Miami reinstates e-scooter pilot after brief ban

The Miami City Commission voted on Monday to reinstate its e-scooter pilot program, which it had briefly banned due to safety concerns. Shared e-scooters from companies like Lime, Bird, Helbiz and Spin will return to Miami’s streets on January 15 following strict new safety measures.

The new program will see rules for operators and riders, according to CBS Miami: Riders must wear a helmet and observe a maximum speed limit of 10 miles per hour on sidewalks; side-by-side riding is prohibited; only two operators are to be permitted per block, down from four; and riders must be at least 18.

On November 18, Miami City commissioners had voted 4 to 5 to end the e-scooter pilot that had been in place since 2018, citing risks posed by scooters on sidewalks and untrained riders on busy streets. (In last weekend’s The Station newsletter, we noted the slight hypocrisy of removing the humble scooter from the streets when there are far more unsafe and environmentally unfriendly vehicles about.)

By midnight of November 19, micromobility operators had to disable their vehicles and collect them by 5 p.m. before the city impounded them.

Advocates for the e-scooter pilot have argued that not only has the program brought in $2.4 million in revenue that was used to create bike lanes, but also that their services help residents with first- and last-mile travel and generally reduce car usage and emissions.

The commission voted 3 to 1 on Monday to rescind the ban.

“Change is coming; it’s going to happen anyway. Regulate it,” Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla said, according to WPLG Local 10, adding police officers can enforce rules such as speed limits.

“This news comes as a relief to Miami residents who’ve long relied on e-scooters as a safe, affordable and sustainable way to get around,” Bruno Lopes, senior manager for government relations at Lime, said in a statement. “We look forward to working closely with the commissioners and Mayor [Francis] Suarez to develop a permanent program that prioritizes safety for riders and non-riders alike. We specifically hope the city will continue to invest the millions of dollars in e-scooter fees Lime and other operators pay into protected bike lanes, the most proven way to ensure the safety of all road users.”

Stellantis locks in lithium supply agreement to secure EV battery materials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nissan to invest $17.6 billion in EV development over the next five years

Nissan will invest 2 trillion yen ($17.6 billion) over the next five years developing new EVs and battery technology as part of a grand plan it calls “Ambition 2030,” the company announced. It aims to release 15 new EVs total by 2030, with electrified vehicles making up half its vehicle lineup at that point.

The automaker said it will develop 23 electrified vehicles in total over the next eight years, with 20 of those coming in the next five years alone. It’s shooting for a market mix of 75 percent electrified (EV and e-Power PHEV/hybrids) in Europe, 55 percent in Japan and 40 percent in the US and China by 2030.

The other part of that mix, would presumably be internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. It’s worth noting that in early 2021, Nissan said that it planned to electrify every all-new car it launches by the early 2030s. Presumably, then, any ICE vehicles still available would be legacy models.

Nissan will launch EVs with all-solid-state batteries (ASSB) by 2028 and ready a pilot plant in Yokohama as early as 2024, it said. That technology promises benefits like reduced charging times, but has yet to arrive to market as expected. The company also wants to bring the cost of battery packs down to $75 per kWh by 2028 with a reduction to $65 kWh further down the road. That would be about half of what EV batteries cost last year, according to Bloomberg. By 2030, Nissan hopes to be producing 130 GWh of batteries.

The company said it plans to expand its ProPilot driver assistance technology to over 2.5 million Nissan and Infiniti vehicles by 2026. It will also incorporate next-generation LIDAR systems “on virtually every new model by fiscal year 2030.”

Nissan to invest $18 billion in EV development over the next five years

As part of Ambition 2030, Nissan also unveiled no less than four concept cars: the Chill-Out, Surf-Out, Hang-Out and Max-Out. Like most concepts, they’re meant to give a taste of Nissan’s future technology including self-driving, interior features and just far-out designs. However, Nissan has only shown images of the Chill-Out as a real vehicle, with renders of the other three vehicles.

The Chill-Out (top and above) is a smallish crossover that could be an early preview of the next-generation Leaf, which Nissan previously confirmed would move from a hatch to a crossover style body. It will use the Ariya’s CMF-EV platform and e-4orce electric all-wheel drive system, and could arrive by 2025.

