Tesla President of Heavy Trucking Jerome Guillen departed the company on June 3, 2021. Guillen has helped Tesla grow for a little more than ten years.
Tesla’s Chief Financial Office authorized the Form 8-K that announced Jerome Guillen’s departure. The document says very little about the long-time executive’s leave.
“As of June 3, 2021, Jerome Guillen, President, Tesla Heavy Trucking, of Tesla, Inc. (“Tesla”), departed Tesla. We thank him for his man contributions and wish him well in his future career,” said the simple message about Guillen’s departure from the EV automaker.
Guillen was formerly Tesla’s President of Automotive. On March 11, 2020, Guillen became the President of Heavy Trucking at Tesla, which may have been a strategic move for the company given his background. Guillen previously worked for Freightliner Trucks and have likely provided good insights for the development of the Tesla Semi.
Tesla is supposed to start Semi production later this year. It is still unclear whether Guillen’s exit from Tesla would affect Semi production. Tesla has not provided information about Semi production since the last earnings call when Elon Musk noted that the company was still developing its Class-8 heavy-duty truck.
As of this writing, Guillen has not commented on his leave. Elon Musk has not commented on Guillen’s departure either.
This is not the first time that Guillen stepped away from Tesla. He also took an abrupt leave of absence from the company in 2015, right before the Model X’s release. At the time, he still showed his support for Tesla and was spotted at a Tesla Supercharger at Mt. Shasta interacting with Model S customers. He later rejoined the company as VP of Trucks and Programs.
Jaguar Land Rover to develop a Defender-like hydrogen fuel cell EV
Jaguar Land Rover is developing a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle based on the new Defender SUV and plans to begin testing the prototype next year.
The prototype program, known as Project Zeus, is part of JLR’s larger aim to only produce zero-tailpipe emissions vehicles by 20236. JLR has also made a commitment to have zero carbon emissions across its supply chain, products and operations by 2039.
Project Zeus is partially funded by the UK government-backed Advanced Propulsion Center. The automaker has also tapped AVL, Delta Motorsport, Marelli Automotive Systems and the UK Battery Industrialization Center to help develop the prototype. The testing program is designed to help engineers understand how a hydrogen powertrain can be developed that would meet the performance and capability (like towing and off roading) standards that Land Rover customers expect.
Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity without combustion. The electricity generated from hydrogen is used to power an electric motor. Some automakers, researchers and policymakers have advocated for the technology because hydrogen-powered FCEVs can be refueled quickly, have a high-energy density and don’t lose as much range in cold temperatures. The combination means EVs that can travel longer distances.
Few fuel cell EVs, otherwise known as FCEVs, are on the market today in part because of a lack of refueling stations. The Toyota Mirai is one example.
Data from the International Energy Agency and recent commitments by automakers suggests that might be changing. Last month, BMW Chairman Oliver Zipse said the automaker plans to produce a small number of hydrogen fuel-cell powered X5 SUVs next year.
The number of FCEVs in the world nearly doubled to 25,210 units in 2019 from the previous year, the latest data from the IEA shows. The United States has been the leader in sales, although there was a dip in 2019, followed by China, Japan and Korea.
Japan has been a leader on the infrastructure end as it aims to have 200,000 FCEVs on the road by 2025. The country had installed 113 stations as of 2019, nearly twice as many as the United States.
“We know hydrogen has a role to play in the future powertrain mix across the whole transport industry, and alongside battery electric vehicles, it offers another zero tailpipe emission solution for the specific capabilities and requirements of Jaguar Land Rover’s world class line-up of vehicles,” Ralph Clague, the head of hydrogen and fuel cells for Jaguar Land Rover said in a statement.
How autonomous delivery startups are navigating policy, partnerships and post-pandemic operations
We kicked off this year’s TC Sessions: Mobility with a talk featuring three leading players in the field of autonomous delivery. Gatik co-founder and chief engineer Apeksha Kumavat, Nuro head of operations Amy Jones Satrom, and Starship Technologies co-founder and CTO Ahti Heinla joined us to discuss their companies’ unique approaches to the category.
The trio discussed government regulation on autonomous driving, partnerships with big corporations like Walmart and Domino’s, and the ongoing impact the pandemic has had on interest in the space.
The pandemic effect
Delivery is one of the countless categories that have been profoundly impacted by COVID-19. Interest in autonomous delivery has compounded, but will this be a permanent sea change? Or will things regress some when life returns to normal?
