Einride brings its electric trucks to U.K. freight sector in partnership with PepsiCo

Electric and autonomous trucking company Einride is expanding to the U.K., representing the latest in a line of European market expansions.

Einride said that it’s looking to target the 1.6 billion tonnes of goods that are transported by road freight in the U.K each year. Its first U.K. deployment will be in partnership with PepsiCo snack-food subsidiary Walkers, which will use Einride’s trucks and platform to deliver goods between the cities of Leicester and Coventry, which it says will help it cut fossil fuel-powered transport by 250,000 miles each year.

PepsiCo’s initial roll out will be more of a “suck it and see” over a three-year pilot before it commits to any route expansions.

“With this initial deployment, we’re looking forward to better understanding the potential role electric trucks can play in our transport operations,” Archana Jagannathan, PepsiCo UK’s head of sustainability, said in a statement.

PepsiCo is a major coup as a launch partner, though Einride has struck other big-name commercial deals elsewhere including Electrolux in Germany and GE Appliances in the U.S., the latter serving as a pilot partner for Einride’s fully autonomous pods (more on that below).

Over time, Einride says that it’s planning to establish a “freight mobility grid” spanning some of the most heavily trafficked freight routes, starting in the Midlands and extending through many of the major conurbations including Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, and London.

Einride's planned transport network grid

Einride’s planned transport network grid Image Credits: Einride


Founded out of Sweden in 2016, Einride garnered attention in the European mobility space for its cab-less self-driving cargo truck that can be controlled remotely by human operators when needed.

Einride in action Image Credits: Einride

Although these “pods” are being piloted commercially in Sweden and the U.S., regulatory obstacles mean that Einride has had to expand its scope to include human-driven electric trucks too as part of a transitionary period, backed by its Saga platform that helps its freight and logistics customers manage and optimize their fleets. And this is what PepsiCo will be using as part of its Einride partnership, kicking off with two connected electric trucks that will be deployed in the Midlands starting in July.

“As Einride expands its presence and customer list in the U.K., it is looking forward to finding innovative local partners – both with regards to customers and legislation — who are ready to implement projects with Einride’s autonomous technology,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Einride plans to explore autonomous operations in a stepwise approach, with a focus on fenced areas at customer sites, or within an authorised project on public roads with lower complexity — for example, between a production site and warehouse or distribution centre.”

Einride's PepsiCo (Walkers) Truck

Einride’s PepsiCo (Walkers) Truck Image Credits: Einride

Einride had already expanded into the U.S. back in 2021, while in recent months it has rolled in to Germany and the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) region, with plans in place to target Norway this year too. Its latest expansion comes hot on the heels of a major U.K. government initiative designed to decarbonize the country’s freight transport across road, rail and sea, having recently launched a new £7 million fund for SMEs working to make domestic freight cleaner.

While Einride isn’t one of the beneficiaries of this Freight Innovation Fund (FIF), the company is fresh from a $500 million fundraise from a slew of investors, including $300 million in debt-financing from Barclays Europe which Einride has been using to bolster its vehicle fleet as it continues to expand its footprint across Europe and North America.

Einride brings its electric trucks to U.K. freight sector in partnership with PepsiCo by Paul Sawers originally published on TechCrunch

Autonomous and electric truck company Einride raises $500M in equity and debt

Einride today announced a $500 million tranche of financing as it looks to expand its autonomous and electric trucks into new markets globally.

The cash injection constitutes an equity-based $200 million Series C portion from backers including Northzone, EQT Ventures, Temasek, Swedish pension fund AMF, Polar Structure, and Norrsken VC. Additionally, the Swedish company said that it has also secured $300 million in debt funding led by Barclays Europe, which will be used substantively to bolster its fleet of vehicles as it extends further into new and existing markets across Europe and North America.

Founded out of Stockholm in 2016, Einride initially developed a cab-less self-driving cargo truck that can also be controlled remotely by human operators if required.

Einride in action Image Credits: Einride

These “pods” have already been piloted commercially, but regulatory hurdles has led Einride to adopt a two-pronged approach that also involves human-driven electric trucks as an intermediary step toward autonomy. These vehicles are already available to shipping companies and carriers in Sweden and in the U.S., powered by its Saga platform that helps clients operate and optimize their fleets.