Nissan to invest $18 billion in EV development over the next five years

The Surf-Out, meanwhile, is a small electric single cab pickup with a decent-sized bed and removable canopy. It would come with a dual-motor AWD setup and a variety of power outputs, offering off-road performance, utility power and extended cargo space.

Nissan to invest $18 billion in EV development over the next five years

Then there’s the Hang-Out, which is more like a small camper van/SUV designed to “provide a new way of spending time on the move.” It has a completely flat floor and movable, theater-like seats, offering “the comfort of your living room in a mobile space” — something we’ve seen with other recent EV concepts. It also offers e-4orce and advanced ProPilot features.

Nissan to invest $18 billion in EV development over the next five years

Finally, the Max-Out is a concept convertible sports car that offers “superlative stability and comfort.” Body roll is limited to deliver “dynamic cornering and steering response” to optimize handling and occupant comfort. It’s supposedly lightweight with a very low center of gravity, and also offers advanced e-4orce.

Nissan’s new plan comes as the company has grappled with internal problems, including the arrest and subsequent flight of former CEO Carlos Ghosn. In the short term, the company plans to cut 300 billion yen ($2.65 billion) in fixed costs and reduce production capacity by 20 percent as part of its “Nissan Next” plan unveiled last year.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.

The 2022 Polestar 2 is more appealing, affordable and repairable

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

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

Single or dual motor

2022 Polestar 2 single motor

Image Credits: Kirsten Korosec

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

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

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

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

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

Native Android OS and OTA updates

2022 Polestar 2 interior google

Image Credits: Kirsten Korosec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right to repair, recondition, recycle

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

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

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

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

Uber to shutter most of its service in Belgium tomorrow after court ruling

Uber will halt its ride-hailing service in most of Belgium tomorrow following a court ruling Wednesday that extends a 2015 order banning its p2p UberPop service to also cover professional drivers providing its ride-hailing service.

Uber told us that it is studying the detail of the ruling to decide whether to appeal the decision with the country’s Supreme Court.

The move also follows a temporary suspension of Uber’s service in Brussels in September — an action the tech giant called “exceptional and unprecedented”, saying it was only taking the step to protest the lack of reform of rules which prohibit drivers from using smartphones.

Following the ruling by the Brussels Appeal Court this week, private hire vehicle drivers have also been blocking a major tunnel in the Belgian capital.

In a statement on Friday’s looming shutdown, Uber’s country chief, Laurent Slits, once again attacked the Belgian government for not delivering a reform it’s been lobbying for, writing: “This decision was made based on outdated regulations written in a time before smartphones, which the government has promised and failed to reform for the last seven years.”

Per Bloomberg, which reported on Uber’s shutdown earlier, it will not apply to a small number of drivers who are licensed in a Flemish region of the country — and who will therefore still be allowed to use the app.

Uber confirmed the Appeal Court ruling only affects drivers with Brussels licences.

In the statement, Slits added that the tech giant is “deeply concerned” about the 2,000 holders of LVC licenses (aka rental car with driver licences) who he said will “lose their ability to generate earnings [via Uber’s platform] from Friday”.

That phrasing — “generate earnings” — refers to the fact Uber does not employ drivers directly in Belgium; instead it classifies them as independent contractors. So it cannot claim that 2,000 ‘jobs’ are about to be lost since it does not provide employment contracts to the LVC drivers in question in the first place.

“We urge the government to move quickly to reform the taxi and LVC sector once and for all so that drivers can continue working to provide for their families,” Slits added.

Back in March the local government in Brussels banned Uber drivers from picking up rides via smartphones and geolocation.

Since then Uber drivers in the city have been operating in a legal grey zone — where they risk sanctions by continuing to drive using its app. However the company suggests drivers have been given mixed messages, claiming authorities are sometimes telling drivers — in private — that they can continue driving.

A spokesman for Uber called the government’s March order “mistaken” — pointing out that it had promised a reform of the law before the summer. Per Reuters, a draft law to reform the rules was set out by the Belgian government in September. But, according to Uber, the sector as a whole has yet to see the text.

