🕵🏼Su$tainable Mobility: Tracking the Mobility Mafia
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.
This issue is coming to you a few days before the usual Sunday launch. Have a great rest of your week.
QUICK HITS: Notable news from the last 2 weeks
🅿️ San Jose is moving forward with abolishing parking minimums for new developments. You love to see it.
🚲 Rotterdam is letting you borrow an e-cargo bike for free to dispose of bulky goods. Keep an eye on utilization levels to see whether this can be sustained.
🚁 NYC council may ban non-essential helicopter flights from NYC airports. The wars over airspace are just beginning. Keep an eye on air use experiments like this Amazon drone delivery effort in rural California.
NYC is also mulling reducing parking placards. Such loopholes need to be closed in order for digital curb management policies to be truly effective.
🤥 The Trump-appointed former US ambassador to Denmark claimed, “In Denmark, middle-class people can’t afford to drive a car.” It’s unclear whether this is a publicity stunt or whether Sands is ignorant enough to believe that Danes opt for biking over cars because of a lack of financial means. But it does speak to a pervasive fear in the US that we will have to unlearn.
🇬🇧 UK government ended its EV subsidy program. While plug-in cars make up ~18% of UK sales (~12% battery-electric, ~6% plug-in hybrid), such a move makes the UK an exception versus EU members state, North America, and Asia. Given that UK auto manufacturing is already in a long-term decline, this doesn’t help.
⚖️ The US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that certain Port of LA/Port of Long Beach truck drivers are employees, not independent contractors. This is a watershed moment that may change business models in heavy-duty trucking, potentially leading to employer consolidation and accelerating models such as “EV truck depots as service” à la Zeem Solutions and ParkMyFleet. It will also reverberate into many other sectors.
🧑🏽🍳 New research study shows that shared micro-mobility is good for local restaurants. As much as local business owners sometimes gripe about scooters, we do have proof that they help local businesses.
👋🏼 Stellantis is ditching the European car manufacturers’ trade group ACEA. Many trade associations are fraying because of divergent member approaches to sustainability. The likely point of discord here is the speed of phasing out internal combustion engines, with players like VW taking a more enthusiastic approach.
📬 GM, Ford, Stellantis, and Toyota requested the US to continue the $7,500 federal tax credit. GM and Tesla have both hit their per automaker cap, but Tesla is clearly less dependent now on such incentives than in its early days.
🚐 GM delivered 150 electric vans to FedEx. There’s a 4-way race between Ford, Stellantis, GM, and Rivian to meet the electric van needs of Amazon, FedEx, and UPS in the US; it’s way too early to count any of them out.
🤪 Marc Lore’s seven-month-old food truck startup raises $350M Series B at a $3.5Bn valuation. Although these food trucks aren’t self-driving yet, this is a good moment to re-read Robin Chase’s 2016 article “Self-Driving Cars Will Improve our Cities. If They Don’t Ruin Them.”
💰Electric Last Mile Solutions (ELMS) files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. SPAC mania involved a number of viable enterprises, such as ChargePoint, and a number of more questionable companies that will join ELMS in bankruptcy.
🔌 Schneider acquired EV Connect and Blink acquired SemaConnect. This follows Shell’s acquisition of Greenlots in 2019. EVgo, Volta, and ChargePoint are likely targets for others wanting to get into the space.
🔃 Nio confirms its building battery swap stations in Hungary. If anyone can successfully bring battery swap to Europe or North America, it will likely be an Asian player.
🚛 The Megawatt Charging System (MCS) standard for heavy-duty truck is officially live! While it will give utilities headaches to try to implement, site hosts will be pleased to know that everyone aligned on the same position of the MCS Connector on all trucks worldwide.
🏬 REI is diving deeper into the e-bike sales and service market. As an e-bike owner who has seen the many failures of the e-bike service market, I think this is fantastic and a good complement to the work that Best Buy and others are doing to make e-bike servicing more approachable to the general public.
🏍 Lime launches a new e-moped (the Citra) in Southern California one month after killing its e-moped program in NYC. Technically, the Citra isn’t a moped; Lime is hoping that this bicycle-like version is more palatable to American consumers, especially delivery couriers.
STARTUP WATCH: Sustainable mobility startups (generally pre-seed or seed) to keep an eye on
🔋 Clean Energy Global (Germany): Battery-as-a-service
🏬 CurbHub (Massachusetts, USA): Software to manage urban real estate as on-demand distribution hubs
📦 DeliveryEco (Massachusetts, USA): Green last-mile delivery managed marketplace
👨🏾💻 Enroute AI (California, USA): Route planning via AI/ML for last-mile delivery
🔌 Kempower (Finland): Manufacturer of EV chargers for heavier-duty applications
💽 Lyko (France): APIs for online payments of multi-modal services
📱 Miivo Mobility (Spain): Mobility as a service software for cities
🔋 Ni-CAT Battery Tech (Turkey): High nickel cathode materials
👨🏾💻 Spark EV Technology (United Kingdom): Range management software for battery-powered vehicles
🔌 Sun Fuel Electric (India): High-speed EV charging network operator
🚐 Swoopmove (Indonesia): Shared-mobility platform for fleet owners with passenger vans
🚗 Volvero (Italy): Peer-to-peer carsharing
🚙 Yeager Mobility (Michigan, USA): Emerging manufacturer of mainstream EV passenger cars
FUNDING: Capital raises from startups previously featured in Startup Watch
Seabound (Vol 25) raised $4.4M from Lowercarbon Capital and others
Posh Robotics (Vol 29) raised $3.8M from Metaplanet, Outbound Capital, and others
DEEP DIVE: TRACKING THE MOBILITY MAFIA
On June 7, Bird announced it was laying off 23% of its ~600 employees. These 130+ layoffs followed the 406 employees let go in early 2020, when Bird’s employee count exceed 1,000. While Bird hasn’t yet found consistent profitably, its employees can rightfully claim to have a finger on the pulse of shared mobility.
That news came a few days after Elon Musk tweeted that he was expecting all white-collar Tesla employees to return to the office at least 40 hours per week or quit. Those who leave Tesla right now have significant appeal for employers in sustainable mobility; Tesla is the most valuable automaker, by far.
In both cases, these events will unleash a pool of qualified talent in the market, some of whom will choose sustainable mobility for their next job.
Talent leaving, of course, isn’t new news. But the mobility space has seen multiple phases of a talented labor pool moving en masse from one employer to another. A huge pool of talent jumped to Uber and Lyft in the early and mid-2010s, only to leave a few years later to join Bird and Lime. Tesla, Uber, Waymo, Bird and Lyft have made up a notable swath of the mobility talent pool in the US. So when people leave these employers, where do they go and is it for sustainable mobility?
For Tesla employees, the answer is clear: Rivian, Apple, Amazon and Google (plus growing numbers at Redwood Materials). Rivian naysayers may want to note that approximately 10% of Rivian employees are former Tesla.
For Uber employees, Google and Amazon are the go to, as opposed to Lyft employees, who are more likely to head into food delivery businesses like Instacart and DoorDash.
And for Bird and Waymo, the number of former employees is too small to create a clear picture, but Rivian and Amazon figure prominently as destinations.
Keep an eye out for where Bird and Tesla employees go next; time will tell whether they’ll opt for the safety of big tech stalwarts like Amazon and Google, known entities like Instacart, Tier, DoorDash, and Redwood Materials, or some still-nascent sustainable mobility startups.