EV maker Lucid raises $1.5 billion from Saudi public wealth fund, others

Lucid Motors CEO Peter Rawlinson claps after ringing the opening bell at the Nasdaq MarketSite as Lucid Motors (Nasdaq: LCID) begins trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange after completing its business combination with Churchill Capital Corp IV in New York City, July 26, 2021.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

Electric vehicle maker Lucid Group said Monday that it has completed a planned $1.5 billion equity offering. The company first announced the offering in November, when it reported its third-quarter results.

Lucid raised the majority of that cash, about $915 million, via a private sale of nearly 86 million shares to an affiliate of its largest investor, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. The remaining $600 million was raised via a traditional secondary stock offering, in which Lucid sold an additional 56 million shares.

The funding round was structured to keep the Saudi public wealth fund’s stake in Lucid at its previous level, about 62%.

Lucid plans to use the proceeds to “further strengthen its balance sheet and liquidity position,” the company said in a statement.

Lucid had about $3.85 billion in cash as of September 30, its most recent report.

Rivian pauses plans to make electric vans in Europe with Mercedes-Benz

A Rivian logo on an Amazon.com delivery electric van photographed in Chicago, Illinois, on July 21, 2022.

Jamie Kelter Davis | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Rivian said Monday it was pausing plans to manufacture electric commercial vans in Europe and would “no longer pursue” the agreement it made with Mercedes-Benz just three months ago.

“We’ve decided to pause discussions with Mercedes-Benz Vans regarding the Memorandum of Understanding we signed earlier this year for joint production of electric vans in Europe,” Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe said, noting the company was pursuing “the best risk-adjusted returns” on its capital investments.

“At this point in time, we believe focusing on our consumer business, as well as our existing commercial business, represent the most attractive near-term opportunities to maximize value for Rivian,” he added.

The U.S.-based electric vehicle manufacturer said it remains open to exploring future work with Mercedes-Benz “at a more appropriate time for Rivian.” The companies signed their original memorandum of understanding in September.

Mercedes-Benz said Rivian’s decision would not impact the timeline of its electrification strategy or the planned ramp-up of its new electric vehicle manufacturing site in Jawor, Poland.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated shortly.

Vietnamese EV maker files to go public in the U.S.

The VF-8 electric vehicle from VinFast, a Vietnamese automaker producing electric cars and SUV’s, is on display at their showroom in Santa Monica, California, on July 18, 2022.

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

Vietnamese EV maker VinFast is going public in the U.S.

VinFast on Tuesday said it has filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the first formal step toward a public offering next year. The company in March announced plans for a $2 billion factory in North Carolina and hopes to deliver its first vehicles to American customers by year-end.

Citigroup Global Markets, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and J.P. Morgan Securities are the lead bankers on the offering. VinFast will trade on the Nasdaq under the symbol “VFS” once its offering is completed. The company didn’t say how much money it’s hoping to raise.

VinFast became Vietnam’s first domestic automaker when it began manufacturing internal combustion vehicles in 2019. It’s now focused entirely on electric vehicles – production of its last internal-combustion model ended in early November. The company is currently taking reservations for two electric SUVs, the midsize VF8 and larger VF9.

The VF8 and VF9 start at $57,000 and $76,000, respectively – but both can be ordered without batteries, lowering the up-front cost significantly, if the buyer opts for a monthly battery subscription. Without batteries, the VF8 and VF9 start at just over $42,000 and $57,500; the battery subscriptions are priced at $169 per month for the VF8 and $219 per month for the larger VF9.

As of the end of September, VinFast had about 58,000 worldwide reservations for the two models. For now, all VinFasts are made at the company’s factory in Haiphong; it hopes to have its U.S. factory, with a capacity of 150,000 vehicles per year, up and running by July 2024.

While VinFast is new to the United States, it’s not a typical startup. Founded in 2017, VinFast is a unit of Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest conglomerate, which has interests in real estate development and education as well as a number of technology businesses.

But while Vingroup is well established in its home country, VinFast itself isn’t yet profitable: It lost about $1.3 billion in 2021, and an additional $1.4 billion through the first three quarters of 2022.  

Vietnam's VinFast EV brand is new, unknown, and taking on the U.S.

