Well, that wasn’t exactly a slow news week! For starters, the U.S. has a new president and has rejoined the Paris Climate Accord. While Joe Biden is faced with a deeply divided country and Congress, a massive infrastructure package may finally be in the cards — with far-reaching implications for transportation. In less unusual news: another EV company is going public via a SPAC, another small city is welcoming e-scooters back to its streets, another American automaker is giving up on sedans and Uber is hoping to shed yet another division.
America’s massive infrastructure bill that could be: With only the slimmest of margins in the Senate, there’s much that President Biden and the Democratic Congress won’t be able to accomplish. But a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure package may be one of the few things that can draw bipartisan support. Why? While Democrats hope to use such a package to make paradigm-shifting investments in renewable energy and public transit, there should be plenty of cash to build new roads or repair existing ones. For better (and often) worse, that’s always a political winner.
The Li-ion still roars: StoreDot, an Israeli company, has unveiled a new lithium battery that can be fully charged in five minutes. The battery, manufactured in China by Eve Energy, represents an important milestone, and may curb growing excitement around solid-state batteries. But the technology is still not in place to produce it on a mass scale. It may be a while yet before a five-minute charge becomes the new normal for EVs…but, hey, we really like where this is going.
Lincoln killed! 2021 is the year when Lincoln cuts its last remaining ties to the glory days of American luxury sedans. The Ford-owned luxury brand is going all-in on SUVs, killing off the Continental and the MKZ. Business Insider explores the background of this historic shift (which is sure to leave some chauffeurs teary-eyed,) which follows similar decisions by other American automakers to abandon sedans.
BMW simplifies for EVs: After seeing EV sales rise by a third in 2020, the iconic German luxury brand is taking further steps to move towards electric. To make room in its budget for a substantial investment in EVs, however, the car-maker is preparing internal belt-tightening: phasing out poor selling vehicle trims, scrapping unpopular features, and retooling its software development. Moves it should be taking anyway…
A fare question for NYC: With hope for a big federal aid package rising now that Democrats control Congress and the White House, the MTA is shelving a planned 4% fare hike. The agency is hoping for as much as $8 billion in additional federal support –– the size of its projected budget deficit over the next four years.
EVgo public: EVgo, the LA-based maker of fast chargers, is going public via a SPAC. It will merge with Climate Real Impact Solutions at a $2.6 billion valuation, leaving the company’s current owner, LS Power, with a 76% stake. The company currently has about 800 chargers spread over 67 metro areas around the U.S. and announced a deal with GM last year to install 2,700 more chargers over the next five years.
A breath of fresh air: In an effort to help the nation’s Covid-battered transit agencies coax back passengers, the Federal Transit Administration is doling out $15.8 million of grants to help 37 local agencies put in place technology to reduce Covid transmission. For instance, Washington D.C.’s Metro is putting in place a new air filtration system, while others are using their grants on contactless payments, creating multiple boarding points or providing customers with real-time information about the passenger load so that they can avoid crowded situations.
Spare some change for carbon capture: Elon Musk tweets that he’s donating $100 million — or about 1/1850th of his net worth — “towards a prize for best carbon capture technology.” Sure, why not?
Presidential subway station: In New York, a street artist pays homage to the new U.S. president at the 46th Street subway station on the M and R lines in Queens. The iconic mosaic sign that now greets passengers at stop reads: “46th Joe.” The artist, Adrian Wilson, also transformed a couple of street signs to celebrate the departure of Biden’s predecessor.
Paris transformed: While underreported in the English-language press, the French capital is currently embarking on one of the most transformational public transit expansions in the western world: the Grand Paris Express, set to add over 200 kilometers of rail and up to two million new daily riders to a region already brimming with great transportation. Get to know this project better in CoMotion NEWS’ Grand Paris Express – Demystified.
Meanwhile, l’hydrogène vert is set to power Paris cabs: HysetCo, a French startup backed by Toyota and Air Liquide, believes it can transition every Paris taxi to hydrogen fuel cells by the time the city hosts the Summer Olympics in 2024. The company, which recently raised $97 million, already operates 100 hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai taxis under the Hype brand and recently purchased another cab operator whose 600 diesel-powered cars it plans to replace by the end of the year. An important factor driving the business is the city of Paris’ own ambitious environmental goals, which call for ending diesel vehicles by 2024 and gas-powered cars by 2030.
