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Cruise is buying solar energy from California farmers to power its electric, self-driving fleet

By Rebecca Bellan

Cruise, the self-driving car company under General Motors, has launched a new initiative called Farm to Fleet that will allow the company to source solar power from farms in California’s Central Valley. The San Francisco Chronicle was the first to report the news that Cruise is directly purchasing renewable energy credits from Sundale Vineyards and Moonlight Companies to help power its fleet of all-electric autonomous vehicles in San Francisco.

Cruise recently secured a permit to shuttle passengers in its test vehicles in San Francisco without a human safety operator behind the wheel. The company is also ramping up its march to commercialization with a recent $5 billion line of credit from GM Financial to pay for hundreds of electric and autonomous Origin vehicles. While this partnership with California farmers is undoubtedly a boon to the state’s work in progressing renewable energies while also providing jobs and financial opportunities to local businesses, Cruise isn’t running a charity here.

The California Independent System Operator has been soliciting power producers across the western United States to sell more megawatts to the state this summer in anticipation of heat waves that will boost electricity demand and potentially cause blackouts. Power supplies are lower than expected already due to droughts, outages and delays in bringing new energy generation sources to the grid, causing reduced hydroelectric generation. To ensure California’s grid can handle the massive increase in fleet size Cruise is planning, it seems that the company has no choice but to find creative ways to bolster the grid. Cruise, however, is holding firm that it’s got loftier goals than securing the energy from whatever sources are available.

“This is entirely about us doing the right thing for our cities and communities and fundamentally transforming transportation for the better,” Ray Wert, a Cruise spokesperson, told TechCrunch.

With droughts continuing to plague California farmers, converting farmland to solar farms is a potential way to help the state meet its climate change targets, according to a report from environmental nonprofit Nature Conservancy. Which is why Cruise saw the logic in approaching Central Valley farmers now.

“Farm to Fleet is a vehicle to rapidly reduce urban transportation emissions while generating new revenue for California’s farmers leading in renewable energy,” said Rob Grant, Cruise’s vice president of social affairs and global impact, in a blog post.

Cruise is paying negotiated contract rates with the farms through its clean energy partner, BTR Energy. The company isn’t disclosing costs, but says it’s paying no more or less than what it would pay for using other forms of renewable energy credits (RECs). RECs are produced when a renewable energy source generates one megawatt-hour of electricity and passes it on to the grid. According to Cruise, Sundale has installed 2 megawatts of solar capacity to power their 200,000 square footage of cold storage, and Moonlight has installed a combined 3.9 MW of solar arrays and two-battery storage system for its sorting and storage facilities. So when Cruise buys credits from these farms, it’s able to say that a specific amount of its electricity use came from a renewable source. RECs are unique and tracked, so it’s clear where they came from, what kind of energy they used and where they went. Cruise did not share how many RECs it plans to purchase from the farms, but says it will be enough to power its San Francisco fleet.

“While the solar power still flows through the same grid, Cruise purchases and then ultimately ‘retires’ the renewable energy credits generated by the solar panels at the farms,” said Wert. “Through data that we submit to the California Air Resources Board quarterly, we retire a number of RECs equivalent to the amount of electricity we used to charge our vehicles.”

Wert says using fully renewable power is actually profitable for Cruise in California due to the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which is designed to decrease the carbon intensity of transportation fuels in the state and provide more low-carbon alternatives. Cruise owns and operates all of its own EV charging ports, so it’s able to generate credits based on the carbon intensity score of the electricity and amount of energy delivered. Cruise can then sell its credits to other companies seeking to reduce their footprints and comply with regulations. 

Aside from practicalities, Cruise is aiming to set a standard for the industry and create demand for renewable energy, thus incentivizing more people and businesses to create it. 

“Transportation is responsible for over 40% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is why we announced our Clean Mile Challenge in February, where we challenged the rest of the AV industry to report how many miles they’re driving on renewable energy every year,” said Wert. “We’re hoping that others follow our lead.”

Lordstown Motors taps former Icahn exec as CEO to put its EV truck ambitions back on track

By Kirsten Korosec

Lordstown Motors has hired Daniel A. Ninivaggi, a longtime automotive executive and former head of Carl C. Icahn’s holding company, as CEO and a board member. The appointment follows months of tumult at Lordstown, which became publicly traded via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company.