Expansion drive

Einride has already been on something of an expansion drive (so to speak) these past few months, launching in Germany back in September followed by Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg last week, with plans in place to target Norway too. Serving large companies such as Electrolux and GE Appliances, the latter which Einride has partnered with to deploy fully-autonomous pods as part of a U.S. pilot, is a hugely capital-intensive endeavor when you factor in the costs associated with developing hundreds of trucks and the associated software.

And that is basically why Einride is having to raise such a large pot of financing now, having already raised around $150 million since its inception including its $110 million Series B last year.

While many companies have raised follow-on rounds of funding this year at markedly lower valuations, it’s impossible to know how the economic downturn has impacted Einride as it has never revealed its valuation at any of its previous funding rounds — and it’s not changing tack with this latest round either.

However, despite the impact of the global pandemic and other macroeconomic factors, the freight trucking industry is showing little sign of slowing, with reports suggesting it’s expected to grow from a $2.1 trillion industry in 2020 to nearly $3 trillion within the next five years. Certainly, there has been many signs throughout this year that investors are still fairly bullish about any technology that helps the freight and logistics sectors.

“The time is now to act on not only developing but accelerating the implementation of technology that will create a cleaner, safer and more efficient way to move goods,” Einride founder and CEO Robert Falck said in a statement.

Einride said that the first half of its $300 million debt financing will begin trickling out in January, while its equity tranche includes a $90 million convertible note that it raised earlier this year.

Autonomous and electric truck company Einride raises $500M in equity and debt by Paul Sawers originally published on TechCrunch

Einride founder on building an underlying business to support future tech goals

Swedish startup Einride was founded in 2016 with a mission to electrify freight transport. Today, that means designing electric trucks and an underlying operating system to help overland shippers make the transition to electric. In the future, it will mean deploying electric autonomous freight — more specifically, Einride’s autonomous pods, which are purpose-built for self-driving and can’t accommodate human drivers.

Einride founder and CEO Robert Falck told TechCrunch a year ago that he felt a moral obligation to create a greener mode of freight transport after spending years building heavy-duty diesel trucks at Volvo GTO Powertrain. On top of that, he saw the need to eventually automate the role of long-haul trucking.

Falck, a serial entrepreneur, decided against the route many autonomous trucking companies have taken — doggedly pursuing self-driving technology, even if it meant putting sensors and software stacks on diesel vehicles. Rather, Falck chose a two-step process to bring Einride to market. The first involves working with OEM partners to build electric trucks and partnering with shippers to deploy them and earn revenue. That revenue then goes back into the business for the second step, which is the development of an autonomous system. By the time Einride is ready to go to market with its autonomous pods, it will ideally already have a range of commercial shipping partners in its pipeline.

Einride’s current shipping clients across Sweden and the U.S. include Oatly, Bridgestone, Maersk and Beyond Meat. The company said it clears close to 20,000 shipments per day.

Over the past few months, Einride has completed a public road pilot of its electric, autonomous pod in Tennessee with GE Appliances, launched its electric trucks in Germany in partnership with home appliance giant Electrolux, announced plans to build a network of freight charging stations in Sweden and Los Angeles, and introduced its second-generation autonomous pod.

We sat down with Falck a year after our initial interview with him to talk about the challenges of reaching autonomy when connectivity on the roads is lacking, why the Big Tech crashes are actually healthy for the industry and what consolidation looks like for autonomous driving.

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

Einride founder on building an underlying business to support future tech goals by Rebecca Bellan originally published on TechCrunch

Autonomous electric truck company Einride rides into Germany

Autonomous and electric truck maker Einride is rolling into Germany, representing its first new market in Europe outside its native Sweden.

Founded out of Stockholm in 2016, Einride has raised some $150 million in funding to commercialize a cab-less autonomous cargo truck, one that can be controlled remotely if required by human operators. It’s a notable departure from the slew of rival autonomous trucking companies out there, which are essentially retrofitting existing trucks for an autonomous world — Einride’s trucks are custom built for autonomy, with no physical space for a human driver to even sit.

While these so-called “pods” have been fully piloted with commercial clients, regulatory hurdles has meant that Einride has had to offer human-driven electric trucks as part of the transition to full-autonomy, which are available to shippers and carriers in Sweden and in the U.S., where it launched last year, alongside its software-based Saga platform for running and optimizing fleets.