Alef Aeronautics, startup backed by Tesla investor: Flying car by 2025

The promise of a future filled with flying cars is nothing new. For decades, futurists have touted the dream of your car lifting off and soaring above a traffic jam.

So the most interesting part of a recent prototype announcement from Santa Clara, California-based Alef Aeronautics may not be the car itself, which Alef says will be able to take off into the air vertically and fly like a helicopter up to 110 miles on a single charge.

It’s the timing: The company says it plans to begin delivering the vehicles to customers by the end of 2025.

Alef’s Model A will cost $300,000 and presales are currently open, with interested customers able to pay just a $150 deposit to get on the waiting list, or $1,500 for a “priority” spot on the list. Alef says the company has been test-driving and flying its prototype since 2019, and the version it plans to deliver to customers will also have a driving range of 200 miles.

Alef CEO Jim Dukhovny tells CNBC Make It that the car is mostly intended to stay on roads, ideally only traveling through the air for short heights and distances to avoid specific obstacles. He refers to those moments as “hop” scenarios, “where the customer mainly uses the vehicle as a car, and only ‘hop’ over the obstacles when needed.”

In a statement in October, Dukhovny referenced “road conditions, weather and infrastructure” as potential reasons to briefly take flight.

It’s a bold concept. But for a flying car to actually appear on highways anytime soon, a lot needs to happen, experts say.

A challenging road to legality and mass production

The car’s design includes a carbon-fiber body with an open, mesh-like top that houses four propellers on each side. Once the car takes off vertically, the entire vehicle turns on its side, with the two-seat cockpit swiveling as well, allowing the propellers to steer it like an oversized flying drone.

As far as driving the vehicle, Alef says it is designed to adhere to automotive laws and regulations, making it “road legal,” according to the company.

Alef even has the backing of Tim Draper, a high-profile venture capitalist who was an early investor in both Tesla and SpaceX. His namesake Draper Associates Fund V invested $3 million of seed money in Alef in October.

But Mike Ramsey, an auto and smart mobility analyst at Gartner, says Alef’s plans are “neat” — but contends that the company has “a tough road” ahead.

Mass production is a challenge for any car startup, and it’s often hard to get regulatory approvals to legally drive on public roads, much less fly over them, Ramsey says.

Ramsey notes that the Federal Aviation Administration has provided updated guidance on the requirements needed for ground vehicles to be legally allowed to take off and fly in public airspace. The FAA even reportedly gave another flying car concept, Samson Sky’s Switchblade, the go-ahead for flight testing in July.

But Ramsey is adamant that, even with more clarity from the FAA and other regulators, companies looking to get their flying car concepts certified still face a “major challenge.”

“The safety requirements that every [road] vehicle has to have, how you can make that work alongside the requirements you would need to make a flying vehicle legal would be pretty substantial,” Ramsey says.

Alef hopes to speed up its regulatory process by first seeking air certification outside of the U.S., specifically in Asia and Europe, Dukhovny says: “[That] will not only help us build a safety record, but also will allow us to gather enough data to help with FAA certification process in the U.S.”

Dukhovny also plans to initially have the Model A certified as a Low Speed Vehicle (LSV), which would mean the car couldn’t exceed roughly 25 miles per hour on public roads. Alef would later seek full automotive certification, he adds.

‘That would be an incredible accomplishment’

The Model A isn’t Alef’s only bold plan: Dukhovny has also publicly announced his intention to build a cheaper version, called the Model Z, that sells for just $35,000 by 2030.

In October, Dukhovny told Reuters that the proposed Model Z would be “not more complicated than a Toyota Corolla,” and should therefore have a similar price range.

But it’s “not easy” to build a mass-produced vehicle — like the Corolla — much less turn one into a legal aircraft, Ramsey says.

“I would personally be very surprised if we have a flying vehicle like that ready for production in the next two years,” he adds. “That would be an incredible accomplishment.”

Not everyone agrees. Hugh Martin, CEO of transportation logistics startup Lacuna Technologies, told CNBC last year that he could envision commercially available flying cars as soon as 2024.

Major companies racing to be the first to put a flying car on the market include Fiat Chrysler and China’s Xpeng. Hyundai and Uber have been working on a flying taxi concept since 2020, and Hyundai subsidiary Supernal has announced plans to to launch a flying pod commercially by 2028.

