🥊 Su$tainable Mobility: Parking Minimums are Dying
This bi-weekly newsletter aims to separate the signal from the noise for making money in sustainable transportation: Electrification, mode shift, active and public transit, and mobility aggregation, across both people and goods movement.
The Deep Dive this issue: Parking Minimums are Dying. If we’re going to reduce our over-reliance on private car usage in American cities, this is the kind of fundamental reform that’s necessary.
STARTUP WATCH: Sustainable mobility startups (generally pre-seed or seed) to keep an eye on
👨🏾💻 Flipturn (New York, USA): Fleet electrification planning software
⚡️ gigElev (California, USA): V2G/VPP software for EVs
🔌 Hidas (Finland): Slow, low-power charging for overnight charging (~Level 1.5)
🚛 Jaro Fleet (California, USA): Destination charging for heavy-duty trucks
🤖 Imperium Drive (United Kingdom): Driverless vehicle technology for fleet operators to remotely operate vehicles
✈️ Klymat (United Kingdom): Employer carbon management software for business travel
📦 MobiQu (Turkey): Modular, smart containers for last-mile delivery
💹 Noca Mobility (Germany): B2B marketplace for the micromobility industry
🛋️ Nodum (United Kingdom): On-street overhead EV charging
⛴️ Seachange (New Zealand): Manufacturer of electric ferries
🤖 SubUrvan (France): Shared autonomous electric minivans for public transport in low population-density areas
FUNDING: Capital raises from startups previously featured in Startup Watch
Mobilyze.ai (Vol 33) was acquired by FreeWire*. This marks the 4th exit in the dataset.
Reminder: The startup data set is open, for free. If you’re a subscriber interested in accessing the Airtable with all the raw data on ~300 companies, please let me know.
QUICK HITS: Notable news from the last 2 weeks
🛬 France is moving ahead with plans to ban some short-haul flights. Such is the benefit of a strong rail network as an alternative.
✋ Amsterdam’s Schipol airport is capping capacity on pollution concerns. Yet another warning sign for airlines and aircraft manufacturers about decarbonization.
🎒 United Airlines invested in portable energy storage startup Natron Energy to help decarbonize ground handling equipment. Portable charging (as opposed to fixed infrastructure) continues to gain ground in multiple use cases.
🦾 Airlines are pushing to drop flight co-pilots to cut costs. This would accelerate the use of autopilot technologies in aviation.
🎭 Renault and Airbus teamed up on battery technology. Planes and cars have a lot more in common when both are powered by the same fundamental battery technology.
🏷️ In the European Union, legislators agreed to price shipping emissions. Slowly but surely, maritime and aviation are being brought into existing carbon frameworks.
🆓 Berlin is letting bikes park in “car” spaces for free. This is laudable but still a blunt instrument; the long-term approach is for curb management, congestion pricing, and parking to all to reflect vehicle footprint as a variable.
🌺 London plans to expand the ultra-low emissions zone to cover all of London. Public opposition is strong now, but history suggests implementation is less painful than the planning.
🇨🇳 BYD overtook VW as China’s top-selling brand. Note that this happened the same year that BYD opted to drop gasoline-powered cars for plug-in cars only.
📞 GM launched an EV-focused call center. Long term, this type of immersive customer experience will come at the expense of franchised dealers.
🍎 Apple continues with a “will they or won’t they” on their plans for an electric, autonomous car. It’s worth keeping an eye on partner Foxconn’s EV manufacturing prowess as this develops.
📈 GM and LG are already investing to expand a Tennesse battery plant that hasn’t started production yet. That’s some Inflation Reduction Act impact for you.
🤝 At a separate GM and LG battery plant in Ohio, workers voted to be represented by the United Auto Workers. This will set a precedent for how other JV carmaker/battery plants will be run.
😤 Is Elon Musk’s Twitter behavior hurting Tesla’s brand reputation? Such is the downside of fame.
🔮 Lucid has filed to raise an additional $8 billion. That’s a lot of shareholder dilution!
📐 Honda is gearing up to produce a fuel-cell/plug-in hybrid vehicle in North America. It’s an eye-wateringly expensive engineering choice to produce a vehicle that runs on both hydrogen and batteries.
🤖 Uber and Motional launched their autonomous ridehail service in Las Vegas. Motional continues to be a great example of partnering for access to transportation networks.
🦤 Bird has a plan to survive. This doesn’t sound radical enough given how dire the situation is.
🎲 The Boring Company is abandoning projects. Hype over substance eventually hits a wall.
DEEP DIVE: The ban on parking minimums is accelerating
Visitors to the US are frequently overwhelmed with how much American cities feel like large parking lots. Alas, that’s a feature, not a bug. Historically, zoning regulations at the city level required an (over)abundance of parking for any new development. Put another way, the only way to get the approval to build a new apartment building, grocery store, or office building was to simultaneously build a glut of parking spaces.
This creates a vicious cycle: the omnipresent parking encourages city residents to drive, which weakens the usage of public and active transit, thus further encouraging private car use.
The good news is that multiple cities recognize that the only way out of this chicken-and-egg situation is to strike down this regulation, and some are even adding parking maximums. It takes a certain degree of political will to pull off; at the grassroots level, lots of smaller retail operators believe that their revenue will be hurt without ample on-site parking, even if data continually shows that’s not the case.
Just before 2022 ended, we got a major win on the board: San Jose became the largest city in the nation to ban parking minimums - the first top 10 city to do so.
This isn’t just cities in left-leaning states. The policy is reaching into more centrist states (thanks Raleigh, North Carolina) and more conservative states (congrats Lexington, Kentucky). Nashville would have made the chart above, but its ban doesn’t cover the entirety of the city.
Also, the trend is accelerating. If Buffalo and Hartford were lonely outliers a few years ago, they’ve been joined by over a dozen cities in the last two years.
In terms of policy levers, this doesn’t haven’t the kind of big-bang visibility that, say, the Inflation Reduction Act will. Still, it’s a much-needed course correction that will continually pay dividends by discouraging private car usage and creating a larger “trip marketplace.”
*My current employer has incubated and invested in FreeWire