It’s also worth noting that Einride is gearing up to deploy its fully autonomous pods on U.S. public roads in partnership with General Electric Appliances (GEA), with imminent plans to start operating on a mile-long stretch of road between GEA’s factory and a warehouse in Selmer, Tennessee.

Einride in action Image Credits: Einride

Einride has attracted a fairly high-profile roster of early customers in addition to GEA, including Oatly, Beyond Meat, Bridgestone, and Maersk, the latter representing Einride’s largest order for electric transportation globally, with the Danish shipping company set to roll out some 300 trucks across Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

Gearing up

With its German launch, Einride is launching a regional office in Berlin, with plans to create logistics hubs in other key metropolitan areas. This will also require a purpose-built charging grid, which Einride said it will create along Germany’s most important commercial routes and neighboring trade regions.

Einride is teaming up with home appliance manufacturing giant Electrolux for its German launch, which will work with Einride toward building the charging infrastructure at its warehousing facilities.

“Beyond this first partnership, we will focus on metropolitan areas such as the Ruhr area, Hamburg, Berlin, where we are planning on building our own charging network along major trade routes to support further potential partners with their fleet transformation,” Einride CEO Robert Falck explained to TechCrunch. “In the beginning, our focus is on three main operational areas: the distribution of partial loads, shuttles between distribution centers and plants, and the electrification of the first and last mile of intermodal transports.”

But while the initial focus will be squarely on its electric trucks, automation via its self-driving pods will be next on the agenda.

“As we expand our presence and customer list in German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland), we are also looking forward to finding local partners who are ready to implement initial pilot projects with the Einride Pod, as we have already done in Sweden and the USA,” Falck added.

As one of Europe’s biggest economies and a freight and logistics powerhouses spanning road and sea, Germany represents an obvious expansion for Einride in the European market. On top of that, today’s announcement comes a year after Germany essentially greenlighted driverless vehicles on public roads, though the final legislation is still winding its way through the relevant regulatory processes.

“Germany is in the driving seat of Europe — where it goes, others follow suit,” Falck said. “We have the opportunity and technology to bring the biggest change to the freight industry since the invention of the internal combustion engine, and are ready to join forces with local partners to make transportation history.”

Autonomous electric truck company Einride rides into Germany by Paul Sawers originally published on TechCrunch

The Station: Cruise turns on the meter, Bird fails to take flight, layoffs come for micromobility

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.

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

I’m your host, transportation editor Kirsten Korosec, and yes, I’m still on vacation. But I couldn’t abandon my readers, which means this will be a short and sweet one this week.

One note for all the automotive enthusiasts out there. If you want a peek at what automakers are testing these days, just head to Colorado, specifically Summit County. I’ve seen at least three different vehicles (possibly four), all wrapped in their camo, being tested on some of the paved mountain passes.

Oh and two TC+ stories to flag. Check out this deep dive into Rimac by reporter Jaclyn Trop. The company’s latest fundraise valued the Croatian startup at $2.2 billion, prompting the question: How has this company succeeded where so many other EV makers have struggled? And then read reporter Rebecca Bellan’s report on how ghost kitchens have popped up at college campuses on the backs of delivery bots.

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 @kirstenkorosec.


Sooo… Helbiz said it has signed a letter of intent to acquire Wheels, which offers seated scooters and an integrated helmet technology. Like me, you might be wondering (and not for the first time!), What the Helbiz?!

You may recall we covered Helbiz’s first quarter earnings not too long ago, reporting on a balance sheet that showed a company burning through what little cash it had left at a worryingly unsustainable rate. Not to mention all the weird business moves, from micromobility to ghost kitchens to live sports streaming to cryptocurrency, because why TF not? So how are they going to pull off this deal with Wheels?

Well, the deal is obviously “primarily all stock,” so that leads us to question the business model at Wheels if it’s doing poorly enough to take shares in Helbiz as compensation. On Thursday in early morning hours, Helbiz was trading at $0.81, which is down massively from the $10.20 Helbiz opened at when it first debuted last August.

I’m trying to get Helbiz on the phone to talk this one through, so until then, I shall leave you with 🤷🏻‍♀️.

