Tesla opening its Superchargers to all EVs might be a masterstroke — or a terrible mistake

After a decade of keeping its North American charging network closed to outsiders, Tesla appears poised to allow other electric vehicles to use its Superchargers.

The White House announced on Wednesday that the company would open 7,500 chargers — including 3,500 250 kW stalls along highways — to any EV with the combined charging system (CCS), the standard broadly used in the U.S. (The company has vowed to do something similar before, so maybe don’t hold your breath just yet, though this new Biden administration fact sheet has some hard numbers, which were notably absent last year.) The first bricks in the EV charger wall should rattle loose by the end of 2024.

If Tesla follows through — again, a big “if” given the company’s preference for splashy announcements and optimistic timelines — it could usher in a sea change in EV charging infrastructure in the U.S.

Today, Electrify America, the closest competitor, has about 3,500 fast chargers. If Tesla were to make the change overnight, it would double the number of fast-charging stalls.

Tesla’s main motivator, of course, is getting a piece of the $7.5 billion EV charging pie that’s part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. While opening a portion of the Supercharger network will help the automaker’s bottom line courtesy of the government, the move will also have some knock-on effects that are likely to upend EV charging in the U.S. Here are a few ways those could unfurl.

The cynical take is that Tesla is simply going to use federal money to put even more distance between itself and its competitors. It’s possible, even likely, that the company will use the new funding to add new stalls to its already enviable network.

Tesla opening its Superchargers to all EVs might be a masterstroke — or a terrible mistake by Tim De Chant originally published on TechCrunch

Toyota stumbled as Hyundai was stealing the successful Prius playbook

Toyota has been taking a beating in the press these days. The new Prius, arguably the company’s standard bearer, has been damned with faint praise. One review called it “the best CD player in a download world.”

Beyond that, the company has been called out for lobbying against California’s right to set emissions standards and more generally to slow the transition to electric vehicles. That’s probably because its EV strategy is in shambles.

The automaker, once viewed as a leader in low-emissions motoring, has fallen from its perch.

Now, that may not matter much in the short term. The company is still profitable, netting $3.79 billion in the third quarter.

But the danger to the company lies in its long-term prospects. Investors have pressed the company on its EV plans, which are anemic enough to endanger its status as one of the world’s largest automakers. Those concerns are undoubtedly reflected in its stock price, which today hovers just a few dollars above where it traded 16 years ago when it was riding the Prius wave.

It’s possible that Toyota can pull a rabbit out of the hat and roll out a killer set of EVs. Or maybe the company is right about hydrogen, and it’ll achieve a breakthrough in fuel cell technology while simultaneously building an extensive network of green hydrogen stations. Maybe.

Toyota stumbled as Hyundai was stealing the successful Prius playbook by Tim De Chant originally published on TechCrunch

Bird’s plan to stay in the shared scooter game

Shared micromobility company Bird has lost nearly all of its value since going public through a special purpose acquisition merger last year, falling from a 52-week high of $9.05 per share to around 23 cents per share this afternoon. In its short life on the public markets, Bird has garnered a reputation for burning through cash as it tries to be everywhere at once.

Bird’s free fall has investors and industry watchers questioning the company’s future and the state of the industry overall.

The upshot? Bird CEO and president Shane Torchiana predicts a major consolidation in the industry, with two or three companies coming out on top. Bird, he said, has a chance to be one of those companies.

That bullishness might prompt the rise of a few investor eyebrows considering the last year.

Bird has gone through a major restructuring, an executive shakeup, a round of layoffs, an exodus from multiple markets, a delisting warning from the New York Stock Exchange, a confession that it had overstated revenue for the past two years and a warning to investors that Bird may not have enough funds to continue operating for the next 12 months.

Torchiana contends the turmoil has forced Bird to take action and develop a strategy that drives down costs, improves efficiency and eventually even leads to profitability.

His plan includes increasing battery-swappable scooters, taking more control over asset allocation and making nice with cities. The company aims to be free cash flow positive by next year and to become adjusted EBITDA positive on a full-year basis, even if it needs to sacrifice some growth to achieve that.

Money, vehicles, ridership and staying lean

First things first: Bird needs to raise some more money so it can become a self-sufficient company. It closed out the third quarter with $38.5 million in free cash flow and operating expenses at $29.4 million.

Torchiana said he thinks around 3% or 4% of what Bird has raised historically should get the company out of its hole and into self-sustaining territory. Bird wouldn’t disclose its total funding amount, but per Crunchbase, the company has raised $883 million to date. That means it’ll need to scrounge together another $26 million to $35 million.

The problem is, given Bird’s shaky track record, investors are understandably dubious of claims that it can succeed. Tom White, an analyst at D.A. Davidson investment bank, said he isn’t sure which investors would throw Bird a bone at this point.

