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Inside Fisker’s collapse and robotaxis come to more US cities


Welcome back to TechCrunch Mobility — your central hub for news and insights on the future of transportation. Sign up here for free — just click TechCrunch Mobility!

Your usual host Kirsten Korosec is taking a much deserved vacation, so I’ll be walking you through this week’s transportation news. Top of mind is my colleague Sean O’Kane’s huge scoop on the demise of EV startup Fisker, which involves interviews with numerous current and former employees to help us understand how a startup with so much promise and hype could fall so far.

In other news this week, we have funding for an e-bike subscription startup (I know, you thought micromobility was dead), geographic expansion across all your fave robotaxi companies, and the top two U.S.-based eVTOL companies going head-to-head as they gear up for commercial air taxi launches. 

Oh, and some more Tesla drama as Elon Musk diverts Nvidia chips from the EV maker to X — all this in the lead-up to the shareholder proposal that may decide once and for all whether Musk gets his astronomical pay package. 

Before we dive in, a quick PSA. We’re less than a week away from TC’s application deadline for Startup Battlefield at Disrupt! Competitors get access to free Disrupt tickets plus additional passes and VIP access to all presentations, a free exhibition space, investor interest, workshops and pitch training, and a shot at $100,000.  

Startups, you have until June 10, 11:59 p.m. PDT to apply.

A little bird

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

A lot of little birds have been talking to senior reporter Sean O’Kane about what is going on behind EV startup Fisker. Several current and former employees helped us understand just how Fisker — which once held such promise — is now on the brink of bankruptcy after delivering only a few thousand electric Ocean SUVs and laying off most of its staff last week

Employees lay the blame at the feet of the husband-and-wife team whose name is on the hood for their failure to set up basic processes that are foundational to any automaker. The result? An SUV that has been riddled with mechanical and software problems, for which customers have filed dozens of lawsuits.  

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The tea is hot in this scoop, a pre-mortem for Fisker. There are details of inadequate customer service, a flawed warranty system, a scarcity of spare parts and how Fisker at one point lost track of around $16 million. But don’t take it from me. Settle in and read the article for yourself

Got a tip for us? Email Kirsten Korosec at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com, Sean O’Kane at sean.okane@techcrunch.com or Rebecca Bellan at rebecca.bellan@techcrunch.com. Or check out these instructions to learn how to contact us via encrypted messaging apps or SecureDrop.

Deals!

money the station
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

The most interesting deal of this week has to be Neural Concept’s $27 million round. The Swiss startup uses AI to help car designers model how components will perform before they can be manufactured. 

The EV market is heating up as China floods Europe and the Middle East with cheap, smart cars. If automakers in Europe or the U.S. are going to keep up, reducing the time and costs associated with design and production is going to be essential. 

Forestay Capital led the round, with participation from Alven, Constantia New Business, HTGF and Aster Group. 

Other deals that got my attention …

Euler Motors, an Indian manufacturer of commercial EVs, raised $24 million in a Series C extension. Backers include British International Investment, Blume Ventures and Piramal Alternatives. 

Gireve, a French B2B platform for EV charging, raised €20 million to expand further in Europe and internationally and develop new services. Partech led the round, with participation from Groupe EDF, ENEDIS, Banque des Territoires and Demeter. 

Gogoro, the electric two-wheeler battery-swapping company that went public via SPAC, has raised an additional $50 million from Gold Sino Assets. 

Joby Aviation, a California-based eVTOL company, has acquired the autonomy division of Xwing, a developer of autonomous aviation technology. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the acquisition provides clarity around how Joby will use Xwing’s tech for both near-term piloted operations and fully autonomous future operations.

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Whizz, a New York-based e-bike subscription startup geared toward gig food delivery workers, raised $12 million in equity and debt from Leta Capital and Flashpoint VC.

Notable reads and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Cruise brought its robotaxis back to Dallas this week. The GM-backed company will be mapping and testing its self-driving cars there as it attempts to restore public favor. 

Waymo is expanding in the Metro Phoenix area by an additional 90 miles, stretching into North Phoenix as far as Desert Ridge, across more of downtown Mesa and throughout Scottsdale. Waymo will also start operating on tribal land in partnership with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. 

Zoox plans to test its robotaxis in Austin and Miami this summer, making them the Amazon-backed company’s fourth and fifth test cities. This comes the same week that federal regulators have asked Zoox for more information as part of a probe into rear-end crash risks posed by unexpected braking.

Electric vehicles, charging & batteries

Archer Aviation received its Part 135 air carrier certification from the Federal Aviation Administration, which authorizes the eVTOL startup to operate an on-demand air taxi service. Archer still needs to obtain its type certification for its Midnight air taxi to prove the aircraft meets all of the FAA’s design and safety standards, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Jeep unveiled its first EV for the U.S. market, the Wagoneer S. The midsize SUV has a price tag of $72,000 and will be available to dealers this fall. Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares also confirmed a $25,000 electric Jeep is heading to America, in clear competition with Tesla and its now-paused $25,000 EV. At the same time, Jeep expects to sell 160,000 to 170,000 plug-in hybrid EVs in the U.S. this year.

Elon Musk reportedly diverted Nvidia chips reserved for Tesla to his social media company, X (formerly Twitter). Musk defended the decision on X saying that Tesla had no place to store the chips as it awaits Giga Texas’ completion. Regardless, shareholders who are getting pummeled with requests to vote in favor of Musk’s exorbitant pay package may be concerned. It signals a delay in Tesla’s receipt of the more than $500 million in GPUs needed to set up the supercomputers the EV maker says it will use to develop autonomous vehicles and humanoid robots.

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This week’s wheels

mitsubishi-outlander-phev
Image Credits: Kirsten Korosec

What is “This week’s wheels”? It’s a chance to learn about the different transportation products we’re testing, whether it’s an electric or hybrid car, an e-bike or even a ride in an autonomous vehicle. Before Kirsten took off on vacation, she had a chance to try out the 2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SEL. Here’s how it went:

I spent a week with the 2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SEL and came away with a positive impression of this plug-in hybrid vehicle that has an all-in price tag of $51,835. I hadn’t expected much prior to its arrival — and was maybe even a little apprehensive considering the price. And so I was pleasantly surprised to find a vehicle with some premium interior touches and a layout that is easy for a driver to navigate. Physical buttons, people! It should be noted that there are a few Nissan details in here like the 12-inch infotainment screen. 

This four-door SUV gets about 38 miles of range when it’s in EV mode. That was enough range to stay in EV mode throughout the week; it wasn’t until I took the vehicle farther afield that I switched over to gas. One item I found interesting was the ability to toggle between several different modes (Normal, EV, Save and Charge). While in “Charge” mode, energy is sent to the battery. During one mountain driving session, I was able to add back about 15 miles of range to the battery as I returned to the valley below.





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Miranda Cosgrove

My Miranda cosgrove is an accomplished article writer with a flair for crafting engaging and informative content. With a deep curiosity for various subjects and a dedication to thorough research, Miranda cosgrove brings a unique blend of creativity and accuracy to every piece.

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