In June, founder and CEO Steve Burns and CFO Julio Rodriguez resigned following a disappointing first-quarter earnings that revealed the company was consuming more capital than expected and unable to reach previously forecasted production numbers for its electric Endurance pickup truck. The resignations were also tied to a board committee investigation that found inaccuracies in some of the company’s disclosures on its truck preorders.

The resignations were just one of several problems, including allegations of fraud and separate investigations by the Department of Justice and the SEC, that has put the two-year-old company at risk of failing. Lordstown did receive a lifeline in August when hedge fund YA II PN purchased 35.1 million shares, or about 19.9% of outstanding shares. The sale provided much-needed capital required to produce its first electric vehicle at the former GM Assembly Plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

Ninivaggi has the background to bring order to Lordstown’s business. He is also bullish on the company’s product, noting in a statement that the demand for full-size electric pickup trucks will be strong and that Lordstown’s Endurance truck has the opportunity to capture a meaningful share of the market.

The former CEO of Icahn Enterprises has served in a variety of senior leadership positions in the automotive and transportation industries, beginning at Lear Corporation, where he eventually became executive vice president. He was later co-chairman and co-CEO of automotive components supplier Federal Mogul Holdings Corporation ahead of its sale to Tenneco.

While with Icahn Enterprises, Ninivaggi also oversaw the company’s automotive aftermarket service network and parts distribution businesses. He also has a long history directing public companies, including Motorola Mobility (prior to its sale to Google), Navistar International, Hertz Global Holdings and CVR Energy.

General Motors issues third recall for Chevrolet Bolt EVs, citing rare battery defects

By Aria Alamalhodaei

General Motors is recalling even more Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles due to possible battery cell defects that could increase the risk of fire. This latest recall, announced by the automaker on Friday, marks the third time GM has issued the consumer notice for the Bolt.

The second recall, which was issued in July, covered 2017 to 2019 Bolt EVs. Now, GM is expanding that recall to include an additional 9,335 2019 model year Bolts, as well as 63,683 2020–2022 Bolt EV and EUV vehicles.

“In rare circumstances, the batteries supplied to GM for these vehicles may have two manufacturing defects – a torn anode tab and folded separator – present in the same battery cell, which increases the risk of fire,” the company said in a news release. It added that it was working with its cell supplier, South Korea’s LG, regarding the issue.

This recall is expected to cost GM an additional $1 billion – that’s on top of the $800 million the company has already estimated for the prior recalls. Costs associated with fixing defective Bolt batteries made up the lion’s share of GM’s $1.3 billion in warranty expenses last quarter, the automaker said in an earnings call earlier this month.

GM is recommending that included Bolt drivers to a 90 percent state of charge limitation and avoid depleting the battery below a 70 mile range. The automaker also suggests parking the vehicle outside right after charging and not leaving the vehicle charging indoors overnight – likely due to the risk of fire. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration released its own recommendation to Bolt drivers to park their vehicles away from their homes to reduce fire risk.

Lordstown will deliver its Endurance truck to ‘select early customers’ early next year

By Aria Alamalhodaei

The beleaguered EV startup Lordstown Motors is on track to begin production of its flagship electric truck Endurance, but only select customers will begin to receive vehicles early next year, executives said during a second quarter earnings call.

Executives struck a cautious tone in the second-quarter earnings call as they tried to assuage shareholder concerns and address the near-term realities of bringing its first vehicle to market without any revenue to offset its costs. Lordstown’s approach, at least this quarter, was to try and reduce operating costs from the previous quarter, helping it offset its increase in capital expenditures.

Lordstown reported a net loss of $108 million, a 13.7% improvement from the first quarter loss of $125 million. Its net losses are more than tenfold higher than the -$7.9 million it reported in the same period last year.

Lordstown cut research and development spending by 17% from the previous quarter to $76.5 million.

Meanwhile, it increased its capital expenditures to $121 million from $53 million in the first quarter. Lordstown also increased its capital expenditure guidance for the year, from $250 million to $275 million to a $375 million to $400 million range, a spike related to its need to prepay for equipment.

The decline in R&D expenses was due to declines in purchases of vehicle components, as many of those were acquired in prior quarters, Lordstown interim CFO Becky Long said during an investor call. However, legal expenses were $9 million higher than last quarter, due to costs related to a special committee and a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation over whether Lordstown exaggerated pre-sales. (The fun doesn’t stop there — the company is also under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.)

