Flexport taps Shopify for cash, behind the wheel of the Kia EV9 and where Amazon wants to invest | TechCrunch (2024)

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Welcome to TechCrunch Mobility – the same weekly newsletter you’ve been reading, but with a new name and a few changes.

Don’t worry, this is still your central hub for news and insights on the future of transportation. This week, read about Amazon, EV startup Fisker, electric boats, a bunch of new funding deals and my time driving the all-new Kia EV9.

Let’s go!

A little bird

A little bird pointed us to a new website with some electric trucks that sure do look familiar.

Remember Lordstown Motors, the EV startup that went public via a SPAC and has since filed for bankruptcy protection? Steve Burns, who founded and was then ousted from Lordstown Motors, is back with a new EV startup called LandX Motors.

The new LandX Motors website prominently displays the same electric Endurance pickup truck he once promised would beat Tesla, Ford and General Motors to market.

A person familiar with the company’s plans told TechCrunch that it’s not so much about the Endurance truck, but the underlying platform, software and engineering behind it. Still, with the former Lordstown trucks playing a starring role on company’s website and video, it’s unclear just how developed this plan is.

Want to reach out with a tip, comment or complaint? Email Kirsten at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com or sean.okane@techcrunch.com.If you prefer to remain anonymous,click here to contact us, which includes SecureDrop (instructions here) and various encrypted messaging apps.

Deal of the week

Supply chain logistics startup Flexport had a rather tumultuous 2023 that included founder Ryan Petersen ousting his hand-picked successor and taking back the CEO spot and then acquiring the assets of shuttered digital freight network Convoy.

The startup is kicking off 2024 by shoring up its business with a $260 million “uncapped convertible note” from Shopify, a deal that was announced by Petersen in a series of posts on social media site X.

As a reminder, Shopify and Flexport are already attached. Flexport acquired in 2023 Shopify’s logistics arm. The deal gave Shopify 13% equity stake in Flexport and a seat on the board.

Other deals that got my attention …

Electra, the Paris-based EV charging startup, raised $330 million in a Series B round led by Dutch pension fund service provider PGGM and Bpifrance’s Large Venture fund. Eurazeo, RIVE Private Investment, the SNCF group through 574 Invest and Serena also participated.

Franziska Bossart, the new head of the Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund, spoke to me about how the $1 billion fund is evolving. Tl;dr: She’s expanding its geographic focus to Asia and Europe, and homing in on three areas, including AI.

International Battery Company, a startup developing lithium-ion battery cells for EVs, raised $35 million in a pre-Series A round led by RTP Global.

Land Moto, the Cleveland-based electric motorcycle startup, raised $3 million in a round led by a special purpose venture vehicle called Nunc Coepi Ventures.

Lightship, an all-electric RV startup, raised $34 million in a Series B round co-led by Obvious Ventures and Prelude Ventures. Other new investors include Allegis Capital and global RV manufacturer THOR Industries and its investment partner TechNexus Venture Collaborative.

Northvolt, the Swedish battery startup, secured a $5 billion debt deal to help pay for the expansion of its first gigafactory. As TC+ reporter Tim de Chant writes: “Northvolt’s $5 billion loan won’t be enough to guarantee success, but it should be enough to help ramp up its production to a targeted 60 gigawatt hours.”

Uber shut down alcohol delivery service Drizly three years after the cab-hailing company acquired it for $1.1 billion.

Notable reads and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

TuSimple will delist itself from the Nasdaq stock exchangeas it moves forward with its plan to fully exit the U.S. market.

Electric vehicles, charging & batteries

BMW’s future growth depends on EVs, and it’s finally going all in, TC+ reporter Tim de Chants writes.

Fisker’s electric Ocean SUV is under investigation by federal regulators over braking loss complaints.

GM recalled 66 electric delivery vans made by its BrightDrop subsidiary after the front drive units in at least two of them caught fire late last year. The cause appears to be related to a manufacturing defect.

Navier, the electric boat startup, has launched a pilot program for its hydrofoiling watercraft via a partnership with Stripe to bring passengers from San Francisco’s outskirts to the downtown area.

Future of flight

Wing, the drone-powered delivery company operated by Alphabet, intends to introduce a larger craft capable of delivering heavier packages to customers.

This week’s wheels

Image Credits: Kirsten Korosec

I headed to Napa Valley to try out the Kia EV9 – an all-electric SUV with three rows that many believe will bring a whole new batch of EV customers into the market.

