Kate is a new car maker focused on micro-cars for everyday use

Meet Kate, a French company that wants to create a tiny car that you can use for your daily commute and various errands. In addition to CEO Matthias Goldenberg and CTO Pierre Escrieut, Kate is also co-founded by Thibaud Elzière, the serial entrepreneur behind Hexa, the startup studio formerly known as eFounders.

While Kate is a car manufacturer at heart, it doesn’t want to produce big SUVs with sophisticated entertainment systems. The company wants to change mobility by producing the most minimalistic electric car possible.

Instead of starting with the vehicle, Kate is starting with the use case. “We want to sell this to people who really need a vehicle, people who live on the outskirts, in mid-sized cities or even in the countryside,” Kate CEO Matthias Goldenberg told me.

In Europe, people moving from A to B use a large vehicle — like a regular car — for 84% of their trips. It represents 11% of the CO2 emissions. And yet, 98% of trips are shorter than 80 kilometers (that’s 50 miles).

That’s why it doesn’t make sense to use a car with extremely comfy seats and long-range batteries if you’re just dropping your kid at school and then heading to the office in the small city nearby. You can always rent a car for your next vacation.

But creating a new car manufacturer from scratch isn’t that easy. That’s why Kate isn’t exactly a “new company”. Thibaud Elzière invested in a French company called NOSMOKE that produces electric vehicles inspired by th Mini Moke.

Kate then straight up acquired NOSMOKE to reuse some of the company’s work on a new type of vehicle. Instead of producing a leisure car that you would park next to your beach house, Kate wants to create a mass-market vehicle.

This is what the Kate Original looks like:

The Kate Original. Image Credits: Kate

On paper, Kate’s upcoming vehicle, the K1, will be an L7e vehicle — a heavy quadricycle. There will be four seats and it will reach a top speed of 90km/h (56mph). You will be able to drive it with a B1 driving license in France, which you can get at the age of 16 or later.

“With the K1, we want to have a vehicle that sits right in the no-go zone between the Citroën Ami that costs €8,000 and the Renault Zoe that costs around €25,000 to €30,000,” Goldenberg said.

Kate is targeting an entry price at around €15,000 with a battery range of 200 kilometers (124 miles). Of course, there will be models with better engines and batteries that will cost more than that.

When it comes to design, Kate wants to manufacture a car that is as modular and durable as possible. There will be some connectivity components so that the company can identify issues remotely.

But the idea is that you should be able to keep your Kate K1 for years and years. There will be hardware and software updates, but the car should remain usable for a long time even if you don’t change any component. For instance, Kate has opted for LFP batteries (with lithium, iron and phosphate) so that it offers a considerably longer cycle life.

The Kate K1. Image Credits: Kate

When it comes to the entertainment system, there will be some basic software features in the car. You will be able to play some music or get some directions. But if you want better driving directions or if you want to listen to your own podcasts, you will have to rely on your smartphone.

“The smartphone has to be at the center of the experience but you should also be able to drive the car if you’re out of battery,” Goldenberg said.

Last year, NOSMOKE/Kate produced nearly 200 vehicles. This year, the company is updating NOSMOKE’s car and calling it the Kate Original. “Our goal is that we should produce four times more vehicles every year. In 5 years, we will jump from 200 vehicles per year to 200 vehicles per day,” Goldenberg said.

Kate wants to properly introduce the K1 later this year and start selling it in 2024. In other words, the company has ambitious goals and is targeting an unproven market. But given the success of the Citroën Ami in France with wealthy high schoolers in the French countryside, there could be an even bigger opportunity with tiny cars for adults.

The Kate Original. Image Credits: Kate

Kate is a new car maker focused on micro-cars for everyday use by Romain Dillet originally published on TechCrunch

Panasonic considers Oklahoma for next EV battery factory

Panasonic is eyeing Oklahoma as the home for its next lithium-ion battery plant, according to a report Friday by the Wall Street Journal.

The proposed venture, which is expected to supply Tesla with a high-capacity, range-boosting battery, is part of a movement to bring auto manufacturing onshore as car companies and suppliers try to mitigate inflation, geopolitical conflict and short supply of the raw materials required to make electric vehicles.

TechCrunch is seeking independent confirmation and will update if more information becomes available.

Panasonic is working on a battery expected to increase energy capacity fivefold, boost range by more than 15% and cut production costs.

In July, the Japanese electronics maker announced plans to build a $4 billion battery plant in Kansas that will manufacture and supply lithium-ion batteries to EV makers. That project, which represents the largest economic development project in Kansas history, is slated to be larger than the Gigafactory it operates with Tesla in Sparks, Nevada, which is already one of the largest lithium-ion battery factories in the world.