Lordstown was thrown a life vest earlier this summer, when investment firm Yorkville Advisors agreed to purchase up to $400 million of Lordstown’s shares. The company is “now exploring a variety of other financing options, including non-dilutive private strategic investments and debt,” interim CEO Angela Strand said during an investor call. The company is also still pursuing a loan with the U.S. Department of Energy, Long said during the call.

Although the company said it was still on track to begin production of the Endurance at the end of September, only “select early customers” will begin to receive vehicles in the first quarter of 2022, followed by commercial deliveries in the second quarter. Strand said this deployment plan is to allow fleet customers time to build out charging infrastructure and to manage supply chain challenges.

One thing that distinguishes the company from some of its competitors is its manufacturing plant — a 6.2 million square foot former General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio. It’s now looking like the company is exploring different ways to turn a profit off this asset. Strand said “serious discussions” were underway with potential partners to use Lordstown’s facility to manufacture their products, suggesting the company is eager to find additional sources of revenue to offset its mounting expenses. “This is a critical strategic pivot for us, a decision that we believe will lead to significant new revenue opportunities for Lordstown,” she said.

“We are exploring multiple partnership constructs,” she added. “That includes contract manufacturing, that includes licensing, in addition to producing our own vehicles,” she added.

The Lordstown executive team has not had a smooth summer. The company announced in June the resignations of both CEO Steve Burns and CFO Julio Rodriguez, who were replaced in an interim capacity by Strand and Roof respectively. Lordstown was founded as an offshoot of Burns’ company Workhorse Group — the same company that said it had sold 11.9 million shares, or nearly three-quarters of its stake, since the beginning of July. The company is actively searching for a CEO and CFO, Strand said.

Lordstown was riding high in late 2020, when it announced its SPAC merger with a value of $1.6 billion. Its shares soared to $31.80 apiece at their 52-week highs. They’ve since plummeted to $5.94.

“We still plan to be first to market, particularly in the commercial fleet space,” Strand said.

Hyzon Motors has begun shipping hydrogen fuel cell trucks to customers

By Aria Alamalhodaei

Hydrogen-powered heavy-duty truck company Hyzon Motors said Wednesday it is ramping up operations in the wake of its merger with blank-check firm Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corp., including shipping its first trucks to European customers.

The company, which reported second-quarter earnings Wednesday, said it is also preparing to start its first customer trials in the United States.

Like other transportation companies that have gone public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition fund, Hyzon doesn’t yet have any revenue to speak of. Instead, Hyzon is banking on the huge injection of capital from the transaction – more than $500 million – and growing customer orders to take it to positive cash flow.

As of now, the company reported a net loss for the quarter of $9.4 million, including $3.5 million in R&D expenses. It had a negative adjusted EBITDA of $9.1 million. The company has $517 million in cash on hand, enough to reach free cash flow by 2024 without having to sell additional equity, Hyzon CFO Mark Gordon said during a second quarter earnings call.

In addition to manufacturing hydrogen fuel cell powertrains, Hyzon is also investing in hydrogen fuel production hubs, a key piece of infrastructure for technology uptake. In April, the company signed a MOU for a joint venture with renewable fuels company Raven SR for up to 100 hydrogen production hubs. Gordon confirmed the first two will be in the Bay Area.

He also said that the company is on track to deliver 85 fuel cell vehicles by the end of this year, with the company’s first revenue coming next quarter. Orders and memoranda of understanding under contract has grown to $83 million from $55 million as of April, but many of the MoUs are non-binding. An agreement with Austrian grocer MRPEIS for 70 trucks next year is one such example. Similarly, Hyzon faces a slightly uphill battle in terms of technological adoption, as many of their customers have never seen or used a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle before.

“Many customers are getting their hands on the first fuel cell vehicles they’ve ever seen in the next six to 12 months,” CEO Craig Knight said during the call. That is a genuine kind of technology validation process and the customers need to feel comfortable the vehicles function well in their use case.”

While many of Hyzon’s sales are for a small number of trucks, Knight said he sees the purchasing timeline from initial sale to fleet conversion growing shorter – at least in Europe, where there is significantly more hydrogen availability. “Whereas, earlier I would have said, it’s a 12-to-18 month process to go from getting your first fuel cell truck and trying it out and then maybe getting a few more and figuring out what fleet conversion would look like over time, and then kicking off that fleet conversion process – I actually think that’s compressing,” Knight said.