Uber suggested there is widespread backing in Belgium for reforming the 1995 rules — not just from LVC drivers who serve customers via its platform but also from traditional taxi firms.

However local taxi firms in Brussels have their own reform ideas — and have also said they are keen to poach Uber drivers to plug a shortage of taxi drivers.

A sector spokesman recently told TaxiPro there’s a shortfall of 600+ taxi drivers in the capital which could be filled by LVC holders that have been driving for Uber.

“The big advantage is that we offer a solution to these Uber drivers,” Sam Bouchal told the publication in September [translated to English via Google Translate], saying that the Uber drivers could be offered permanent contracts, and adding: “We’re getting them out of illegality.”

Bouchal also told TaxiPro that the taxi sector wants to avoid what he couched as “a social massacre.”

Concern over gig working conditions has been a fiery topic across Europe for years, leading to scores of legal challenges — and a 2017 ruling by Europe’s top court that Uber is a transport service and so cannot simply dodge local taxi regulations.

In the UK, Uber was also recently been forced to recognize drivers as workers after losing the last of a long line of employment challenges at the country’s Supreme Court.

However, in Belgium — a core centre of power for the European Commission — the ride-hailing giant is continuing to lobby for favorably changes to the law to grease the engines of its platform business.

Uber is also lobbying the Commission to address ride-hailing regulations across the bloc’s single market in an upcoming urban mobility framework — which the EU exec has said it wants to support the development of urban transport systems that are “safe, accessible, inclusive, affordable, smart, resilient and emission-free”. 

Uber’s hope here is that EU lawmakers will seek to apply rules that override city level regulations — setting a pan-EU enabling framework for ride-hailing services which would mean it could just ignore local authority demands.

However the Commission has also said it wants the urban mobility framework to tackle “transport pollution and congestion” — so it’s not clear how removing regulatory barriers to ride-hailing would be anything other than counterproductive on that front.

Cars remain the least efficient way to transport people around dense urban environments given how much space they require and how relatively few people can be moved around in the space occupied by a single car vs a train, bus, cycling, scooting, walking etc. The rise of micromobility has also fuelled the range of available car alternatives — so the arguments in favor of cars in cities are shrinking rapidly.

The coronavirus pandemic has also led to a number of European cities to dial up their focus on transforming street infrastructure to be more pedestrian and locally focused, also leveraging the rise of micromobility to enact policies that deliberately de-emphasize the car. Simply put, cleaner air and more vibrant local streets (and school bike trains) are hard to argue against.

While Brussels has not been at the forefront of those developments the city has been seeking to reduce the number of cars on its infamously congested, pollution-smogged roads in recent years. So Belgium’s government may well have reason to pause and consider the implications of any ride-hailing reforms.

In parallel, the European Commission has been working on another legislation initiative — which it wants to improve conditions for platform workers across the bloc, responding to high levels of concern over factors such as the lack of job security and precarious earnings.

On that front Uber has also been busy lobbying — and stands accused of pushing EU lawmakers to reduce standards for platform workers, with critics saying it’s seeking to replicate its success in overturning a California law that had sought to classify gig workers as employees.

So the street-level battle for Europe’s social contract is very real.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tesla requires Full Self Driving testers to allow video collection in case of a crash

With Tesla’s latest FSD (“Full Self-Driving“) release, it’s asking drivers to consent to allowing it to collect video taken by a car’s exterior and interior cameras in case of an accident or “serious safety risk.” That will mark the first time Tesla will attach footage to a specific vehicle and driver, according to an Electrek report.

Tesla has gathered video footage as part of FSD before, but it was only used to train and improve its AI self-driving systems. According to the new agreement, however, Tesla will now be able to associate video to specific vehicles. “By enabling FSD Beta, I consent to Tesla’s collection of VIN-associated image data from the vehicle’s external cameras and Cabin Camera in the occurrence of a serious safety risk or a safety event like a collision,” the agreement reads.

By enabling FSD Beta, I consent to Tesla’s collection of VIN-associated image data from the vehicle’s external cameras and Cabin Camera in the occurrence of a serious safety risk or a safety event like a collision.