Automotive manufacturers and suppliers have announced more than $38 billion in investment through 2026 to boost battery production in the U.S., according to AlixPartners. Those projects, which won’t begin production until mid-decade, include the largest-ever economic development projects in North Carolina and Georgia. A number of other EV plants dot southern and Plains states such as Tennessee and Oklahoma.

Toyota’s first U.S. battery factory — the $1.3 billion plant near Greensboro, North Carolina ­— is expected to open in 2025. Hyundai is investing $5.5 billion to build an EV and battery manufacturing facility in Georgia. Rivian is also building a $5 billion factory in Georgia and newcomer Canoo, which moved its headquarters to Bentonville, Arkansas, has plans to build an EV factory in Oklahoma. VW’s all-electric ID.4 is now being assembled at its Chattanooga, Tennessee plant.

Shortening the supply chain will ultimately help manufacturers control costs and reduce dependence on foreign sources for raw materials. The Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress this month is expected to accelerate the development of the domestic EV industry by providing manufacturers with $40 billion in tax credits.

2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV begins production in Alabama

Mercedes-Benz began production of its first battery-electric SUV for the U.S. market on Thursday, fronting a movement expected to bring auto manufacturing onshore over the next decade.

The 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV will be made at the automaker’s plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, using batteries supplied by a battery factory it opened nearby in Bibb County in April.

Spurred by inflation, geopolitical conflict and volatile supply for materials, global automakers have begun large-scale efforts to move operations to the U.S. The Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress this month intends to turbocharge the growth by providing manufacturers with $40 billion in tax credits and requiring that EVs eligible for tax credits be made with more American-made parts.

So far, car companies and suppliers have announced more than $38 billion in investment through 2026 to boost battery production in the U.S., according to AlixPartners. Major projects include Panasonic’s $4 billion battery plant in Kansas, which is slated to be one of the largest lithium-ion battery factories in the world, and Hyundai’s $5.5 billion EV and battery manufacturing facility in Georgia.

The five-passenger EQS SUV is based on Mercedes’ largest utility vehicle, the GLS, and underpinned by the same modular architecture used for Mercedes’ EQS flagship and EQE midsize sedans. Using a common platform allows the automaker to scale operations quickly.

An optional third row boosts the SUV’s seating capacity to seven, making the EQS SUV one of the largest fully electric utility vehicles in the popular full-size utility vehicle category. It features the MBUX Hyperscreen, a three-screen system that merges under scratch-resistant glass to appear as a single, 56-inch display.

The SUV will come in two flavors: the 335-horsepower EQS 450+ base model and a high-performance EQS 580 4MATIC version that achieves 536 horsepower. It can travel more than 372 miles on a full battery charge, according to WLTP estimates.

Pricing has not been announced.

Ford reopens order bank and raises prices for 2023 Mustang Mach-E

Ford began taking reservations for its 2023 Mustang Mach-E on Thursday after a four-month hiatus due to short supply.

The automaker also boosted the battery-electric SUV’s range and upped the price amid economic headwinds such as inflation and rising costs for battery materials. Ford closed the order bank for the 2022 model year last spring when a global semiconductor shortage stymied production.

The new pricing, which goes into effect Thursday, is “due to significant material cost increases, continued strain on key supply chains, and rapidly evolving market conditions, and will continue to monitor pricing across the model year,” the company said in a statement.

Pricing for new orders will start at $46,895 for the rear-wheel-drive base trim with standard range (about a 7% increase) and just below $70,000 for the top-of-the-line GT Extended Range edition.

The Mach-E SUV’s Premium models with the Extended Range battery will be able to travel 290 miles on a fully charged battery, 13 miles longer than the outgoing model.

Ford is also adding its Co-Pilot360 Driver Assist Technology as a standard safety feature. The software will enable customers to receive future over-the-air updates for its Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), according to Marin Gjaja, chief customer officer for Ford’s Model e division.

The automaker, which aims to sell more than 2 million EVs annually by 2026, is investing tens of billions of dollars to boost its production capacity worldwide. Ford said Monday it plans to lay off about 3,000 salary and contract workers to manage costs.

“We are eliminating work, as well as reorganizing and simplifying functions throughout the business,” Executive Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Farley wrote in a letter to employees.

Earlier this month, Ford raised the price of its F-150 Lightning battery-electric pickup truck with increases ranging between $6,000 to $8,500 depending on the trim. The 2023 Lightning will start at $46,974 and top out at nearly six figures.