The company is focused on mostly on back-to-base operations rather than long-haul freight haulage, as the latter requires a more extensively built-out hydrogen refueling network. The U.S. customer trial with logistics company Total Transport Services Inc is high-utilization (trucks can run up to 18-20 hours per day) use case, but the truck will only ever need to access the single refueling station in Wilmington, California. “It’s a good application for hydrogen, and we’re not introducing the complication of having to find hydrogen stations across the country,” Knight said.

Growth is not enough

By Natasha Mascarenhas

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

We were a smaller team this week, with Natasha and Alex together with Grace and Chris to sort through a week that brought together both this quarter’s earnings cycle, and the Q3 IPO rush. So, it was just a little busy!

Before we get to topics, however, a note that we are having a lot of fun recording these live on Twitter Spaces. We’ve found a hacky way to capture local audio and also share the chats live. So, hit us up on Twitter so you can hang out with us. It’s fun – and we may even bring you up on stage to play guest host.

Ok, now, to the Great List of Subjects:

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PDT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Inside GM’s startup incubator strategy

By Kirsten Korosec

GM has launched a series of new subsidiaries in the past year tackling electrification, connectivity and even insurance — all part of the automaker’s aim to find value (and profits) beyond its traditional business of making, selling and financing vehicles. These startups, including numerous ones that will never make the cut, get their start under Vice President of Innovation Pam Fletcher’s watch.

Fletcher, who joined TechCrunch on June 9 at the virtual TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 event, runs a group of 170 people developing and launching startups with a total addressable market of about $1.3 trillion.

Today, about 19 companies are making their way through the incubator in hopes of joining recent GM startups like OnStar Guardian, OnStar Insurance, GM Defense and BrightDrop, the commercial electric vehicle delivery business that launched in January. Not everything will make it, Fletcher told the audience, noting “we add new things all the time.”

Launching any startup presents challenges. But launching multiple startups within a 113-year-old automaker that employs 155,000 people globally is another, more complex matter. The bar, which determines whether these startups are ever publicly launched, is specific and high. A GM startup has to be a new idea that can attract new customers and grow the total addressable market for the automaker, using existing assets and IP.

The Volt effect

The 2010 Chevrolet Volt is a noteworthy moment on the GM timeline. The vehicle marked the company’s first commercial push into electrification since the 1990s EV1 program. Fletcher, who was the chief engineer of the Chevy Volt propulsion system from 2008 to 2011, noted that the Volt was the beginning of a change within the automaker that eventually led to other commercial products including the all-electric Chevy Bolt, the hands-free driver assistance system Super Cruise and its current work on autonomous vehicle development with its subsidiary Cruise.

I don’t know that the Volt was a root exactly of what we’re seeing today. But I think it was definitely the start of a groundswell of really looking at, how do we inject technology that customers are excited about and care about quickly? How do we engage them deeply in the process? … Which we’ve always done … just, I think there was a climate there where the appetite was so strong with a certain group of customers for the technology that it allowed us to get really a front row seat with them, which was game changing for those of us on the frontlines. And obviously, there have been many programs that have had that in their own ways, but you really see that accelerating now with the advent of everything we’re doing in electrification and autonomous and a portfolio that is just emerging even to the notion of applying some of these great technologies to our new full size, truck and SUV programs. So it’s really broad, based across the company, which is exciting. (Timestamp: 4:56)

Fletcher explained how working to commercialize new technology changed how the company interacted with customers.

With new technologies, one, you get to a new customer base sometimes. So, really understanding what that customer is looking like and putting them at the center of everything. Also, different technologies have different development processes and timelines and pipelines for activity. So, it really allowed us to start to think about how to approach each step of our product development and customer engagement differently. And the Volt was an interesting time too, because that was the advent of new social media was really starting to become much more popular. And so we were very connected with those customers and a great customer base that gave us tremendous feedback very directly, you know, through at the time, what was a new channel. (Timestamp: 3:50)

Lordstown Motors reverses claims about ‘binding orders’ for electric pickup truck

By Kirsten Korosec

Lordstown Motors does not have binding orders from customers for its electric Endurance pickup truck — a reversal from claims made earlier this week by company executives in an effort to restore confidence in the troubled company, according to a regulatory filing released Thursday.