Kumavat: Even before the pandemic hit, this whole e-commerce trend was already on the rise. No one wants their deliveries to be done after a week or two weeks. Everyone is expecting them to be done on the same day, as well as curbside pickup options. There was already a rise in the expectations of e-commerce and on-demand deliveries even before the pandemic hit. Post-March 2020, what we have seen is a huge increase in that trajectory. (Timestamp: 1:55)
Jones Satrom: When you think about the number of trips the consumer used to take just for shopping, that’s roughly 40% of the trips they would take. They now have habits around that kind of stuff. It’s a timesaver for the consumer. We do see those trends continuing and we do see folks sustaining the online ordering piece and wanting to be able to get things when they want them. (Time stamp: 8:39)
Redwood Materials is setting up shop near the Tesla Gigafactory as part of broader expansion
Redwood Materials, the battery recycling startup founded by former Tesla CTO JB Straubel, has purchased 100 acres of land near the Gigafactory that Panasonic operates with Tesla in Sparks, Nevada as part of an expansion plan that aligns with the Biden Administration’s drive to increase adoption of electric vehicles and boost domestic battery recycling and supply chain efforts.
The company said Monday that its existing 150,000-square-foot facility in Carson City, Nevada will also nearly triple in size. Redwood is adding another 400,000 square feet onto the Carson City recycling facility, which is expected to be operational by the end of the year.
As part of its growth plans, Redwood is also hiring hundreds of workers. The company, which is backed by Amazon, employs 130 people today and expects to add more than 500 jobs over the next two years.
Redwood’s expansion announcement follows the Biden Administration’s 100-day review of the U.S. supply chain and the release of a Department of Energy’ document that lays out a plan to improve the domestic supply chain for lithium-based batteries.
“America has a clear opportunity to build back our domestic supply chain and manufacturing sectors, so we can capture the full benefits of an emerging $23 trillion global clean energy economy,” Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said Monday in a statement. “Private sector investment like this is a sign that we can’t slow down. The American Jobs Plan will unlock massive opportunities for US businesses as it spurs innovation and demand for technologies–like vehicle batteries and battery storage–creating clean energy jobs for all.”
Redwood Materials, which was founded in 2017, is trying to create a circular supply chain. The company has a business-to-business strategy, recycling the scrap from battery cell production as well as consumer electronics like cell phone batteries, laptop computers, power tools, power banks, scooters and electric bicycles. Redwood collects the scrap from consumer electronics companies and battery cell manufacturers like Panasonic. It then processes these discarded goods, extracting materials like cobalt, nickel and lithium that are typically mined, and then supplies those back to Panasonic and other customers. The aim is to create a closed loop system that will ultimately help reduce the cost of batteries and offset the need for mining.
Redwood Materials has a number of customers, and has only publicly disclosed that it is working with Panasonic, Amazon and AESC Envision in Tennessee
Redwood Materials says it recovers about 95% to 98% of the elements from the batteries such as nickel, cobalt, lithium and copper. Today, it receives 3 gigawatt-hours annually, a figure that the company says is equivalent to about 45,000 cars.
The Station: Robotaxi apps on the rise, an AI pioneer’s new startup and mobility event highlights
Hello and welcome back to The Station, a weekly newsletter dedicated to all the ways people and packages move (today and in the future) from Point A to Point B.
Welp, the mobility event is over and we had loads of interesting interviews and anyone with an Extra Crunch subscription can access the videos. For instance, Rita Liao moderated a panel with executives from three Chinese robotaxi companies — WeRide, AutoX and Momenta — that also test and develop in Europe and the United States.
One interesting takeaway on the regulations front, is that policymaking for AVs in China is driven from the bottom up rather than a top-down effort by the central government, the three panelists explained. They also spoke about how foreign counterparts can crack open China’s market.
Jewel Li from AutoX laid out the challenges of operating in China.
I think it’s not as simple as opening up an office, right? It’s much more than that, to be able to succeed in the market. You need to build the landscape, you need to build the ecosystem, your own partners. The whole ecosystem chain is quite long. It’s quite complicated, involving government relations. It also involves the data that you have already accumulated. The driving experience has to fit in the local world. Many things comes into play.