Tesla doesn’t need to hit the panic button over China heat wave disruptions just yet

Some parts of China are suffering from record high temperatures in the past few weeks, prompting local governments to halt industrial power use, including those of battery plants.

When news reaches the West, it generates fear-mongering headlines like “China heat wave shuts Tesla suppliers” which have likely rattled investors (because Tesla is all we care about, right?). But is the EV giant really suffering from China’s scorching heat?

First off, we need to look at which factories are affected. Lithium battery giant CATL is among the companies that have been ordered to shut down production in the landlocked province of Sichuan, according to a local media report. The pause, which lasts from August 15 to 20, is part of the province’s effort to ration electricity as it suffers from a devastating drought and heat wave.

While CATL, a major battery supplier to Tesla, might have trouble fulfilling some orders for customers, there’s no indication that Tesla is the one to bear the cost. For one, CATL has production plants all over China, from Guangdong, Jiangsu to Shanghai, so it’s unlikely that a temporary, regional rest — even though six days may seem long in the auto industry — will collapse the multi-billion business’ well-oiled supply chain.

Suppliers are also more likely to prioritize demand coming from Tesla because of its reputation and sheer volume. The American firm was the third-best-selling electric carmaker in China in the first half of 2021, according to an auto industry association.

“In China, Tesla enjoys a privilege just like Apple with all the manufacturers clamoring to be its suppliers. Even if production is restricted, it’s very likely that suppliers will prioritize Tesla’s orders while putting others’ on hold,” a Tesla parts supplier told TechCrunch.

The supply chains for Tesla and its local EV rivals like Xpeng and Nio are concentrated in manufacturing hubs around the Pearl River Delta, which include megacities like Guangzhou and Shenzhen, as well as the Yangtze Delta, which is home to Tesla’s Gigafactory in Shanghai and scores of chip makers around Suzhou, an employee at a Chinese EV startup pointed out to us.

Shanghai has been a victim of China’s recent heat wave, though there are no signs that the weather is stopping production at Gigafactory yet.

Shanghai already had its tough times in spring when a two-month-long COVID-19 outbreak forced Gigafactory to halt production twice.

Precisely due to these sporadic COVID-induced shutdowns over the past two years, “suppliers have become a lot more flexible,” the Tesla supplier said. “Many large manufacturers are stocking up on supplies to create a buffer for absorbing COVID shocks.”

Lastly, it’s worth noting that China is gathering steam to recover its sluggish economy at all costs. And it’s likely that industries that have been designated as the state planner’s top priorities, such as the EV sector, will receive more support when resources are limited.

As the heat wave tests the country’s ability to keep its manufacturing running, vice premier Hang Zheng highlighted “the importance of the energy and power supply for social and economic stability.”

“The country will also beef up policy support and take multi-pronged measures to help related enterprises address difficulties,” Han added.

GM is launching an online EV service to educate and woo consumers

General Motors launched a program Monday to educate car shoppers on electric vehicles and target first-time buyers as the automaker searches for ways to catch up to and outpace rival Tesla.

The automakers hopes EV Live, a digital platform that connects shoppers with EV specialists, will speed EV adoption and create a larger market for its new battery-electric models, including the just-launched Chevrolet Blazer SS. Available seven days a week, EV Live provides real-time answers on EV-related questions such as how to use a public charging network or install a home charging station.

Addressing “common misconceptions about EVs will accelerate widespread EV adoption,” said Hoss Hassani, GM vice president of EV Ecosystem.

Users can learn more about EV technology, sustainability and mobile apps through one-on-one live video tours, where the specialist can hear but not see the user. GM said it plans to add group tours and pre-recorded sessions later this year.

U.S. sales of new EVs rose 13%, to 196,788 units, between April and June 2022, compared with the first three months of the year, according to Cox Automotive. However, a lack of education around battery-electric cars, trucks and SUVs remains a barrier to adoption, according to a Consumer Reports survey released this month. American drivers surveyed reported confusion over how EVs work, charge their batteries and unlock tax incentives.

“EV Live lets us meet people where they are and have a real conversation about electrification,” Hassani said. “We’re selling the EV experience, rather than specific EVs.”

EV Live is among a range of initiatives the automaker announced this summer to supplement its $750 million investment in charging infrastructure. In July, GM said it plans to partner with Pilot Flying J to build out a national DC fast-charging network for EVs.

The automaker said in June it will equip its battery-electric models with “Plug and Charge” capability to help standardize public charging. Charging logistics is the top barrier to purchasing or leasing an EV, with 61% of drivers surveyed reported concern, according to Consumer Reports.