Lordstown Motors interim CEO Angela Strand and President Rich Schmidt made a series of statements Tuesday at an Automotive Press Association event that drove up shares in the company, including that it has enough “binding orders” from customers to fund limited production of its electric pickup truck through May 2022. Those comments came just a day after an executive shakeup that included the resignation of the company’s CEO and CFO.

It appears those “binding orders” were more like agreements to maybe lease or buy, according to a document Lordstown filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing has caused shares of Lordstown to fall more than 4%.

The document reads:

To clarify recent remarks by company executives at the Automotive Press Association online media event on June 15, although these vehicle purchase agreements provide us with a significant indicator of demand for the Endurance, these agreements do not represent binding purchase orders or other firm purchase commitments. As previously disclosed in our Form 10-K/A for the year ended December 31, 2020, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 8, 2021, to date, we have engaged in limited marketing activities and we have no binding purchase orders or commitments from customers.

Lordstown notes in the SEC filing that an important aspect of its sales and marketing strategy involves pursuing relationships with specialty upfitting and fleet management companies. For instance, in March 2021. Lordstown announced an agreement with ARI, a fleet management affiliate of Holman Enterprises. Under the agreement, ARI “would use reasonable efforts to facilitate orders from its leasing clients for the Endurance over a three-year time period on the terms set forth in the agreement.”

Lordstown has also entered into vehicle purchase agreements with additional specialty upfitting and fleet management companies as a component of that strategy, the company explained. This might sound like a binding order, but it’s not, as the following language in the SEC doc makes more clear.

“These vehicle purchase agreements generally include a projected buyer order schedule over the 3- to 5-year life of the agreement, and may be terminated by either party at will on 30 days’ notice,” the filing from Lordstown reads. “They do not commit the counterparties to purchase vehicles, but we believe that they provide us with a significant indicator of demand for the Endurance.”

The reversal from Lordstown is just the latest in a string of issues at the newly public company. Lordstown Motors is an offshoot of the now former CEO Steve Burns’ other company, Workhorse Group, a battery-electric transportation technology company that is also publicly traded. Workhorse holds a 10% stake in Lordstown Motors. Lordstown Motors went public after merging with special purpose acquisition company DiamondPeak Holdings Corp.

In March, Hindenburg Research, the short-seller firm whose report on Nikola Motor led to an SEC investigation and the resignation of its founder, said it had taken a short position on Lordstown Motors, causing shares to plummet 21%. Hindenburg said at the time that its short position was based on a company that has “no revenue and no sellable product, which we believe has misled investors on both its demand and production capabilities.”

Hindenburg disputes that the company has booked 100,000 pre-orders for its electric pickup truck, a stat shared by Lordstown Motors in January. The short seller says that “extensive research reveals that the company’s orders appear largely fictitious and used as a prop to raise capital and confer legitimacy.” The firm goes further and alleges that Lordstown founder and CEO Steve Burns paid consultants for every truck pre-order as early as 2016 while he was leading Workhorse.

Two months later, Lordstown reported in its first-quarter earnings that production volumes of the Endurance would likely be half — from around 2,200 vehicles to just 1,000 — due to a lack of funding. The statements made by Lordstown execs Tuesday appeared to be an attempt, which backfired, to assuage investors.

Industrial cybersecurity startup Claroty raises $140M in pre-IPO funding round

By Carly Page

Claroty, an industrial cybersecurity company that helps customers protect and manage their Internet of Things (IoT) and operational technology (OT) assets, has raised $140 million in its latest, and potentially last, round of funding. 

With the new round of Series D funding, co-led by Bessemer and 40 North, the company has now amassed a total of $235 million. Additional strategic investors include LG and I Squared Capital’s ISQ Global InfraTech Fund, with all previous investors — Team8, Rockwell Automation, Siemens and Schneider Electric — also participating. 

Founded in 2015, the late-stage startup focuses on the industrial side of cybersecurity. Its customers include General Motors, Coca-Cola EuroPacific Partners and Pfizer, with Claroty helping the pharmaceutical firm to secure its COVID-19 vaccine supply chain. Claroty tells TechCrunch it has seen “significant” customer growth over the past 18 months, largely fueled by the pandemic, with 110% year-over-year net new logo growth and 100% customer retention. 

It will use the newly raised funds to meet this rapidly accelerating global demand for The Claroty Platform, an end-to-end solution that provides visibility into industrial networks and combines secure remote access with continuous monitoring for threats and vulnerabilities. 