But even if the cars are ready by then, regulatory approval could be a much lengthier process.

“Just the regulatory challenges are going to be pretty substantial,” Ramsey says.

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How electric air taxis could shake up the airline industry

A VoloCity air taxi by Volocopter is pictured at Pontoise airfield in Cormeilles-en-Vexin, near Paris, France, November 10, 2022. 

Benoit Tessier | Reuters

A world with flying vehicles, like the 1960s sitcom The Jetsons, might be closer than you think.

Companies across the U.S., including several startups, are developing electric air taxis that aim to take cars off the road and put people in the sky.

Commercial airlines, specifically, are investing in this type of technology to make trips to and from the airport shorter and faster for consumers.

In October, Delta Air Lines joined the list of airlines backing EV technology startups, with a $60 million investment in Joby Aviation, a company developing electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOLs), intended to operate as an air taxi service.

In 2021, when Joby announced its plan to launch its Uber-like air taxis by 2024, it generated criticism from industry analysts on the ability to launch by that date. But Delta’s investment in Joby is a five-year partnership to operate eVTOLs exclusively in Delta’s network.

United Airlines is also partnering with a Swedish-based startup, Heart Aerospace, to have electric aircraft flying regional routes by 2030, adding to two other eVTOL investments from the airline. One is for $15 million with Eve Air Mobility for 200 aircraft, and another for $10 million with Archer Aviation for 100 eVTOLs.

American Airlines invested $25 million in Vertical Aerospace, a U.K.-based company, with an order for 50 aircraft.

Air taxis could hit markets in the 2030s

Airlines benefit from eVTOL investments

While airlines face cost and availability challenges in becoming more sustainable, investments in eVTOLs is one effort where airlines can try to offset carbon emissions, said Beau Roy, senior managing director at FTI Consulting, who specializes in the aviation industry.

“Airlines don’t have a lot of [sustainable] choices. The biggest option is sustainable aviation fuel, but, last year, maybe one out of every 1,000 gallons of jet fuel could be found as SAF,” Roy said. “Airlines are getting aggressive with where else they can invest.”

While eVTOLs initially offer airlines an addition to their ESG portfolio, they also provide them the ability to capitalize on replacing long car drives with a flight option for consumers.

“An interesting use-case [of eVTOLs] is thinking about getting people out of cars for the 100-, 200-, or 300-mile trips that we take,” Roy said. “Close to 200 million trips per year are in cars for 100- to 500-mile distances.”

Roy said airlines are not only taking cars off the road for the benefit of the environment, but they’re opening the door for consumers to pay for a faster and more efficient alternative to cars.

“Airlines are looking at, ‘How do we get the cost and ease of use more widely available to people?'” Roy said. “If it’s cheap enough and the time savings is significant enough, people will change their behavior and get out of cars.”

Flying out of regional airports from smaller towns is not largely seen across the country anymore, Roy said. Most traffic occurs at the major airports, so airlines can take advantage of emerging tech like eVTOLs and existing regional airports for industry growth.

Launching in major cities, but still hurdles to clear

Delta and Joby are planning for eVTOLs to hit major cities, like New York City and Los Angeles, for its initial launch.

Ranjan Goswami, senior vice president of customer experience design at Delta, said the company set its sights on NYC and LA because of the prolific congestion and traffic in these dense metropolitan areas, and because of how prominent Delta is in these markets.

“The big cities are where you have the best-use cases and the most people to utilize [an eVTOL] service,” Goswami said. “It’s also where you have economies of scale to, ultimately, help bring the cost reachable to more people.”

Goswami said getting to and from the airport are some of the most stressful parts of traveling, and eVTOLs will alleviate that experience.

“We’re not going to talk to the market right now about price points, but we believe it needs to be an accessible price point,” Goswami said. “Unlike helicopters, which are so expensive, the goal is to make [eVTOLs] reachable and affordable to the traveling public.”

While Roy says he’s optimistic about seeing eVTOLs in the next decade, these air taxis will not launch as quickly as startups and airlines might hope.

In addition to getting these aircraft produced and then certified, Roy said utilizing existing infrastructure to accommodate eVTOLs is also a hurdle.