Elon Musk discloses that Tesla owns Dogecoin, but how much does it have?

Despite announcing that Tesla had sold 75% of its Bitcoin holdings in Q2, CEO Elon Musk disclosed in a quarterly investor call that the company also held Dogecoin and had not sold any of those holdings.

“We have not sold any of our Dogecoin; we still have it,” Musk said in the call.

Musk has detailed in the past that he personally owns Dogecoin but has not indicated that Tesla does, though the electric car company has been accepting Doge payments for some merchandise on their website. It’s unclear whether the company has simply been holding on to the tokens used for merch purchases or has made dedicated buys of the dog-themed “joke” cryptocurrency that Musk has repeatedly voiced his support for on Twitter.

The company disclosed that it currently owns $218 million worth of digital assets after selling $963 million worth of Bitcoin. The bulk of that $218 million is likely its remaining Bitcoin.

Tesla reportedly had around 42,000 Bitcoin heading into the second quarter, so after selling 75% of them, it should have had around 10,500 at the end of the quarter. Now, to determine exactly how much of that total holding is Bitcoin, we’d have to know exactly when the snapshot was taken. It was assumedly taken sometime the last day of June when fiscal Q2 ended, so 1 Bitcoin would have been trading for between $18,750 and $20,300 throughout the day, which at 10,500 coins would mean that around $197 million to $213 million of its total “digital assets” would be in Bitcoin.

That napkin math leaves a much smaller amount of room left for Dogecoin holdings, though perhaps still a healthy amount to have been made solely on merchandise sales. Tesla has not disclosed holding any major cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin and, now, Dogecoin.

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Tesla dumped 75% of its Bitcoin holdings

Elon Musk apparently isn’t trying to hodl Tesla’s bitcoin during a crypto winter.

During the company’s Q2 earnings report, the electric car company revealed it has sold 75% of its Bitcoin holdings this quarter. The company appears to have lost around $150 million on its bet in the cryptocurrency since its 2021 purchase, selling the coins for $963 million.

Tesla said the value of its remaining “digital assets” is $218 million.

In February of last year, the company announced it had purchased $1.5 billion worth of the cryptocurrency with its balance sheet capital and furthermore that they would soon accept Bitcoin as payment for its vehicles. That announcement sent the crypto markets into a frenzy driving a number of cryptocurrency prices up and cementing Musk as a de facto crypto leader. Later, when he suddenly announced that they were abandoning plans to accept crypto payments, much of that goodwill with the community was reversed.

The company’s selloff comes after a steep decline in the price of cryptocurrencies across the board, including both Bitcoin and Dogecoin, which Musk has personally supported in his social media postings and in his position as CEO of Tesla.

In an earnings call, Musk said the reason for the sale was a desire to maximize cash positions during the uncertainty of China’s COVID lockdowns. He also noted that Tesla currently also owns Dogecoin, but he did not specify how much.

“We are certainly open to increasing bitcoin holdings in future. So this should not be taken as some verdict on Bitcoin. It’s just that we were concerned about overall liquidity for the company given COVID shutdowns in China and we have not sold any of our Dogecoin, we still have it,” Musk said.

The company’s Q2 earnings report, which beat expectations with $2.26 billion in profit, didn’t affect the stock price much at the time of writing in after-hours trading.

Rebecca Bellan contributed to reporting.

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Dueling $2.5 million hypercar EVs arrive this summer

It’s shaping up to be the summer of dueling seven-figure electrified hypercars.

But perhaps it’s more of a sibling rivalry, as the Rimac Nevera and Pininfarina Battista share common DNA.

Rimac said Tuesday that its $2.5 million 1,914-horsepower Nevera has begun rolling off the assembly line. Pininfarina announced the following day that its own $2.5 million battery-electric hypercar, the 1,900-horsepower Battista, will start production in August.

If the cars sound similar, it’s because they are: Rimac supplies the Pininfarina Battista with the same 120-kilowatt battery pack and powertrain that the Nevera uses. Both accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 1.85 seconds and are capped at 150 units to maintain exclusivity. The Nevera is already sold out. Pininfarina has indicated strong interest in the Battista but said the company does not “discuss detailed sales figures, as our business is about the quality not quantity of clients.”

But how many $2.5 million hyper GTs can the EV market bear? Pagani said in June that it scrapped plans to build an electric car after a four-year study showed a lack of demand from supercar buyers.