“Given Bird’s market cap, raising any significant amount of money would most likely mean substantial dilution for existing equity holders,” White told TechCrunch. “The white knight scenario here could be a strategic investment, where someone invests a lot of money for a decent-sized stake in the business.”

Bird’s plan to stay in the shared scooter game by Rebecca Bellan originally published on TechCrunch

The next big market opportunity for micromobility is commercial, not consumer

Drones, sidewalk robots and autonomous vehicles are being touted as some of the next big movers in the last-mile delivery space, but what of the humble bicycle?

Global logistics and delivery companies like UPS, FedEx and Amazon have all begun trialing some form of electric bike or cargo bike for delivery. At the same time, startups are cropping up to provide both fleets of micromobility vehicles for enterprises and e-bike subscriptions for couriers and gig workers.

As last-mile delivery increases due to a booming e-commerce scene and pandemic habits now ingrained in consumers’ lifestyles, the biggest market for micromobility will end up being in the commercial space, not focused on consumers.

“It makes little sense to deliver an iPhone or a poke bowl in a Buick,” Nate Jaret, general partner at Maniv Mobility, an Israeli VC that specializes in early-stage mobility companies, told TechCrunch. “Given the right tool, couriers can work faster and get better paid – and electric two- and three-wheelers are increasingly the right tool.”

The last-mile delivery market size is expected to hit $123 billion by 2030, at a compound annual growth rate of 13.21%. If the sector continues as it is now, that will look like a whole lot more trucks, vans and cars taking up space in cities and polluting the air that people breathe – not exactly the message we’re trying to send these days.

“It makes little sense to deliver an iPhone or a poke bowl in a Buick.” Nate Jaret, general partner at Maniv Mobility

Micromobility solves the problem that electric cars and vans don’t, particularly in urban centers – they are small enough to bypass traffic congestion and quick enough to make as many as two times more stops per hour than a delivery vehicle, according to John Pearson, DHL Express Europe’s CEO. The total cost of ownership of e-bikes is also minuscule compared to vans.

Working e-bikes into the logistics system also solves the problem that autonomous delivery vehicles – be they sidewalk robots or something a little bigger, like Nuro’s delivery vehicles – don’t. The technology is available now, not in 10 years.

These factors present a competitive advantage for businesses that want to reduce costs in the last mile, which is usually the most inefficient and costly part of the delivery chain.

“We believe that many commercial and delivery applications (and especially urban last-mile delivery) will electrify faster than consumer use-cases, due to total cost of ownership considerations – amortizing the higher upfront cost of any EV is much easier when the vehicle’s wheels are rolling eight or more hours a day,” said Jaret.

Can battery recycling help end US reliance on China?

The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden earlier this month, puts the U.S. on the path toward realizing its carbon reduction goals, in part by spurring its EV market. It has also plunged that same market into short-term chaos by requiring entire supply chains to be restructured in just a few years.

The catalyst is the IRA’s steep requirements around where automakers can shop for critical battery materials if they want to be eligible for the $7,500 Clean Vehicle tax credit. China, the world’s largest producer of such supplies, is not on the list.

As a result, many in the industry are swiveling their heads toward battery recycling companies that promise to supply automakers with at least some of the materials they’ll need in the coming years to produce the wave of EVs coming to market. This space has already seen substantial recent VC investment, particularly as millions of tons of lithium-ion batteries are expected to retire by 2030.

The new legislation has sent a signal to recyclers, battery producers and automakers that 2030 is not soon enough.

Ending reliance on China

Gogoro’s public debut could supercharge EV battery swapping across the globe

Gogoro, the company behind Taiwan’s thriving two-wheeler battery swapping ecosystem, is poised to succeed where others have tried and could not — and now it has the cash to do so.

On Monday, the company closed its merger with special purpose acquisition company Poema Global and is now listing on the Nasdaq under the ticker GGR. Gogoro expects to receive about $335 million in cash proceeds from the deal. 

Gogoro’s public debut and success in raising money suggest there’s a market for battery swapping stations, but only if the conditions are right. Around a decade ago, Israeli startup Better Place tried and failed spectacularly to popularize battery swapping for electric cars. But it was both too early in the collective electric vehicle journey for such a business to succeed and too much of an investment to build all of the infrastructure required to easily swap out batteries of large four-wheeled vehicles en masse. 

Backed by more favorable market conditions and much better timing, Gogoro has been able to unlock the recipe needed for scaling its battery swapping system. But that doesn’t mean Gogoro’s business model will work everywhere — while cities like New York or San Francisco suffer from congestion and would likely benefit from a platform such as Gogoro’s, too many habits surrounding Americans’ preference for four-wheeled vehicles would have to change to make it successful, and Gogoro knows that. 