The tech layoffs you’ve been reading about so much? Yeah, it’s hitting micromobbin’ land as well. Just a couple of weeks after Bird laid off 23% of its staff, the next round of industry layoffs is affecting Voi and Superpedestrian, according to LinkedIn posts from former and current employees.

In other news…

Drover AI founder Alex Nesic on why computer vision, what his company does, is super necessary for micromobility.

India is out here trend-setting sales for three-wheelers to sell out ICE vehicles.

Lime has pulled out of operations in South Korea because with no RFP process and annoying regulations, it’s way too chaotic of an environment.

NYC is expanding its e-scooter pilot with Bird, Lime and Veo in the Bronx.

Using its Bicycle Network Analysis toolPeople for Bikes released its city ratings for the best places to bike. Notably, many big cities — like Seattle, Brooklyn, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Portland, St. Paul and Detroit — saw small but nice increases in their scores from last year. Surprisingly, the city with the highest Community Survey score (70) was Bentonville, Arkansas.

Superpedestrian and Voi are the latest micromobility companies to lay off workers, and I’m sure they won’t be the last.

UPS is riding around in some fire bike lane-friendly, pedal-powered quad thingos in NYC.

Walmart got the hook up for mid-drive e-bikes.

– Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

This isn’t a deal so much as a case study in a SPAC deal gone awry. I’m talking about Bird, the scooter and micromobility company.

As news editor Darrell Etherington quipped, Bird has to fly at a slightly higher altitude — at least if it wants to keep its New York Stock Exchange listing. The company warned via a press release and securities filing that it had received word from the NYSE that its share price was “not in compliance” with the exchange’s requirement that Class A Common Stock for a listed company be at least $1.00 over the course of a consecutive 30-day trading period.

Let’s do a rewind on Bird. In November 2021, Bird ended its first day of trading at $8.40 per share. Bird’s share price has taken a swan dive down to $0.56 a share. That’s 93.37% lower, folks.

Some of the deals that got my attention this week while on vacay …

Laka, a bicycle insurance provider, secured additional funding from Porsche Ventures, bringing its Series A to $13.5 million. The Series A was led by Autotech Ventures and followed by Ponooc, Dutch sustainable mobility investor with close ties to the world’s largest bike seller Pon, and ABN AMRO.

Forvia, the automotive supplier formerly known as Faurecia, increased the company’s share capital by around 705 million euros ($740.9 million) and will use the proceeds to fund the acquisition of German peer Hella, Reuters reported.

Rohlik, an online grocery delivery startup based out of Prague, raised €220 million ($231 million at current rates) in a Series D round led by a new backer, Sofina, with previous investors — Index Ventures and founder/CEO Tomáš Čupr are the two being named — also participating.

Share Mobility, a startup that provides transportation solutions for companies, closed a $12 million Series A led by Iron Gate Capital and Renewal Funds with participation from Employment Technology Fund, JobsOhio, Seamless Capital and others.

Wingcopter, the German drone delivery startup, raised $42 million in a Series A extension led by German retail firm REWE Group and Salvia and XAI technologies.

UVeye, an advanced vehicle diagnostic systems company, received an undisclosed investment from GM Ventures, the capital venture arm of General Motors. UVeye also has entered into a commercial agreement with General Motors, agreeing to work on vehicle-inspection technology projects involving used-car auctions, fleet operations and automotive dealership sales.

Notable reads and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Cruise officially became the first company to offer fared rides to the general public in San Francisco as of late Wednesday. The milestone comes after Cruise received official approval from the California Public Utilities Commission in early June to operate driverless in a commercial capacity.

Einride got the OK to start operating its purpose-built, electric, autonomous pods on public roads in the U.S. The pods are built without a cab for a human and they’ll be hauling goods for General Electric Appliances.

Pony.ai has sampled its autonomous driving controller, which is powered by Nvidia’s Drive Hyperion compute architecture, to customers. What’s more, the company is planning to mass produce the system in Q4 2022.

Electric vehicles, charging & batteries

AlixPartners released its 2022 Global Automotive Outlook and one of the key takeaways is that automakers keen to sell EVs will need to switch their focus from speed to cost. Other nuggets, automakers plan to invest $526 billion toward developing EVs through 2026, up from $330 billion on a rolling five-year period they announced last year.

