Business

Hyundai commits $1 billion to AV startup Motional and Elon parts ways with the Tesla Supercharger team

Welcome backO TechCrunch Mobility – Your central hub for news and insight into the future of transportation.

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EV start Fisker lay off more employees “preserving cash” as bankruptcy draws ever closer; rideshare company Ola around 180 jobs cut and fired its chief executive Hemant Bakshi just four months after he was appointed to the post; and lidar companies Luminar has reduced its 700-person workforce by 20% as part of a restructuring to introduce an “asset light” business model.

Oh, and then there was this Tesla CEO Elon Muskwho axed the automaker global Supercharger network team. This confusing decision comes just as drivers of non-Tesla electric vehicles are gaining access to the network.

That’s not to say the entire transportation sector was surrounded by economic storm clouds. There were brighter moments too. Let’s take a look!

A little bird

Blinky Cat Bird green

Given the fallout from Tesla’s major Supercharger purge, we spoke to several few Birds, including those who were laid off and people who work at other automakers. As I mentioned above, Elon Musk Tesla’s global Supercharger organization, with about 500 employees, was gutted. Insiders at several different automakers — all of which are adopting Tesla’s charging technology — said they didn’t expect this. “Shocked” and “stunned” were the most common expressions I heard.

On the employee side, there was a lack of communication from the HR department in the hours immediately following the mass layoff. Some told me that they and their former colleagues had received no information about the severance package and that communication had come to a complete standstill. Some of those people had received severance emails by Friday. All the people I communicated with still had difficulty understanding why Musk would dismantle the Supercharger team – an organization that is fundamental to Tesla and its EV sales. Others only suspected Elon and perhaps the former head of the Supercharger team, Rebecca Tinucciwould ever know the answer.

Do you have a tip for us? E-mail Kirsten Korosec at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com, Sean O’Kane at sean.okane@techcrunch.com or Rebecca Bellan at rebecca.bellan@techcrunch.com. If you prefer to remain anonymous, Click here to contact usincluding SecureDrop (Instructions here) and various encrypted messaging apps.

Offers!

Station money

It’s been a minute since we’ve heard of an autonomous vehicle startup raising a significant amount of money – or any money at all. That all changed this week when Movable scored a major multi-million dollar win, courtesy of Hyundai.

Hyundai’s overall value The commitment is $1 billion, but there are important details. Here’s how it breaks down. Hyundai invested $475 million directly in Motional as part of a broader deal that also includes purchasing joint venture partner Aptiv. Hyundai is spending another $448 million to buy 11% of Aptiv’s common equity stake in Motional.

The quick backstory: Motional was founded in 2019 as a $4 billion joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv. Motional has spent the last few years working on its autonomous vehicle technology and working toward the goal of launching a robotaxi service using Hyundai Ioniq 5 driverless vehicles in 2024. As Motional and Hyundai grew closer, the companies announced plans in November to jointly develop production-ready versions of the all-electric Ioniq 5 robot taxi – it appears that Aptiv has begun to understand its own financial limitations. In January, Aptiv Chairman and CEO Kevin Clark announced the company would do so reduce his ownership share in Motional and stop allocating capital to the company due to the high cost of commercializing a robotaxi business and the long road ahead to make profits.

While the decision wasn’t particularly surprising to the industry insiders I spoke with, it still put Motional and Hyundai in a difficult position. Would Hyundai step up? Would external investors step in? Hyundai answered the call.

My question is whether Motional will look for other investors with Hyundai’s blessing. That depends on how much capital Motional burns and whether the company continues to pursue the same robotaxi goals. If so, the company will obviously need more capital at some point.

Other offers that caught my attention…

LiNova EnergyA California-based startup developing polymer cathode batteries raised $15.8 million in a Series A funding round led by Catalus Capital and joined by Saft, an affiliate of TotalEnergies, Chevron Technology Ventures and a consortium of investors.

Rivian was awarded a feast for the eyes $827 million incentive package from the state of Illinois to be used to build production lines for its next-generation electric vehicle, the R2.

Viking Holdingsthe luxury cruise operator backed by private equity firm TPG and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Raised $1.54 billion on its IPO.

X-shorea Swedish electric boat manufacturer founded in 2016, 8.5 million euros collected in new funding from several unnamed existing backers, including founder Konrad Bergström.

Notable reading and other tidbits

ADAS

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration an investigation has been initiated into it Fords The BlueCruise hands-free driver assistance system has been tested after it was found to be active in two recent accidents that killed multiple people.

NHTSA has taken another major step in this sector and completed a new one Federal standard for motor vehicle safety This makes automatic emergency braking possible, including the ability to do so Detect pedestrians and brake automatically, standard for all passenger cars and light trucks by September 2029. The agency said the safety standard is expected to significantly reduce the number of rear-end and pedestrian accidents. Now, NHTSA doesn’t choose the technology automakers must use. A number of computer vision and lidar companies have reached out to me to see how this could benefit their business models.

Autonomous vehicles

TC contributor Tim Stevens takes us behind the scenes of the first Autonomous Racing League Event in Abu Dhabi that pitted a self-driving car against a Formula 1 driver. His opinion? Yes, there were fights; He also saw great progress.

Electric vehicles, chargers and batteries

Remember last year when Henrik Fisker proudly presented two prototypes that were supposed to catapult his EV startup of the same name into the mainstream? TC reporter Sean O’Kane learned that the engineering firm that helped develop these vehicles is suing Fisker for $13 million in damages. Read more to learn more about this lawsuit and several others.

This week’s bikes

Photo credit: Emma Hall

I handed the wheel over to the TC employee Emma Hall this week for a test drive with the new all-electric Acura ZDX Type S. You can read this You can find the entire review hereI also recommend you Check out her video the hands-free driver assistance system in the vehicle. For those who want a first look before diving into the longer read, here’s the gist.

Hall expected joy and delight. Instead, it was more like meh. Here is one of the reasons why. The Type S weighs over 6,000 pounds. Even if the weight is evenly distributed front to back, that’s a lot of weight to handle a corner. She liked the strong steering, but there wasn’t much feedback.

“The torque is always there on corner exit and body roll is kept under control, but I don’t feel the joy,” she wrote, adding that the Type S’s 275/40 Continental Premium Contact 6 summer tires provided plenty of grip , but the flat sidewall combined with the harder run-flat rubber compound meant the ride was a bit harsh.

Hall’s quest for an all-electric SUV that’s fun to take in the twisty corners continues.

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