Bullish on EVs: It’s not quite Tesla’s market cap, but Rivian’s $27B valuation following its most recent capital raise is nothing to sniff at either. It’s yet another sign the market thinks electric vehicles could soon become the new normal. Shares in Ford – which plowed $500 million into Rivain in 2019 — shot up 23% as a result. Nice.
Try, try again: Brightline, the private rail operator, says it is likely to break ground on a new passenger rail line connecting Las Vegas to Apple Valley, Calif. in the second quarter of this year. The company put the brakes on the $8 billion project six months ago after it failed to get the necessary financing. The Covid vaccine, however, has changed things; Brightline says it is confident that it will be able to get the necessary private backing.
Microsoft buys into Cruise: The software giant is joining GM, Honda and other big investors to pump $2 billion into Cruise, the GM-backed AV startup. As part of the transaction, Cruise vehicles will begin using Microsoft’s cloud platform, Azure. The cash injection increases the valuation of Cruise, now testing vehicles on San Francisco streets without a safety driver, to a cool $30 billion.
Another Uber breakup: Uber is slimming down yet again. Less than two months after acquiring Postmates, the ride-hailing behemoth is looking to spin off that company’s robotics division, Postmates X. Uber plans to retain a 25% stake in the new company, while bringing in outside investors. The main focus of the new entity is the Serve robot, an adorable little four-wheeler already making deliveries in Southern California with partners like convenience chain Pink Dot. Can we order up a couple for CoMotion offices?
Trump card: Among the many beneficiaries of President Trump’s spate of last-minute pardons is a familiar name in the world of autonomous mobility: Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer found guilty of trade secret theft. We’d love to know the back story that led to the pardon…but we probably never will.
Trucking team-up: Mountain View-based AV startup Aurora partners with truck manufacturing behemoth Paccar to get driverless big rigs on the road. Paccar is hardly the only heavy-duty truck builder looking for an AV partner: last year Daimler’s trucking division teamed up with Waymo, and VW’s subsidiary Traton Group announced a collaboration with TuSimple.
And a bright future for e-bikes in Europe: While the unique circumstances of the pandemic had a lot to do with the record-smashing 2.5 million e-bikes sold in Europe last year, industry observers believe this is just the beginning of the e-bike craze. One industry trade group is projecting 7 million sales by 2025, while others say 10 million is a better bet. For a bit of context, about 15.5 million cars were sold in Europe in 2019, leading at least one particularly optimistic e-bike enthusiast to predict that e-bike sales will eventually overtake car sales in the EU.
No mercy for drunk scooterist: Late-night revelry on an e-scooter has earned a young woman in the UK a drunk driving conviction and a two-year ban from operating any motorized vehicle on public roads. The judge rejected the defense’s argument that operating a vehicle limited to 15 mph while intoxicated is not quite the same as the typical DUI case. The rules for scooters “are the same as a moped, the same as a bus,” he replied. We pretty much agree.
Scooters back in WeHo: Nearly three years after being banned, e-scooters are being welcomed back to West Hollywood; the City Council voted unanimously to invite Lime and Bird to deploy 100 scooters each within WeHo’s boundaries. While 1.89 square mile West Hollywood might not exactly be a megacity, the return of electric scooters to an important SoCal sub-market (about seven miles from where shared scooting was born in Santa Monica) bodes well for micromobility in 2021.
Streetsblog SF takes a long, hard look at San Francisco’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s failure to live up to its mission to “build a coordinated transit system” for the Bay Area.
New York Times editorial profiles people around the country who have been hurt by transit cuts during the pandemic and calls for the federal government to do more on their behalf.
dot.LA delves into the challenges the pandemic has brought to HopSkipDrive, the LA startup that provides ride-sharing services to school districts.
Job Trends in partnership with New Mobility Careers.
Moving from the media: Finance exec Jantoon Reigersman is set to join online auto marketplace TrueCar as the Los Angeles-based company’s new CFO. This comes fresh off a stint at web media conglomerate Leaf Group (formerly Demand Media), and prior experience in clean tech investing.
Motoring on: Nikola Motors may have had a rocky 2020, but the zero-emission upstart still has growth ambitions. The company currently has over 120 open positions at its Arizona HQ, largely focused on design and engineering.
Big Apple ambition: COVID has hit the New York MTA’s finances hard, but the venerable transit operator is now optimistic that the Biden administration will help it out with an infusion of federal cash. If you share that optimism, they’ve got 24 open positions, including VP of System Safety, Track Superintendent, Product Director, and many more.
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