Instead, the company is focusing on the markets where it can win – namely dense Asian cities where two-wheeled vehicles are already popular. Gogoro will use the fresh funds from its IPO to continue to expand in Taiwan as it branches outward to larger markets like China, India, and Indonesia. 

Why battery swapping matters

Since its founding in 2011, Gogoro’s “Swap & Go” battery swapping solution — where riders of electric mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles with Gogoro batteries can easily swap out a dead battery for a fully charged one — has become ubiquitous in Taiwan. Coupled with Gogoro’s Smartscooter, which the company first dropped in 2015 to help its business model along, the battery swapping system has enabled electric two-wheeler adoption.

In Taipei, a quarter of all new scooters sold last December were electric, and nationally, 97% of e-scooters sold in 2021 were either Gogoro scooters or powered by Gogoro’s batteries and charging infrastructure, according to data shared by Taiwan’s government.

Just last week, Taiwan said all new passenger cars and scooters will have to be zero-emissions by 2040 – the government is putting around $5.8 billion (TWD168.3 billion) toward this aim, including using subsidies and other incentives to see the share of new electric scooters hit 35% by 2030 and 70% by 2035.

“That’s a huge endorsement for what we’re doing,” Horace Luke, CEO and founder of Gogoro, told TechCrunch. “The company’s gotta be bulked up to take advantage of that transition and support our partners. We have Yamaha, Suzuki Taiwan, Aeon, PGO, and a bunch of guys are looking for us to build up the infrastructure as they transition to electric.”

Despite flat growth, ride-hailing colossus Didi’s US IPO could reach $70B

Didi filed to go public in the United States last night, providing a look into the Chinese ride-hailing company’s business. This morning, we’re extending our earlier reporting on the company to dive into its numerical performance, economic health and possible valuation.

Didi is approaching the American public markets at a fortuitous moment. While the late-2020 IPO fervor, which sent offerings from DoorDash and others skyrocketing after their debuts, has cooled, valuations for public companies remain high compared to historical norms. And Uber and Lyft, two American ride-hailing companies, have been posting numbers that point to at least a modest recovery in the ride-hailing industry as COVID-19 abates in many parts of the world.

As further grounding, recall that Didi has raised tens of billions worth of private capital from venture capitalists, private equity firms, corporations and other sources. The size of the bet riding on Didi is simply massive. As we explore the company’s finances, then, we’re more than vetting a single company’s performance; we’re examining what sort of returns an ocean of capital may be able to derive from its exit.

In that vein, we’ll consider GMV results, revenue growth, historical profitability, present-day profitability, and what Didi may be worth on the American markets, given current comps. Sound good? Into the breach!

Inside Didi’s IPO filing

Starting at the highest level, how quickly has gross transaction volume (GTV) scaled at the company?


Didi is historically a business that operates in China but has operations today in more than a dozen countries. The impact and recovery of China’s bout with COVID-19 is therefore not the whole picture of the company’s GTV results.

COVID-19 began to affect the company starting in the first quarter of 2020. From the Didi F-1 filing:

Core Platform GTV fell by 32.8% in the first quarter of 2020 as compared to the first quarter of 2019, and then by 16.0% in the second quarter of 2020 as compared to the second quarter of 2019.

The dips were short-lived, however, with Didi quickly returning to growth in the second half of the year:

Our businesses resumed growth in the second half of 2020, which moderated the impact on a year-on-year basis. Our Core Platform GTV for the full year 2020 decreased by 4.8% as compared to the full year 2019. Both our China Mobility and International segments were impacted, but whereas the GTV for our China Mobility segment decreased by 6.6% from 2019 to 2020, the GTV for our International segment increased by 11.4% from 2019 to 2020.

Holding to just the Chinese market, we can see how rapidly Didi managed to pick itself up over the last year. Chinese GTV at Didi grew from 25.7 billion RMB to 54.6 billion RMB from the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021; naturally, we’re comparing a more pandemic-impacted quarter at the company to a less-affected period, but the comparison is still useful for showing how the company recovered from early-2020 lows.

The number of transactions that Didi recorded in China during the first quarter of this year was also up more than 2x year over year.

On a whole-company basis, Didi’s “core platform GTV,” or the “sum of GTV for our China Mobility and International segments,” posted numbers that are less impressive in growth terms:

Image Credits: Didi F-1 filing

You can see how quickly and painfully COVID-19 blunted Didi’s global operations. But seeing the company settle back to late-2019 GTV numbers in 2021 is not super bullish.

Takeaway: While Didi managed an impressive GTV recovery in China, its aggregate numbers are flatter, and recent quarterly trends are not incredibly attractive.

Revenue growth