“Our mission is to drive visibility, continuity and resiliency in the industrial economy by delivering the most comprehensive solutions that secure all connected devices within the four walls of an industrial site, including all operational technology (OT), Internet of Things (IoT) and industrial IoT (IIoT) assets,” said Claroty CEO Yaniv Vardi.

To meet this growing demand, the startup is planning to expand into new regions and verticals, including transportation and government-owned industries, as well as increase its global headcount. The company, which is based in New York, currently has around 240 employees. 

Claroty hasn’t yet made any acquisitions, though CEO Yaniv Vardi tells TechCrunch that this could be part of the startup’s roadmap going forward.

“We’re waiting for the right opportunity at the right time, but it’s definitely part of the plan as part of the financial runway we just secured,” he said, adding that this latest funding round will likely be the company’s last before it explores a potential IPO.

“We are thinking that this is a pre-IPO funding round,” he said. “The end goal here is to be the market leader for industrial cybersecurity. One of the mascots can be going public with an IPO, but there are different options too, such as SPAC.”

The funding round comes amid a sharp increase in cyber targeting organizations that underpin the world’s critical infrastructure and supply chains. According to a recent survey carried out by Claroty, the majority (53%) of U.S. industrial enterprises have seen an increase in cybersecurity threats since the start of 2020. The survey of 1,110 IT and OT security professionals also found that over half believed their organization is now more of a target for cybercriminals, with 67% having seen cybercriminals use new tactics amid the pandemic. 

“The number of attacks, and impact of these attacks, is increasing significantly, especially in verticals like food, automotive, and critical infrastructure. Vardi said. “That creates a lot of risk assessments public companies had to do, and these risks needed to be addressed with a security solution on the industrial side.”

GM increases EV and AV investments to $35B through 2025

By Aria Alamalhodaei

General Motors Co. has yet again upped the amount it says it will spend on electric and autonomous vehicle investments, saying Wednesday that it would spend $35 billion through 2025 — an $8 billion increase from its previous plan announced in November 2020.

The company has set a target to bring 30 new EVs to the global market by 2025 and to transition to all-zero-emission by 2035. With the new investment, GM said it will add new electric commercial trucks to its North American plan, as well as build additional U.S. assembly capacity for electric SUVs.

Beyond building out a large portfolio of new electric models, the automaker has taken a multipronged approach in its quest to lead the EV revolution: it is also investing in two new battery cell plants under its joint venture with LG Chem, dubbed Ultium Cells LLC; and it’s poured funding into Cruise, its autonomous driving arm that it purchased for majority ownership in 2016.

The news was announced one day after Cruise said it had tapped a $5 billion line of credit from the OEM’s financial arm as it prepares for commercialization of its Origin electric and autonomous vehicle. Commercial production of the Origin is anticipated to begin in 2023.

GM also manufactures hydrogen fuel cells under its HYDROTEC joint initiative with Honda. It confirmed Wednesday that it will launch the third-generation HYDROTEC cells by mid-decade. The automaker has partnership agreements with heavy truck developer Navistar and Liebherr-Aerospace, which is developing hydrogen fuel cell power systems for aircraft.

The company also said yesterday it would supply fuel cells and EV batteries to Wabtec Corporation, a Pittsburgh-based company developing the world’s first battery locomotive.

“GM is targeting annual global EV sales of more than 1 million by 2025, and we are increasing our investment to scale faster because we see momentum building in the United States for electrification, along with customer demand for our product portfolio,” CEO Mary Barra said in a statement Wednesday.

Ford announced a similar increase in EV investment last month, when it said it would invest $30 billion by 2025, up from $22 billion by 2023.

Lordstown Motors execs cite binding orders to restore confidence a day after CEO, CFO resignations

By Rebecca Bellan

Lordstown Motors has enough “binding orders” from customers to fund limited production of its electric pickup truck through May 2022, executives at the company said Tuesday, just a day after an executive shakeup that included the resignation of the company’s CEO and CFO.

Reaching that goal will come at a cost. The company is putting all of its resources toward the Endurance pickup truck, which means other projects, including an electric recreational van, have been put on hold, according to comments made by Lordstown interim CEO Angela Strand and President Rich Schmidt during an automotive press event.

