The battery business is booming and Zeekr kicks off it IPO roadshow

7 months ago 100

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We have a lot to cover so let’s jump in. But wait! One note to share: These days, I’m a semi-regular guest on TechCrunch’s Equity Podcast, including an episode that aired Friday that covers robotaxis, Nvidia’s earning, plus Better.com and startups that are full of shit (you’ll get the joke if you listen).

Vamos.


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Deal of the week

money the station

The battery business keeps attracting capital.

Just take a look at Swedish lithium-ion battery producer Northvolt. The company raised around $1.2 billion in a convertible notes from BlackRock and various Canadian pension plans. Participants in the round included Goldman Sachs, Volkswagen, Baillie Gifford, Swedbank Robur, Singapore’s GIC and Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook Enterprises.

That cash will be used to build new factories in North America and Europe.

Northvolt has been on a bit of tear the past few years — even before the big battery boom really took off. The company has raised $9 billion in debt and equity since 2017, including $1.1 billion in convertible notes last year. The company has also secured more than $55 billion in orders from customers like BMW, Fluence, Scania, Volvo and Volkswagen.

The Northvolt deal gives me another chance to plug a collection of articles we put together earlier this month on the one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act, including a look at how startups have benefited and a map that tracks all the battery factories in North America. Once Northvolt picks a location for this next factory, we’ll update the map.

Other deals that caught my attention …

Accure, a startup that uses AI to predict lithium-ion battery failures, raised $7.8 million in a Series A2 round led by Blue Bear Capital and HSBC Asset Management with participation from Riverstone Holdings and Capnamic Ventures.

Channel19, a startup that developed software for refrigerated trucking companies, raised $2.7 million in pre-seed and seed funding round led by Augment Ventures with participation by Accion Venture Lab, TMV, Overton Venture Capital and Refashiond Ventures. Several Silicon Valley and freight tech industry angels also participated, according to the company.

Electric Era, a startup founded by former SpaceX engineers that developed software and hardware to make EV charging stations faster and more reliable, raised $11.5 million in a Series A round led by HSBC’s asset management arm. Climate-tech fund Blackhorn, lithium-mining giant SQM and mobility-focused investor Proeza also participated.

NaaS Technology Inc., an EV charging service company in China, said it plans to acquire Charge Amps AB in a deal valued at $66.4 million.

Nickelytics, an advertising tech startup focused on rideshare, has been acquired by Texas-based venture capital group T72 Club Inc. Terms were not disclosed.

Zeekr, the Chinese EV maker under Geely Holdings, is kicking off its roadshow with investors ahead of its initial public offering, Reuters reported citing unnamed sources. Zeekr’s aim is a share sale that will push its valuation over $13 billion. Zeekr filed confidentially for an IPO back in December and raised $750 million in February. If Zeekr is successful and actually lists, this could be one of the largest Chinese IPOs in the past two years.

Chinese companies listing on U.S. exchanges haven’t had the smoothest of rides. Didi, which raised $4.4 billion in its June 2021 IPO,  ran up against Chinese regulators. The company delisted later that year. A few other Chinese companies, including Hesai are dipping their toes back in the U.S. IPO waters now that there is more regulatory clarity in both countries. Last year, the U.S. and China struck a deal that allows American officials to review audit documents of Chinese businesses that trade in the United States, an agreement expected to lower the likelihood of Chinese companies on U.S. exchanges delisting.

Notable reads and other tidbits

ADAS

Polestar plans to make Mobileye’s hands-off, eyes-off automated driving technology (called Chauffeur) available to owners of the upcoming Polestar 4 electric SUV coupe. The vehicle, which launched in China and will hit global markets in 2024, comes standard with Mobileye’s SuperVision advanced driver assistance system. Polestar plans to add Chauffeur at a later date, but did not specify when.

Tesla shareholders who sued the company for financial losses stemming from Elon Musk’s “funding secured” tweet in 2018 are set to receive compensation now that the case has been settled. The SEC said 3,350 eligible claimants will share in the $42.3 million payout.

Speaking of Tesla, CEO Elon Musk livestreamed a test drive of FSD Beta v12 — a yet-to-be-released version of its automated driving software (the video has since been posted on YouTube by a number of people). To be clear, this is not a self-driving car; it is ADAS that requires a human to be ready to intervene at any time. The 40-minute video showed the vehicle handling roundabouts and intersections and even some construction. At about the 19-minute mark Musk had to intervene and take control of the vehicle when it misread the traffic signal and tried to go through a busy intersection at the wrong time.

Autonomous vehicles

Baidu expanded its Apollo Go driverless ride-hailing service to cover trips to and from Wuhan Tianhe International Airport. The company now operates Apollo Go robotaxis in five cities in China.

Beep has partnered with self-driving software company Oxa (previously known as Oxbotica) to deploy autonomous vehicles in the United States.

Electric vehicles, charging & batteries

Jaguar Land Rover has found a use for its second-life Jaguar I-Pace batteries.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating whether Ford‘s 2022 recall of nearly 49,000 Mustang Mach-E electric vehicles sufficiently addressed issues and whether more vehicles should be included in the recall.

Gig economy

Uber is blaming high insurance rates for its decision to raise the minimum age requirement for new drivers in California to 25 years old. There are some caveats though.

People

General Motors’ Ultium Cells, the joint venture with LG Energy Solutions, reached an agreement with the United Auto Workers to increase pay for workers at its Ohio battery factory by an average of 25%.

Wu Xinzhou, the former vice president of autonomous driving at Chinese electric vehicle maker Xpeng, posted on social media site Weibo that he’s taken a job at Nvidia.

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