Other highlights included my interview with Mate Rimac of Rimac Automobili, who disclosed about how close the company came to failing, provided advice to fellow and aspiring founders and explained his interest in electric robotaxis. Then there was the discussion about the AV industry between Motional’s Karl Iagnemma and Aurora’s Chris Urmson — not an interview to miss. More recaps of the event will be published in the coming week.
Some other coverage from the event:
This week, as Kirsten Korosec mentioned above, we had our big Mobility event, where the leaders, upstarts and startups of the mobility world joined us on our virtual stage to talk about the future of moving people, goods and even ideas. I led a panel with Remix co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu, community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler and Revel co-founder and CEO Frank Reig. We discussed the importance of mobility companies being equitable and accessible to everyone in a city, especially the most vulnerable, and how that affects profitability.
Something interesting that came out of my questioning was Reig’s comments about Revel achieving profitability. (The revelations about profitability were first shared in May, although Reig did provide a bit more color during the event). For three months in the summer of 2020, Revel was full-company profitable, “so beyond just market profitability, beyond just unit economics,” said Reig. “I’m talking my salary and everything else that’s involved in running a company.”
This was back when Revel was only an e-moped company and before it added several other business lines, including EV charging hubs, ebikes and ride-hailing. We don’t know exactly how Revel is measuring profitably — are we talking EBITDA? gross profit? — and on the panel we didn’t have time to dig into the money salad. But it is notable as the company settles into its newest business line of ride-hailable Tesla vehicles. We’ll be watching Revel closely as it continues to ramp up its different revenue streams. Maybe, someday they’ll go public so we can have a closer look.
Let’s get back to the important issue of whether or not mobility companies, like Revel, can help cities achieve equitability of movement. Movement should be a right, not a privilege, but it often feels like we’re playing the same game with different vehicles today. Mobility has always benefited those at the top more, so why should it be any different today? Does the moral highway really drive us toward justice? What good reason do companies have to spend their time and money actually making sure their services help cities achieve equity of movement?
“I think if you’re doing the work that theoretically is to serve people then you should want to serve all people,” said Butler. “For companies, I would say that people like to say it takes too much time or costs too much money to do things equitably, but whether or not you’re retrofitting a house or retrofitting your company, whenever you retrofit something it costs more money. So if you think about equity as something you build in from the beginning, it will actually save you money and take less time than if you try to do it later because someone tells you to do it or you’ve had some controversy.”
You can watch the full talk on Extra Crunch here.
Some micro morsels…
Leo Riders, an e-scooter platform for those in the hospitality industry, is expanding into Athens, Greece, with more than 20 agreements with local hotels. Hotels like Brown Hotel and Colors Urban Hotel will now be able to offer guests e-scooters to ride around the city. Sounds sick. What could go wrong?!
E-scooter subscription and sales company Unagi is expanding its “All-Access” service” to Chicago, D.C., and some other regions around those two great American cities.
Lime is extending its ‘Ride to Recovery’ initiative — which provides free e-scooter and bike rides to vaccine appointments — to the fourth of July. Riders can access a promo code for two free 15-minute rides here, as well as information on vaccines and where to get one.
Future Motion’s Onewheel, the unique and fun-looking vehicle that’s like a skateboard with a giant wheel in the middle of the board, has reached 52.5 million miles. They wanted me to tell you that’s 220 trips to the moon and back, 2,100 times around the earth and nearly 18,000 trips between Santa Cruz, California and NYC.
— Rebecca Bellan
Deal of the week
Didi, Chinese ride-hailing company, has already raised tens of billions of dollars from the private market. Now it’s ready to tap the public one.
The company filed for an IPO and digging a bit into the filing here’s what we find. As TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm notes, the S-1 shows how quickly and painfully COVID-19 blunted Didi’s global operations. As COVID-19 numbers have fallen and economies have opened back up. Didi has settled back to late-2019 gross transaction volume numbers.
Didi manage a GTV recovery in China. However, its aggregate numbers are flatter, and recent quarterly trends are not incredibly attractive. And taking a historical look at its financial figures, it’s clear that Didi has never generated positive operating income. The company’s revenues in Q1 2021 were smaller than its Q3 and Q4 2020 numbers, for example.
A few other items of note, the company reported a $1.7 billion loss on $21.6 billion in revenue for 2020. And some of its largest stakeholders are Softbank with 21.5%, Uber with 12/5% and Tencent with 6.8%.
