Su$tainable Mobility, Volume 6
This newsletter aims to separate the signal from the noise for making money in all things sustainable transportation: Electrification, mode shift, active and public transit, and mobility aggregation, across both people and goods movement.
Feedback is always welcome. Feel free to DM me on Twitter or send an email with your thoughts on what else you might like to see as content.
Disclaimer: This newsletter represents my own thoughts and not those of any employer. I will always disclose when I have a financial relationship with a company cited.
QUICK HITS: Fast takes on notable news from last week
🚚 Rivian filed for its IPO.
No SPAC needed in this case. The adage a decade ago was that it took $1 billion to launch a car company, but perhaps the updated answer is $10.5 bn plus an IPO.
🚕 A new MIT-Harvard study outlined how widespread deployment of electric robotaxis could exacerbate energy consumption and the emissions that contribute to climate change.
The study comes to some of the same conclusions I was able to reach with colleagues in research we published in 2015 and 2018. Key topics for next steps include understanding how we reboot ride pooling in a (post) COVID world as well as whether robotaxi utilization rates can or should be boosted by also performing goods delivery.
♻️ Tesla says it can now recycle 92% of battery material.
Battery recycling is one of the next big frontiers in sustainable mobility and the US, with the exception of Tesla and perhaps Redwood Materials, is far behind. A European-style end-of-life directive for vehicle manufacturers seems inevitable at some point in the US.
🛫 FAA announces $20.4M in grants for zero-emissions airport operations.
This round focused on charging stations, e-buses, and portable cooling units that provide air conditioning while planes are parked at the gate. Next time around look for much bigger dollar amounts as short-haul zero-emissions planes start reaching deployment.
⛽️ Audi to phase out internal combustion engine (ICE) manufacturing by 2033.
This is an easier decision on the premium side than on the mainstream side and an easier decision in markets like Europe and China than in emerging markets. Expect fewer bold announcements for mainstream brands as they figure out how middle-class consumers in Brazil, India, Nigeria, Turkey, and Indonesia will transition to EVs.
STARTUP WATCH: Sustainable mobility startups (generally pre-seed or seed) to keep an eye on
🛰 airtonomy (North Dakota, USA): Drone data management
🚲 BoxLane (Spain): Manufacturer of e-cargo bikes for last-mile delivery
🛶 eConcept (Italy): Charging for electric boats
🛩 Electron Aviation (UK): Vertically integrated electric short-haul plane manufacturer plus airline
🚲 Sweel (Belgium): Consumer-facing connected solutions for micro-mobility
🚗 T4L (Florida, USA): All-inclusive EV subscription
🧫 XFuel (Spain): Biomass waste-derived drop-in biofuels for road, marine, and aviation
FOUNDER Q&A: Madison Rifkin, Mount
Q: What does your company do?
A: Mount’s an asset management web app for property owners to track and turn their existing assets such as golf carts, bikes, and scooters into rentable fleets.
Q: What is the problem your company is solving?
A: Short-term rentals do not have a way to offer amenities like large hotels do. All of their revenue comes directly from bookings. We are trying to open up ancillary revenue streams for the property owners.
Q: How do you think about quantifying the sustainability impacts of your company in the mobility sector?
A: We are helping to place electric vehicles at Short Term Rental properties to give guests a carbon-free way to explore the town. In addition, these vehicles can help reduce the need for Ubers and rental cars when traveling.
Q: What funding stage is your company at and where are you headed next?
A: We are in our seed stage. Right now our focus is on acquiring customers and launching product.
Q: What business challenge are you most looking forward to addressing in the next year?
A: This coming year we are going to address the challenge we currently have with scale. The short-term rental market is dispersed and not every property needs amenities. We will be conducting pilots with large resorts to see if we can optimize their amenity offerings.
Q: What's the best book you've read in the last year?
A: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.
Q: Favorite guilty pleasure?
A: TV’s Survivor.
Q: What advice would you give other founders in the sector?
A: I’d say keep attaching the problem you are solving and don’t be afraid to pivot. Mount started as a lock company and now is in the hospitality space. We kept learning from our customers and digging deeper to find their true problem.