As Electrek notes, the language could indicate that Tesla wants to ensure it has evidence in case its FSD system is blamed for an accident. It could possibly also be used to detect and fix serious issues more quickly.

FSD 10.3 was released more widely than previous betas, but it was quickly pulled back due to issues like unwarranted Forward Collision Warnings, unexpected autobraking and more. At the time, CEO Elon Musk tweeted that such issues are “to be expected with beta software,” adding that “it is impossible to test all hardware configs in all conditions with internal QA, hence public tests.”

However, other drivers on public roads are unwitting beta testers, too. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently investigating a driver’s complaint that FSD led to a November 3rd collision in Brea, California. The owner alleged that it caused his Model Y to enter the wrong lane and hit another car, causing considerable damage to both.

Tesla is releasing the new beta to even more users with Driver Safety Scores of 98 and up — previously, beta releases were limited to drivers with perfect 100 scores. Tesla charges drivers $199 per month for the feature or $10,000 in one shot, but has failed meet promised deadlines for autonomous driving. Currently, the FSD system is considered to be a Level 2 system — far from the Level 4 required to really be “full self-driving.”

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.

How micromobility operators can unlock a $300B industry

Compared with cars, e-scooters are a lower-carbon, quieter and cheaper means of transport that can make a positive impact on urban mobility and the environment. However, despite their promising potential, the majority of the urban population perceives them either as toys or a public safety hazard.

The amount of venture investments in the industry is correspondingly meager: Since 2010, shared micromobility received only $9 billion in investments globally — compare that with the $72.3 billion raised by U.S. startups in the third quarter of this year alone. If we want to move toward a truly sustainable urban environment where people en masse choose low-carbon micromobility transport over cars, we need to find ways to make this business profitable.

Initially, e-scooter operators were competing for the attention of riders by putting as many e-scooters as they could on the market, and physical presence meant success. As cities started to adopt regulations and grant licenses, the operators’ focus shifted to getting approvals from city officials because licenses secured their access to end consumers and gave confidence that allowed for long-term planning.

The licenses also eased the task for investors, and the startups that secured licenses saw a surge of funding. For instance, in 2021, players like Tier, Voi and Dott raised a cumulative $490 million.

This sends a clear message to other e-scooter operators that aim to compete on the market: If you want to raise investments and grow, claim a place in the cities first. Currently, this applies predominantly to Europe, which has a better infrastructure and serves as a test site for micromobility transport and business models.

However, when micromobility at large proves efficient for urban communities, these practices will likely expand to other regions such as the U.S., where major cities are already building more bike lanes. Considering that by 2030 global micromobility is expected to become a $300 billion to $500 billion industry, it’s well worth the effort.

Merely winning a tender, though, isn’t enough because the licensed operators move on to the next round of competition. They have to meet the expectations of both end consumers and investors — that is, to achieve profitability while offering supreme product and product experience.

So far, the e-scooter sharing business has not proven profitable, and the existing business models have lots of room for improvement. The most evident issues are expensive charging and operations that may account for 60% of costs, so even a slight optimization here would be beneficial.

So what can we do?

Operations may vary between companies, but charging scenarios are few. Micromobility operators either collect vehicles manually at the end of the day to bring them to charging warehouses or manually swap dead batteries for new ones. Both of these involve manual labor, and some players have started offering solutions that aim to cut this cost.

Taiwan-based e-scooter manufacturer Gogoro launched swapping stations that essentially pass charging tasks on to riders. So far it’s compatible only with two e-scooter brands. German operator Tier chose a similar approach and recently rolled out Tier Energy Network: Now, Tier riders can swap batteries themselves using PowerBoxes installed at local partner shops. However, if an operator goes for swapping, they have to have at least two batteries in stock for every e-scooter in their fleet, and battery cells are the most expensive hardware component.

Besides, having to change a route to swap batteries at brand-specific locations might worsen product experience for some consumers and limit an operator’s user base, which is essential when the competition is tight.