Other deals that got my attention …
Branch Insurance, a startup offering bundled home and auto insurance, raised $50 million in a Series B funding round led by Anthemis Group. Acrew, Cherry Creek Holdings and existing backers Greycroft, HSCM Bermuda, American Family Ventures, SignalFire, SCOR P&C Ventures, Foundation Capital and Tower IV also participated in the round. The startup has raised $82.5 million in total funding since its inception in 2017.
A couple of Chinese grocery delivery companies filed for IPOs this week. First up is Dingdong, which previously raised more than $400 million from investors including General Atlantic, Sequoia Capital China, Starquest China, Qiming Venture Partners, Bertelsmann Asia Investments and General Atlantic. The regulatory filing shows that Digndong had a net loss of $485 million on $1.73 billion in revenue last year. Then there’s Missfresh, which has raised more than $2 billion from investors including a fund under state-backed China International Capital Corporation, ICBC International Securities, Tencent, Abu Dhabi Capital Group, Tiger Global and a fund managed by the government of Changshu county. Missfresh reported a $252 million net loss on $956 million in revenue in 2020, according to the filing.
Circulor, a supply chain traceability and CO2 tracking company, raised $14 million in Series A funding round. The Westly Group led the round with participation by Salesforce Ventures, BHP Ventures, Future Positive Capital, 24Haymarket and Sky Ocean Ventures, alongside existing investors in the company. Circulor’s product is used by Volvo Cars to trace the cobalt used in its all-electric XC40 Recharge and by Polestar to assess the environmental and human rights risks of sourcing cobalt, lithium, nickel, lithium and mica for its electric cars.
Embraer’s electric vehicle takeoff and landing unit Eve Urban Air Mobility is in talks to merge with special purpose acquisition company Zanite Acquisition Corp. The deal would value the combined entity at about $2 billion, Bloomberg reported.
Hesai, a Shanghai-based lidar maker founded in 2014, raised more than $300 million in a Series D funding round led by GL Ventures, the venture capital arm of private equity firm Hillhouse Capital, smartphone maker Xiaomi, on-demand services giant Meituan and CPE, the private equity platform of Citic. Huatai International Private Equity Fund, the USD investment arm of Huatai Securities, Lightspeed China Partners and Lightspeed Venture Capital as well as Qiming Venture Partners also participated.
Incari, Berlin-based HMI startup, closed a €15 million ($18.1 million) Series A financing round led by Lukasz Gadowski, the founder of Delivery Hero and Team Europe.
Kitty Hawk, the eVTOL company backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, acquired 3D Robotics. Under the deal, 3D Robotics co-founder Chris Anderson will become chief operating officer at Kitty Hawk, Forbes reported. The article also revealed that Kitty Hawk engineer Damon Vander Lind, who built the initial versions of Heaviside, was dismissed, CEO Sebastian Thrun confirmed to Forbes.
Nvidia is acquiring DeepMap, the high-definition mapping startup announced. The company said its mapping IP will help Nvidia’s autonomous vehicle technology sector, Nvidia Drive. Nvidia is expected to finalize the acquisition in Q3 2021.
Trucks Venture Capital, the venture firm that backs early-stage entrepreneurs in transportation, is launching two new funds. Its new core fund, known as Trucks Venture Fund 2, was raised over the last year and recently closed on $52,525,252. The fund is backed by three auto OEMs and three auto suppliers that make everything from bicycles to Class 8 big rig trucks, as well as one communications company, according to Trucks VC. The VC’s new follow-on fund, Trucks Growth Fund, will provide later-stage capital to some of the most promising companies already in Trucks’ portfolio.
Waabi, a new autonomous vehicle startup founded by AI pioneer and chief scientist at Uber ATG Raquel Urtasun, raised $83.5 million in a Series A round led by Khosla Ventures, with additional participation from Uber, 8VC, Radical Ventures, OMERS Ventures, BDC and Aurora Innovation, as well as leading AI researchers Geoffrey Hinton, Fei-Fei Li, Pieter Abbeel, Sanja Fidler and others. Urtasun said she is taking what she describes as an “AI-first approach” to speed up the commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles, starting with long-haul trucks.
WhereIsMyTransport announced it is set to raise $14.5 million in Series A extension round led by Naspers Foundry, Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund, and SBI Investment. Other participants confirmed in the extension are Capria Ventures and Wuri Ventures, Mission Gate, B&Y, and KDDI Open Innovation Fund managed by Global Brain.
