us is that there’s a huge opportunity for this long tail market, and we’ve seen Bird try to pivot into that space as well with its fleet manager model.”

Under Bird’s fleet manager model, which made up 94% of the company’s “sharing” revenue in the second half of 2020, the vehicles and software are supplied to local operators. Bird always maintains ownership and branding of the scooters. The fleet managers are responsible for fleet deployment and rebalancing, sanitization, and general care and maintenance of the Bird vehicles. In exchange, the operators receive a portion of the fee that users pay to rent the scooters.

Joyride is different. The company helps customers buy fleets outright from manufacturing partners and in some cases helps them finance their vehicles.

Where the big players like Bird and Lime have chased scale in the push to become profitable, Cifani says many of Joyride’s operators running smaller operations tell him they’ve paid back the money for all their vehicles within a few months. 

Joyride’s seed round was led by Proeza Ventures, Urban Innovation Fund and Craig Miller, former CPO of Shopify, a platform that has similarly helped democratize the e-commerce space. Cifani says Joyride will be doing a Series A in the near future.

Electric utility bike startup Ubco raises $10 million to fund its global expansion

Ubco, the New Zealand-based electric utility bike startup, has raised $10 million to fund a global expansion focused on the U.S. market and scale up its commercial subscription service business. 

Ubco’s hero product, the Ubco 2X2, is an all-wheel drive electric motorbike that looks like a dirt bike but rides like a moped. What began as a solution for farmers to get around pastures and farms easily, safely and quickly has expanded to include an urban version of the bike that caters to fleet enterprise customers, gig economy workers and city riders. 

Since its founding in 2015, the company has produced two versions of its 145-pound utility bike: The Work Bike, the original off-road vehicle, and the Adventure Bike, the newer version that’s made for city riding but can handle itself off-road. 

Now that Ubco’s got a fresh cash infusion from the round led by Seven Peak Ventures, Nuance Capital and TPK Holdings, it hopes to continue expanding into existing verticals, like food delivery, postal service and last-mile logistics. The company already works with Domino’s in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, as well as a range of other national clients, like the New Zealand Post, the Defense Force, the Department of Conservation and Pāmu, or Landcorp Farming Limited and other local restaurants and stores.

“We have a strong enterprise market in New Zealand and have developed a strong pipeline of sales internationally,” Timothy Allan, CEO and co-founder, told TechCrunch. 

While direct consumer sales make up for most of Ubco’s revenue at present, the company is pushing aggressively into enterprise, and more specifically, subscription services. The 2X2 is built on an intelligent platform that includes vehicle and power systems, cloud connectivity and data analysis, which enables the subscription model to work alongside fleet management systems. 

Ubco expects revenue to climb from $2.1 million in 2020 to $8.4 million by the end of 2021 as it pushes to increase its annual recurring revenue through subscriptions. Ubco’s subscription model, which costs about $50 to $60 per week ($75 to $85 NZD) for fleet enterprise customers, is being rolled out in New Zealand, Australia, the U.K., Europe and the U.S. this year and into 202. Consumers will get access to the subscriptions as well within the next couple of months, according to a spokesperson for the company. 

Allan sees subscriptions as the future of the EV industry, not just because it allows for a high chance of profitability, but also because it’s far more environmentally sustainable. As the company expands this part of its business model, it hopes to lead the circular economy space.

The company predicts that vehicles run through the subscription model will have four times the life expectancy as those sold outright and produce 80% less carbon overall compared to a combustion vehicle. 

“Subscription means we own the vehicle, so we manage the lifecycle,” said Allan. “So the first life starts at high intensity, and that might be 60,000 kilometers delivering pizza, or it might be 30,000 kilometers on a farm, which are equally hard for different reasons. Then after, that vehicle will go down to a lower intensity application. After that the battery can then be pulled out, and that might go into passive solar storage or something like that.”

Allan sees solving the end-of-life issue as a personal and professional challenge, one with room for creativity since no one has fully figured out the correct way of doing it. He says he takes a bottom up approach when it comes to the engineering of the vehicle in a way that allows for easier recycling.

“Like when you design a battery, fuck putting fire retardant foam into it because you can’t get it back at the end of life,” he said. “So it starts with correctly labeling, engineering with intent so that you’re designing for this type of assembly, and then your business or commercial system needs to support the concept. Now, we’ve got the advantage because the economics and incentives are aligned, and that all aligns with New Zealand’s product stewardship legislation.”

Trying to perfect the circular economy through utility vehicles isn’t just about doing what’s right for the environment. Allan thinks it’ll be a smart business decision in the end, one that will draw in customers and give the company a competitive edge with enterprise clients. 

“This is a part of your journey with us as a customer,” said Allan. “If we can design subscriptions and the life of the vehicle in such a way that you feel good about it, that’s where we’re driving from. Most people want to do the right thing, and we can provide something that logically fits the economics, can be done at scale and can be managed holistically.”

Populus AI plots expansion with $5M in new funding

The wave of shared electric scooters that swept through cities several years ago helped Populus AI get its start. Now, surging demand for delivery — and the pressure it places on curb space — is helping the transportation data startup attract new capital and expand to more cities.

Populus, a San Francisco-based startup founded in 2017, has raised $5 million from new investors Storm Ventures and contract manufacturing and supplier company Magna along with existing backers Precursor, Relay Ventures and Ulu Ventures. The company has raised nearly $9 million to date.

Populus plans to use that capital to expand to more cities, growth that the company believes will be driven by demand for street and curb management. Populus has contracts with more than 80 cities, including Oakland, San Diego, and Tel Aviv, and works with more than 25 micromobility operators. Co-founder and CEO Regina Clewlow said their aim is to triple the number of cities over the next 18 months.

The Populus platform is a software as a service product that operates like a two-way street. The company pulls data from fleets of shared ebikes, scooters, mopeds and car-sharing and delivers that information to cities to help planners and regulators understand and manage how streets and curbs are used. Cities can also use the Populus API to share its rules of the road — restrictions on motorized vehicles, preferred scooter parking areas and information on bike lanes, for instance — to mapping platforms and any other third party.

“In recent years, there has been significant growth in venture-backed startups delivering software to cities, especially as transportation becomes increasingly connected and automated,” Frederik Groce, a partner at Storm Ventures and founder of BLCK VC said in a statement “Populus is uniquely positioned as the market leader to support cities’ digital transformation.”

Last year, Populus added a street manager to the platform to allow cities to communicate new policies such as slow or shared streets that prioritize bikes and pedestrians, areas designated for outdoor dining and construction closures.

The curb management feature, which was also added last year, will be the main driver of growth in 2021, Clewlow said. Cities can use that data to set dynamic pricing for curb space, for example.

“What most cities really want to use our digital technology for is managing commercial fleets including delivery,” Clewlow said. Curb space is being used by both scheduled and on-demand vehicles, she said, adding that these areas are not designed for the volume of deliveries that occur today.

“Cities are continuing to see a boom in delivery; that’s a trend that predated COVID and obviously accelerated during COVID,” Clewlow said. “A real pain point for cities is managing how that space is used by commercial delivery vehicles.”