Arrival‘s van has achieved EU certification and received European Whole Vehicle Type Approval (EUWVTA)

BrightdropGM‘s commercial EV unit, delivered to FedEx another 150 electric delivery vans.

Consolidation! It’s time to talk about a wave of consolidation in the EV charging industry.

Ford chose its Valencia, Spain factory over its facility in Saarlouis, Germany, to build “profitable” EVs that meet the demand of European customers. The choice will lead to a “significant restructuring,” Ford said.

GM will join a growing list of automakers focused on streamlining the EV charging process by equipping its models with “Plug and Charge” capability — aka the ability to easily plug in and automate payment at a range of different charging stations.

Redwood Materials is partnering with Toyota to collect, refurbish and recycle batteries and battery materials that can be sent to the Japanese automaker’s upcoming North Carolina battery plant. Redwood has racked up a bunch of partnerships with OEMs, including Proterra, Ford, Volvo and Panasonic, which is supplying batteries to Tesla’s Nevada gigafactory.

Surging demand for this year’s most hotly anticipated EVs is smashing order books and lengthening waitlists. The $60,000 Cadillac Lyriq SUV is the latest model to close its 2023 order book.

In-car tech

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed requiring automakers to collect more crash data from event data recorders. These so-called “black boxes” would need to capture 20 seconds of pre-crash data at a higher frequency rate, under the proposal.

Polestar finally added Apple CarPlay to its all-electric Polestar 2 sedan via an over-the-air software update.


Volvo Trucks has started testing vehicles that use fuel cells powered by hydrogen. The company claims refueling will take under 15 minutes and range could be as high as 1,000 kilometers (about 621 miles).

VW Group is being pressured by union groups and shareholders to address allegations of human rights violations in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, where it operates a car factory, Financial Times reported.


It seems this week we need a dedicated Tesla section. Here it goes

Cars.com says Tesla is the most “American made” vehicle.

Owen Diaz, a Black former worker at Tesla’s Fremont, California assembly plant, rejected a $15 million payout from the automaker in a lawsuit alleging racial abuse by co-workers. The award had been slashed from the original $137 million jury verdict. Diaz’s rejection of the award will lead to a new trial.

Tesla Owners Silicon Valley club released its third and “bonus” part of its interview with Elon Musk.

Tesla’s Austin gigafactory could get a new tunnel courtesy of CEO Elon Musk’s other startup, The Boring Company.

Two former Tesla employees filed a lawsuit against the EV maker alleging that the company did not provide the 60 days of advance notice required by federal law during a recent round of layoffs.


Revel has expanded its all-electric ride-hail service to Brooklyn.

Uber has re-launched a new version of Uber Pool, called UberX Share, in some cities.

A lawsuit by Uber and Lyft drivers is claiming the companies are violating antitrust law by setting the prices customers pay and limiting drivers’ ability to choose which rides they accept without penalty.


Paul Gao was hired to a newly created position of Chief Strategy Officer of Mercedes-Benz Group AG. Gao was most recently a senior partner at McKinsey & Company in Hong Kong, serving both Chinese and global industry clients. Gao will report directly to CEO Ola Källenius.

Trevor Milton, the controversial founder and former Nikola Corp CEO, was hit with a new wire-fraud charge by federal prosecutors.

Tony Tavares, current Caltrans District 7 Chief, was appointed as the new head of Caltrans.

Einride to operate its cab-less autonomous pods on U.S. public roads

Einride, the Swedish startup that wants to electrify the autonomous freight industry, will begin operating its purpose-built, self-driving pods on public roads in the U.S. this year as part of an existing partnership with General Electric Appliances (GEA).

Einride’s pods are built without a front cabin for a human safety operator, which the company says required approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) in order to operate on public roads.

“Other companies are retrofitting existing trucks to become autonomous, but we are doing the opposite,” Robert Falck, CEO and founder at Einride, told TechCrunch. “We are building a brand new way to do autonomous shipping from the ground up which results in this new type of vehicle design and functionality.”

While there are a number of autonomous trucking companies running freight in the U.S. today, it’s true that all of them are currently based on existing trucks, and almost none of them are electric.