Robotaxi apps on the rise
Last week, I shared the Waymo One app information courtesy of Sensor Tower, the mobile app market intelligence firm. There are not many other AV developers that have launched ride-hailing apps, although that might be changing.
Argo AI and Zoox have job listings for Android software engineers. Zoox is also looking for an iOS engineer as well.
Sensor Tower did note to TechCrunch that Pony.ai has launched a few apps. PonyPilot+ has hit about 6,000 installs on China’s App Store. PonyPilot has seen about 2,000 in the U.S., most of which happened in the first three months of 2020, according to Sensor Tower. The company also has two apps available in Russia called PonyExpress+, which has seen about 1,500 installs, and PonyFleetGO. There are no download estimates for PonyFleetGo.
AutoX also has an app available, AutoX Food Delivery, which has reached about 200 installs in the United States.
President Joe Biden has set his sights on hardening the country’s supply chains for essential goods and critical minerals. The White House said on June 8 it had created a task force aimed at addressing supply chain bottlenecks, including in semiconductors and critical minerals used in EV batteries.
Biden wants to get many more Americans driving electric vehicles, but the majority of key critical minerals in batteries, like lithium and graphite, are mined and processed abroad. As part of a Fact Sheet also released on June 8, Biden’s administration said it would create a task force to identify opportunities to produce minerals domestically — something that until now has kicked up a lot of controversy amongst environmental groups.
The U.S. Department of Energy released a blueprint for lithium batteries through 2030 that calls for eliminating two key minerals from batteries — cobalt and nickel — as a way of fortifying the supply chain. The DOE says it will support R&D efforts to develop batteries without these minerals, which are largely found in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo or Indonesia, and are processed mainly in China. Scientific innovation is certainly one way to reduce America’s dependence on foreign adversaries for its batteries.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed a sweeping $547 billion infrastructure package after a whopping 19 hours of debate (pour one out for the Congressional interns). The final vote was 38-26. As a reminder, the INVEST in America Act would largely fund improvements to roads, bridges and passenger rail, but earmarks $4 billion in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and around $4 billion to invest in zero-emission transit vehicles.
Just two Republicans on the committee voted in favor of the bill. The INVEST in America Act is still very, very far from becoming law: it now advances to the full House for further debate, then would be sent to the Senate for further rehashing, etcetera etcetera… but nevertheless it’s an encouraging sign, especially as legislators managed to work out over 200 proposed amendments to the legislation.
GM is changing its tune on proposed tailpipe emission rules in California. The country’s largest automaker had previously opposed California’s tough emissions limits for passenger vehicles, which it reached in concert with five other automakers: Ford, Honda Motor Company, Volkswagen AG, Volvo and BMW. The New York Times reported that GM CEO Mary Barra said in a Wednesday letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan that “GM supports the emissions reduction goals of California through model year ’26,” and that, “the auto industry is embarking upon a profound transition as we do our part to achieve the country’s climate commitments.”
However, she said that GM “believes that the same environmental benefits can and should be achieved through a high-volume electric vehicle pathway.” That is to say, she said the best way to reduce emissions is to boost EV sales through government incentives, rebates and other programs.
The EPA will be publishing its proposed tailpipe emissions reductions and fuel economy standards in July. Regan has been meeting with major OEMs, including GM, in advance of that release.
— Aria Alamalhodaei
Extra Crunch: Air taxi market analysis
TechCrunch’s Aria Alamalhodaei dug into the aspirations of the burgeoning electric vertical take-off and landing industry. The upshot: the industry is bullish on its future, a view perhaps augmented by the string of partnership deals, SPACs, private funding and newly achieved unicorn statuses.
However, as in any disruptive industry, the forecast may be cloudier than the rosy picture painted by passionate founders and investors. A quick peek at comments and posts on LinkedIn reveals squabbles among industry insiders and analysts about when this emerging technology will truly take off and which companies will come out ahead. Other disagreements have higher stakes. Wisk Aero filed a lawsuit against Archer Aviation alleging trade secret misappropriation. Meanwhile, valuations for companies that have no revenue yet to speak of — and may not for the foreseeable future — are skyrocketing.
Electric air mobility is gaining elevation. But there’s going to be some turbulence ahead. This is an Extra Crunch article, which means it requires a subscription. Happy reading.
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