Moreover, when the demand for micromobility increases, the stations will need to be able to fit a large number of vehicles simultaneously. It will create a demand for universal infrastructure. Companies such as Kuhmute and PBSC Urban Solutions have partially addressed this issue and developed universal chargers compatible with various e-mobility vehicle types and brands, though many such solutions are electric contact-based and therefore can accommodate only a limited number of vehicles at a time. Besides, stations are prone to contact oxidation in two to three months and change the city landscape.

In that case, a natural next step would be to roll out a one-type-fits-all charger with a substantially bigger parking capacity. Though once we start discussing parking spaces, cities come into play as key stakeholders. They already have to convert plenty of land suitable for residential development into spaces for cars to park, and they’ll need to also assign it to e-scooter charging — both swapping stations and charging docks have overground hardware.

Some players have started addressing this issue, and such products already exist in the electric car domain. For instance, U.S.-based company WiTricity has developed a ground charging pad that charges cars wirelessly and over-the-air once vehicles are parked over it. The charger doesn’t have any overground hardware, so it can double as a regular road or sidewalk. The absence of destroyable parts also serves as vandalism protection.

If applied in the e-scooter segment, this technology can improve unit economics by saving on extra batteries and manual labor required to swap or plug them in. Such standardization would be beneficial for end consumers and micromobility companies alike.

GMC will begin Hummer EV deliveries in December

The first electric Hummers will be making their way to their new owners this holiday season. According to Autoblog, GMC boss Duncan Aldred has announced that deliveries of the Hummer Edition 1 — the all-electric truck variant that’ll set buyers back over $112,000 — begin in December. The conference has also revealed that Edition 1 has an EPA range of 329 miles, a bit lower than the 350-mile range the automaker was originally expecting.

GMC’s four-ton electric truck has 1,000 horsepower and 11,500 ft/lb of torque generated by its three motors, giving it the capability to get from zero to 60 miles-per-hour within 3 seconds. The truck can also tow up 7,500 pounds and can carry up to 1,300 pounds. It was built on the Ultium battery pack, the platform GM developed to electrify dozens of models across its brands in the coming years.

When it starts shipping out next month, the Edition 1 Hummer EV will become of the first electric trucks in the market along with Rivian’s R1T. Tesla is also working on the electric Cybertruck, but the company delayed its release to 2022 in August. Autoblog says more than 80 percent of the reservations for the Hummer EV is for the Edition 1, but other versions of the electrified vehicle are still arriving in 2023. Some of those EVs will cost less and have longer ranges. GMC will also start deliveries for the SUV version of the Hummer EV in 2023.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.

Arc hooks another $30M in investment as EV interest spills over into electric boats

Arc is not even a year old and the electric boat startup has attracted investment from top VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, entertainment industry big wigs and now a $30 million raise led by an early Tesla executive who led the automaker’s early manufacturing efforts.

The $30 million Series A was led by Greg Reichow, the former Tesla executive who is now a partner at Eclipse Ventures. Existing investors — Andreessen Horowitz, Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital and Ramtin Naimi’s Abstract Ventures also joined. Reichow will also join Arc’s board, the startup said in its Tuesday announcement. To date, Arc has raised $37 million, including earlier investment from the funds of Will Smith’s Dreamers VC, Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s Thirty Five Ventures and Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Combs Enterprises.

The influx of capital and heavy hitting backers for the young company reflects broadening interest in electrification beyond a vehicle with two or four wheels — a sector that has been flooded with multimillion-dollar private funding raises as well as eye-popping debuts on public exchanges. (Earlier this week, GM announced it had taken a 25% stake in electric boat company Pure Watercraft.)

It’s also, of course, a validation of Arc’s particular business, which is to electrify everything on the water, starting with a limited-edition $300,000 boat.

Mitch Lee, who is CEO, and former SpaceX engineer Ryan Cook co-founded Arc with a plan to develop and sell electric watercraft at various price points and use cases. They started by focusing on the design and development of a purpose-built hull and purpose-built battery packs. Its first boat is the Arc One, a 24-foot aluminum boat that produces 475 horsepower and can run between 3 to 5 hours on a single charge. Arc will produce fewer than 25 Arc One boats.

Arc has plans that expand beyond building and selling a couple of dozen high-priced boats. But at least in the near term, Arc is focused on delivering the Arc One, the company said.