Einride says this milestone marks the first time a purpose-built autonomous electric truck has received permission to operate on public roads, however, it is reminiscent of autonomous vehicle company Nuro’s 2020 request for a temporary exemption from certain low-speed vehicle standard requirements. Nuro’s vehicles, which deliver food and groceries using public roads, are also built without space for a driver or passengers. The company therefore needed NHTSA approval to use a new type of vehicle that isn’t built with certain human-centered features, like mirrors or a windshield. Presumably, Einride’s approval is similar in nature, but the company would not confirm with TechCrunch. NHTSA also was unable to confirm this to TechCrunch, despite multiple attempts to reach out.

Einride did say that the approval is conditional upon the company adhering to a set location and timing – Einride’s pod will be operating on a mixed traffic, mile-long stretch of road between a GEA factory and a warehouse in Selmer, Tennessee beginning in the third quarter of 2022. Einride has been piloting its pods with GEA since November 2021 at the company’s fenced warehouse in Louisville, during which time Einride tested the metal of its technology in a closed facility with predetermined routes and a controlled environment.

“This new pilot will take us out onto public roads for the first time in the U.S., allowing short shipments on routes that utilize public roads as well as fenced areas,” said Falck, noting that the pod will operate between a fenced warehouse and public roads. “What we’re building with these various pilots is a clear business case of how our Einride Pods can support commercialization for customers, in a variety of environments.”

During the initial two-week pilot, the pod will carry cargo and coordinate with teams at the warehouses for loading and unloading. A remote pod operator, which Einride says is a key to helping the company’s business model become scalable in the future, will monitor operations and assist or guide when needed during critical, low-speed operations, according to the company. For example, the remote operator might assist the vehicle in backing up to a dock or waiting for workers to unload the pod. Einride says the vehicle can operate autonomously in most other situations.

It’s not clear how many runs the pod will do each day, but per the limits of its approval with NHTSA, Einride’s pod will only operate during daylight hours on weekdays, and it will avoid adverse weather and road conditions like heavy rain, snow, fog, hail or temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The pod has the ability, however, to operate in such conditions due to lidar and cameras, the company said.

Einride is also growing its footprint in the U.S. through its partnership with oat-based milk company Oatly. The two expanded their partnership earlier this month to electrify Oatly’s North American fleet with five of Einride’s connected electric Class 8 trucks. In February, Einride reportedly ordered 200 electric trucks from BYD to be used in the U.S.

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?

Einride launches autonomous pods and electric freight operations in U.S.

Swedish freight technology company Einride announced the launch of its operations in the United States. On Thursday, the company will officially begin testing its transport solutions – like its autonomous ‘pods,’ electric trucks and ‘Saga’ operating system – with partners like GE Appliances (GEA), Bridgestone and Oatly.

The company also announced that it would introduce a U.S. version of its pod which has been adapted to suit American road conditions and regulations, as well as a flatbed pod, a module vehicle built to accommodate a range of shipping needs, such as transporting containers from shipyards.

Einride operates one of Europe’s largest fleets of electric trucks. Its autonomous pods, which are built without a front cab, and thus, without room for a human safety operator, are also electric. Some of the other major players in the autonomous freight game, like Kodiak Robotics, TuSimple and Waymo, are not necessarily pursuing an electric-only approach.

“Between 7% and 8% of global CO2 emissions come from heavy road freight transport,” Robert Falck, CEO and founder of Einride, told TechCrunch. “One of the drivers for starting Einride is that I’m very worried that by optimizing and making road freight transport autonomous, but based on diesel, it’s likely that we will actually increase emissions because it would become that much cheaper to operate.”

Einride’s partnership wth GEA will involve the deployment of seven autonomous and electric trucks that will run at at the company’s 750 acre campus in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as other locations in Tennessee and Georgia. The company predicts GEA will save 870 tons of carbon dioxide emissions within the first year of launch, and the plan is to expand the partnership with GEA rapidly over the course of the next few years with additional trucks to be added.

The Bridgestone collaboration is more of a technology partnership aimed at co-creating sustainable mobility solutions for electrified and autonomous Class 8 vehicles.

The collaboration allows Einride to collect new layers of safety and efficiency-related data from Bridgestone’s smart-sensing tires, while enabling Bridgestone to integrate its advanced mobility technologies into Einride’s onboard vehicle platforms,” a spokesperson for Einride told TechCrunch. “Einride will supply connected electric trucks and digital services under a subscription agreement to Bridgestone for its U.S. shipping logistics network, with the aim of electrifying the majority of Bridgestone’s landside transport needs by 2025.”