“We’re just focused currently on the Endurance truck,” Schmidt said at the event, according to a report by CNBC. “That’s our next goal for the next three months, to make sure we hit our production targets and stay within our budgets and drive forward to getting the vehicles ready for the market.”

What was meant to be the “first mass produced all-electric RV” should have been revealed this month, but with its money woes, Lordstown has pushed back the reveal and removed mention of the van from its amended annual filing — a change first noted earlier this month by the WSJ.

Investors responded to the company’s “we have enough capital” and “binding order” comments and put less weight on the “we’re punting on the electric van” part. Shares of Lordstown Motors were up 11.34% on the news to close at $10.31.

Lordstown’s Q1 report filed with the SEC last week showed a startling lack of capital that would have gotten in the way of manufacturing and delivering the EV pickup. In the filing, the company warned investors that it had “substantial doubt regarding [its] ability to continue” in the next year. The automaker has faced scrutiny in the past after investment research firm Hindenburg Research said the company had misled consumers and investors about Endurance’s preorders.

But Tuesday is a “new day” for the automaker-gone-SPAC, says Strand. Schmidt revealed the company has enough orders for limited production of the Endurance for 2021 and 2022, calling those orders “firm” and “binding.” The work truck will start at $55,000, he said. To compare, the Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck, another truck aimed at commercial customers, will start below $40,000.

Schmidt said the company has $400 million in the bank, but would need more to increase its ability to build more than 20,000 vehicles per year. Lordstown is actively seeking additional capital from GM, which owns a small stake in the startup, and other early investors. In a statement to Reuters, GM said, “we are comfortable with our current relationship with LMC but we are willing to listen to proposals that make sense for both parties.”

Croatia’s Gideon Brothers raises $31M for its 3D vision-enabled autonomous warehouse robots

By Mike Butcher

Proving that Central and Eastern Europe remains a powerhouse of hardware engineering matched with software, Gideon Brothers (GB), a Zagreb, Croatia-based robotics and AI startup, has raised a $31 million Series A round led by Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT), the venture and growth arm of Koch Industries Inc., with participation from DB Schenker, Prologis Ventures and Rite-Hite.

The round also includes participation from several of Gideon Brothers’ existing backers: Taavet Hinrikus (co-founder of TransferWise), Pentland Ventures, Peaksjah, HCVC (Hardware Club), Ivan Topčić, Nenad Bakić and Luca Ascani.

The investment will be used to accelerate the development and commercialization of GB’s AI and 3D vision-based “autonomous mobile robots” or “AMRs”. These perform simple tasks such as transporting, picking up and dropping off products in order to free up humans to perform more valuable tasks.

The company will also expand its operations in the EU and U.S. by opening offices in Munich, Germany and Boston, Massachusetts, respectively.

Gideon Brothers founders

Gideon Brothers founders. Image Credits: Gideon Brothers

Gideon Brothers make robots and the accompanying software platform that specializes in horizontal and vertical handling processes for logistics, warehousing, manufacturing and retail businesses. For obvious reasons, the need to roboticize supply chains has exploded during the pandemic.

Matija Kopić, CEO of Gideon Brothers, said: “The pandemic has greatly accelerated the adoption of smart automation, and we are ready to meet the unprecedented market demand. The best way to do it is by marrying our proprietary solutions with the largest, most demanding customers out there. Our strategic partners have real challenges that our robots are already solving, and, with us, they’re seizing the incredible opportunity right now to effect robotic-powered change to some of the world’s most innovative organizations.”

He added: “Partnering with these forward-thinking industry leaders will help us expand our global footprint, but we will always stay true to our Croatian roots. That is our superpower. The Croatian startup scene is growing exponentially and we want to unlock further opportunities for our country to become a robotics & AI powerhouse.”

Annant Patel, director at Koch Disruptive Technologies, said: “With more than 300 Koch operations and production units globally, KDT recognizes the unique capabilities of and potential for Gideon Brothers’ technology to substantially transform how businesses can approach warehouse and manufacturing processes through cutting edge AI and 3D AMR technology.”

Xavier Garijo, member of the Board of Management for Contract Logistics, DB Schenker, added: “Our partnership with Gideon Brothers secures our access to best in class robotics and intelligent material handling solutions to serve our customers in the most efficient way.”

GB’s competitors include Seegrid, Teradyne (MiR), Vecna Robotics, Fetch Robotics, AutoGuide Mobile Robots, Geek+ and Otto Motors.

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