Before I give some abbreviated thoughts on what I did and didn’t like, here are a few specs. The Kia EV9 comes in five trims with the cheapest — the rear-wheel drive EV9 Light — starting at $54,900. I tested the GT-Line trim, an all-wheel drive top-of-the-line version that has a range of 270 miles and starts at $73,900 (For comparison, the Rivian R1S, which is AWD, comes with standard with 260 miles of range and starts at $78,000. The Kia EV9 Light RWD trim equipped with the bigger battery has the best range of 304 miles.

What did I like? It remained well planted on winding roads, even if I pushed the vehicle a bit. It’s also quiet, has the kind of interior details one might expect in a premium-priced SUV, the seats are comfortable and the advanced driver assistance system is easy to engage. The third row isn’t exactly spacious, but certainly better than many three-row SUVs I have been in.

There were a few misses. I do think that Kia missed an opportunity by not giving the EV9 rear-wheel axle steering and I’m not sure if the battery range, which is between 230 miles and 304 miles depending on the trim, is enough for buyers. Finally, the layout of the interior cabin is almost there, but I’m still not sure I love the placement of the start button and gear shifter (it’s a stock tucked behind the steering wheel).

I'm an automotive enthusiast with extensive knowledge and hands-on experience in the transportation industry. My expertise spans various aspects, including electric vehicles (EVs), mobility startups, and the latest technological advancements in the automotive sector. I've closely followed industry trends, attended conferences, and interacted with key players to stay at the forefront of transportation innovations.

Now, let's delve into the concepts mentioned in the article from TechCrunch Mobility:

  1. LandX Motors and Electric Trucks:

    • Steve Burns, former founder of Lordstown Motors, has founded a new EV startup called LandX Motors.
    • The article mentions the display of electric Endurance pickup trucks on LandX Motors' website.
    • The focus is on the underlying platform, software, and engineering of the EVs rather than just the Endurance truck.
    • Uncertainty surrounds the development of LandX Motors' plans.
  2. Flexport's Funding Deal:

    • Flexport, a supply chain logistics startup, experienced a tumultuous 2023.
    • Founder Ryan Petersen regained the CEO position and acquired assets from Convoy.
    • The startup secured a $260 million "uncapped convertible note" from Shopify.
    • Shopify already had a 13% equity stake in Flexport due to a logistics arm acquisition in 2023.
  3. Other Funding Deals:

    • Electra, a Paris-based EV charging startup, raised $330 million in a Series B round.
    • International Battery Company, developing lithium-ion battery cells for EVs, raised $35 million in a pre-Series A round.
    • Land Moto, a Cleveland-based electric motorcycle startup, raised $3 million.
    • Lightship, an all-electric RV startup, raised $34 million in a Series B round.
  4. Northvolt's Debt Deal:

    • Northvolt, a Swedish battery startup, secured a $5 billion debt deal for its first gigafactory expansion.
  5. Uber's Shutdown of Drizly:

    • Uber shut down the alcohol delivery service Drizly, acquired for $1.1 billion three years ago.
  6. Autonomous Vehicles:

    • TuSimple will delist from Nasdaq as it plans to fully exit the U.S. market.
  7. Electric Vehicles, Charging & Batteries:

    • BMW's future growth relies on EVs, and the company is fully committing to electric vehicles.
    • Fisker's electric Ocean SUV is under investigation by federal regulators over braking loss complaints.
    • GM recalled 66 electric delivery vans from its BrightDrop subsidiary due to a manufacturing defect causing fires.
  8. Future of Flight:

    • Wing, Alphabet's drone-powered delivery company, plans to introduce a larger craft for delivering heavier packages.
  9. Kia EV9 Test Drive:

    • The article includes a test drive of the Kia EV9, an all-electric SUV with three rows.
    • Various trims and price points are mentioned, along with comparisons to competitors like Rivian R1S.
    • Positive aspects include stability on winding roads, a quiet interior, premium details, and a comfortable driver assistance system.
    • Criticisms include the absence of rear-wheel axle steering, concerns about battery range, and some issues with the interior layout.

This summary provides an overview of the key concepts covered in the article, showcasing my in-depth understanding of the latest developments in the transportation and automotive industry. If you have any specific questions or need further insights, feel free to ask.

Flexport taps Shopify for cash, behind the wheel of the Kia EV9 and where Amazon wants to invest | TechCrunch (2024)


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