Oatly, an oat milk company, is already a partner of Einride’s in Europe and is now expanding that partnership to the U.S. Einride wouldn’t share many details about the American expansion, but Falck said that it will look similar to how Einride digitalized and electrified Oatly’s European transportation beginning in 2020. In Europe, and presumably in the U.S., Einride provides Oatly with electric trucks and its Saga platform, which has helped the company go electric quicker and reduce its carbon footprint by 87% on selected routes, according to Einride.

Einride’s U.S. launch also coincides with an update to the Saga platform. Saga, which comes from the old Norse word for “all knowing,” is the IoT system that runs through Einride’s electric trucks and pods. It’s how the company optimizes routes and runs a large electric fleet, and Einride hopes it will become a sort of universal operating system that will help transform the heavy freight industry and empower companies to electrify their fleets.

“The current trucking industry is extremely fragmented and not very coordinated,” said Falck. “It’s hard to go electric, but it’s not about range and it’s not about how much you can actually deploy electric. If we use our Saga platform and our operating system, you can actually electrify up to 40% of the U.S. road freight transport system with a competitive business case using existing technology. It’s more about deploying new way of thinking rather than just improving the hardware.”

Because Einride’s pods don’t employ on-board safety operators, the company has also employed a new way of thinking about how to achieve Level 4 autonomy. (Level 4 means the vehicles can handle all aspects of driving in certain conditions without human intervention, according to SAE International.)

Einride’s entire system has to be built differently due to the lack of a safety driver, says Falck. Other companies collect miles with a human operator in the front seat, but Falck calls what Einride has done the “toddler approach,” where it teaches the vehicle to first crawl, then walk slowly until it gradually increases its capabilities.

“We started with traditional Level 4 and then increased usability in applications, combining autonomous with the remote driver ability, so that gives us the flexibility and the benefits of autonomous and human agility and decision making,” said Falck.

The startup has been testing its AV system on public roads in Europe since 2019, but doesn’t yet have a date to start testing in the U.S.

“Since we don’t have a safety driver in the vehicle, or even room for a safety driver, we have to take a different approach to get the legislation,” said Falck. “It varies from nation to nation and state to state, but at the core, it’s about guaranteeing the safety in the application itself. That’s also been our approach since the start to be able to verify the safety case in all applications without the driver in the vehicle.”

A remote truck driver, or ‘pod operator’ will oversee Einride’s pods and take over in certain situations.  Falck says he doesn’t believe in Level 5 autonomy, or one in which AVs essentially drive and think better than humans, and aims for Einride’s system to always have humans in the loop for better agility and decision making.

“Machines still work for the benefit of humans,” said Falck. “We’re still quite far from having that level of AI that the whole industry has been chasing for more than 15 years now, and for us, there are a lot of situations where you can get the benefits of autonomous but also the benefits of having a human in the loop. For instance, if you want to back up to a different gate or want to interact with the drivers around you. It’s really a benefit to have that human decision-making and doesn’t impact the business case too much.”

Einride said it has hired its first pod operator, who has a background in trucking as well as a trucking license, and will reveal them at an event later this year.

In addition to the U.S. launch announcement, Einride also said it would officially establish a U.S. headquarters in New York, where parts of the leadership team will be based, as well as regional offices in Austin, San Francisco and in the South East. It does not plan to build factories in the U.S. at this time.

Autonomous trucking startup Einride raises $110M ahead of expansion into US

Einride, the Swedish startup known for its unusual-looking electric and autonomous pods that are designed to carry freight, has raised $110 million to help fund its expansion in Europe and into the United States.

The Series B round, which far exceeds its previous raises of $10 million in 2020 and $25 million in 2019, included new investors Temasek, Soros Fund Management LLC, Northzone and Maersk Growth. The company said Thursday that existing investors EQT Ventures, Plum Alley, Norrsken VC, Ericsson and NordicNinja VC also participated in the round.

Einride has raised a total of $150 million to date. The company didn’t share its post-money valuation.

The company, founded in 2016 by Robert Falck, Linnéa Kornehed, and Filip Lilja, has two kinds of vehicles: connected, electric heavy trucks driven by humans and its driverless Pods.