“It’s unlikely that any one brand will be able to subsist on hypercar sales alone,” said Stephen Beck, founder and managing partner of management consultancy cg42. “It’s just not a practical business model.”

Instead, the success of a seven-figure EV depends upon its role in the automaker’s portfolio.

Supplier model

Rimac Nevera EV

Image Credits: Rimac

For Rimac, the Nevera is a showpiece that will bolster its main business: supplying advanced battery technology to other carmakers. “Pairing a specific high-end niche with a strong B2B component, is the type of balance others should be looking to emulate to survive,” Beck said.

Analysts say Rimac has created a profitable long-term strategy providing EV components to other automakers, such as Porsche, Aston Martin and Pininfarina. It’s a business model that other suppliers are likely to replicate, given the relative simplicity of building a battery-electric powertrain.

“You can tweak the electric motor to your requirements, but at the end of the day 90% to 95% of the electric motor is going to be pretty much set,” said Arun Kumar, managing director of AlixPartners’ automotive and industrial practice.

Halo effect

Pininfarina Battista EV

Image Credits: Pininfarina

The Battista fulfills a more traditional role for Pininfarina: a halo car to attract new well-healed clients to the brand and provide inspiration for a range of EVs Pininfarina plans to introduce. That will be the approach that most other heritage brands take toward building a hypercar EV, according to Kumar.

The Battista also serves as a “proof of concept” for Pininfarina’s network of technical partners, while announcing the arrival of a new luxury era, according to Automobili Pininfarina CEO Per Svantesson.

Hyundai casts new Ioniq 6 sedan as a Tesla Model 3 rival

Hyundai unveiled its new Ioniq 6, a sedan that it says will deliver range on par with the Tesla Model 3, issuing a direct challenge to the best-selling battery-electric sedan on the market.

The Ioniq 6 — the follow-up to Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 SUV and the second model in its Ioniq EV sub-brand — will travel 610 kilometers (379 miles) on a fully charged battery, based on the European WLTP test cycle. That exceeds the 602 kilometers under the WLTP test cycle for the Model 3 Long Range.

That’s a significant accomplishment, given that Tesla has long-served as the benchmark for EV range.

“While many competing EVs have been edging closer to Tesla’s range ratings, relatively few have matched or exceeded them,” said Ed Kim, president and chief analyst for AutoPacific.

The Korean automaker, which has set an ambitious goal to become a top-three EV provider in the U.S. by 2026, hopes that its lineup’s one-two punch will give it a chance to challenge Tesla for the sales crown in the fledgling EV market.

The Tesla Model 3 is the second-best selling electric vehicle in the U.S. after the Tesla Model Y small SUV. Ranked fifth is the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which serves a growing consumer demand for battery-electric SUVs.

However, sedans have been a weak spot for auto sales over the past several years, making Hyundai’s choice seem potentially counterintuitive. But analysts say that battery-electric sedans like the Ioniq 6 and Polestar 2, which also aims to dethrone the Model 3, play a strategic role in the EV market, especially for first-time buyers.

“Because sedans are generally priced significantly lower than their SUV counterparts, they represent a more affordable way to get into EVs,” said Kim. “Assuming the price of Hyundai’s new sedan undercuts the $40,000 IONIQ 5, it could represent a real value proposition for EV shoppers.”

Like the Ioniq 5, Hyundai’s new all-electric sedan will be built on its Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), an 800-volt electrical architecture that enables faster charging than comparably priced EVs, save for Tesla’s.

Hyundai has invested aggressively in expanding the Ioniq portfolio as it strives to go from a maker of affordable, entry-level cars to a top global EV brand known for daring design. The automaker has pledged to spend more than $10 billion in the U.S. by 2025 to develop technology for electric and autonomous vehicles and mobility applications for robotics.

More than half of that investment will fund a new EV plant and battery manufacturing facility in Georgia, where Hyundai plans to build at least some of the 23 EVs it plans to roll out by 2025, such as the Ioniq 7 three-row SUV, an important segment for drivers with large families. The Ioniq 6 will be built in South Korea.

The Ioniq 5, which swept the World Car Awards this spring, showed that Hyundai is willing to be daring with its EV design. That theme continues with the dome-shaped Ioniq 6, whose low hood and high roof make it curvier than most cars, said SangYup Lee, head of Hyundai Global Design Center. The dimensions allow for a cocoon-like, high-ceilinged cabin where occupants can relax or work.

A 64-color ambient lighting system helps “create a mindful space that restores mental energy and enhances inspiration,” Lee said.

Ioniq 6 will go on sale in the U.S. early next year. The price has not been announced.

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