The electric trucks do much the freight-shuttling work today for customers like Swedish food producer Oatly, Coca-Cola, Lidl and Electrolux. The company’s pitch is that its electric trucks reduce emissions for its customers by 94% compared to driving with diesel. Einride has also developed a digital platform for carriers that handles planning, scheduling and routing as well as invoices and billing.

Einride electric truck

Image Credits: Screenshot/Einride

The company is perhaps best known for its Einride Pod — once called the T-Pod —  a self-driving truck that doesn’t have a cab and can be controlled remotely. The first-generation vehicle has been tested on public roads in Sweden and even carried freight in a pilot program for Oatly. In October, the unveiled a line of next-generation pod freight-carrying vehicles that depending on its level of autonomy will begin shipping to customers as early as this year.

Einride will be using this significant injection of capital to fulfill current customer contracts, double its 100-person workforce by the end of the year  and expand in Europe and into the United States, according to CEO Robert Falck.

Einride will have operations up and running in the U.S. before the end of the year and are looking to set up a headquarters in Austin, Texas, and additional offices in New York and Silicon Valley, Falck said in an email. Global agreements are in place with brands such as Oatly, which includes U.S. operations, with more to be announced soon, he added.

einride_next-gen pod

Image Credits: Einride

As Einride continues to scale its human-powered electric trucking operation, it is also working on the long-term goal of rolling out commercial driverless Pods. Einride has said its new Pods will be available with differing levels of autonomy and functionality based on its internal Autonomous Electric Transport (AET) classification system, which ranges from levels 1 to 5.

Its AET 1 Pod is for closed facilities with predetermined routes that are best suited for fully-autonomous operation. The constraints expand from there with Pods at AET 2 designed for closed facility operation with an added capability to traverse public roads over short distances between destinations. Einride has said that these first two level of Pods will begin shipping to customers starting in 2021.

Level 3 allows for operation on backroads and less busy main roads between facilities, at a maximum operating speed of 28 mph. At Level 4, under Einride’s system, the Pod will operate autonomously on freeways and other major roads at up to 52 mph. Einride has said that Levels 3 and 4 will ship to customers in 2022 and 2023.

Norrsken Foundation is closing on an oversubscribed impact venture fund at 125 million euros

About four years ago, social impact organization Norrsken Foundation launched a small program investing around EUR30 million in capital it had received from its wealthy patron, Klarna co-founder Niklas Adalberth.

Now, that initiative has become its own impact investment firm, Norrsken VC and, according to people familiar with the firm, is about to close on its first independent investment vehicle — a 125 million euro fund focused on investing in startups that are, as its website suggests, “solving the world’s biggest problems”

Norrsken VC did not respond for a request for comment about the firm’s fundraising plans.

Already, the young firm has invested in companies that would be standouts among any venture capital portfolio. Norrsken VC is one of the early backers behind Northvolt, which just received a $14 billion order for its batteries for electric vehicles from Volkswagen.

Electrification is actually a big theme for the early-stage firm, which counts the electric plane technology developer, Heart Aerospace, and autonomous electric vehicle developer Einride, and the battery monitoring and data management startup, Nortical, among its other portfolio companies.

Einride scored another huge coup recently. TechCrunch reported that the company was close to closing on $75 million in new funding even as it explored a potential SPAC for its business.

Indeed, Norrsken Foundation’s work in investing presaged a surge in climate and sustainability-focused activity from both venture investors, public markets and entrepreneurs looking at how to aid in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable resources and other zero carbon sources of energy.

That thesis on energy consumption extends to other areas of the firm’s portfolio, including companies like the energy efficient data center designer and technology developer, Submer.

If electrification and efficiency are one area of focus in the climate fight, Norrsken has also made moves to combat waste and improve efficiency in the food chain, as well. It’s probably the largest area of focus for the firm’s current portfolio outside of electrification, and there appear to be some early winners emerging in that category.

Those range from startups focused on agriculture like WeFarm and Ignitia, to consumer waste in the food industry through investments in Olio, Matsmart and Whywaste.

Taken together the climate and sustainability thesis has been the largest and most opportune investment target, but healthcare and wellness are also within the firm’s investment mandate. Startups like Winningtemp are an interesting indication of the firm’s thesis. That startup provides ways to monitor and support employees’ mental health.