If eVTOLs land on rooftops, Roy said, there’s a lot of construction and new infrastructure that goes into converting roofs into vertistops. With eVTOLs operating on electric batteries, these buildings must also generate substantial power and electricity for charging stations.

“These aircraft are going to work, and the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] will do their job to make sure they work,” said Roy. “It’s just going to take a while to get from where we are today to where we’ll need to be.”

GM, LG investing $275 million to expand Tennessee EV battery plant

General Motors revealed its all-new modular platform and battery system, Ultium, on March 4, 2020 at its Tech Center campus in Warren, Michigan.

Photo by Steve Fecht for General Motors

General Motors and LG Energy Solution will spend an additional $275 million in their joint venture battery plant in Tennessee to increase production by more than 40%.

The joint venture, known as Ultium Cells LLC, said Friday that the new investment is in addition to the $2.3 billion announced in April 2021 to build the 2.8 million-square-foot facility. Production at the plant is slated to begin in late 2023.

Domestic production of battery cells in North America is expected to be crucial for automakers in the years to come in order to grow their EV footprints and qualify for federal incentives under the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act.

The new investment by GM and LG Energy is expected to increase capacity from 35 gigawatt-hours to 50 gigawatt-hours when the plant is fully operational.

The Ultium Cells Spring Hill site is expected to join other joint venture battery cell manufacturing sites in Ohio and Michigan. A facility in Michigan is also under construction and is expected to begin production in late 2024.

“Ultium Cells will play a critical role in making GM’s commitment to an all-electric future a reality,” said Tim Herrick, GM’s vice president of EV Launch Excellence. “By expanding battery cell output at Ultium Cells Spring Hill, this investment will help GM offer customers the broadest EV portfolio of any automaker and further solidifies our path toward U.S. EV leadership.”

EV maker Fisker faces liquidity questions after cash is tied up claim

Henrik Fisker stands with the Fisker Ocean electric vehicle after it was unveiled at the Manhattan Beach Pier ahead of the Los Angeles Auto Show and AutoMobilityLA on November 16, 2021 in Manhattan Beach, California.

Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images

Electric vehicle startup Fisker is facing new liquidity questions after a short seller’s report Thursday claimed the company’s funds are “tied up.”

Fisker says it has plenty of cash, about $824 million as of Sept. 30. But undisclosed legal restrictions could mean the EV startup can’t access much of that cash hoard, forcing it to issue new stock to raise funds, short seller Fuzzy Panda Research wrote in the report.

Shares of Fisker fell about 5% following the report’s release on Thursday.

According to the report, much of Fisker’s cash balance is tied up via bank guarantees on behalf of Magna International, the auto parts giant that began building Fisker’s Ocean SUV under contract last month. The report also alleges the design of the Ocean is based on that of an electric SUV that Magna designed with a Chinese automaker, with at least 80% of parts carried over. The report cites unidentified former employees of Fisker and Magna as its sources.

Fisker strongly denied the report’s key allegations.

“Fisker Inc. does not have a bank guarantee with Magna, and Fisker owns the intellectual property for the Fisker Ocean platform,” the automaker said in a statement after the U.S. markets closed on Thursday. “The Ocean platform does not have 80 percent carryover parts from any other platform.”

Fisker said it has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Fuzzy Panda, and that it will “take immediate and aggressive action” to address the short seller’s “false and misleading claims.”

Fisker CEO Henrik Fisker discusses the production debut of the electric Ocean SUV

Access to cash is crucial for any automaker. Between factory tooling and engineering costs, bringing a new model to market can cost a billion dollars or more — and much of that total has to be spent before a single new vehicle ships. Established automakers generally maintain cash reserves of $10 billion or more to ensure that they can continue to bring new products to market if a recession takes a bite out of their profits.

For a startup like Fisker, a cash reserve is critical to its success. With a potential downturn looming, that cash has provided some comfort to its investors. But if the company can’t access it, that comfort could be fleeting.

Fuzzy Panda estimates at least $790 million of Fisker’s cash is pledged to ensure that Magna is paid for factory tooling, manufacturing costs and its contractually guaranteed margins, a total of about €2,700 ($2,840) per vehicle. Fisker said last month that it expects to build 42,400 Oceans by the end of 2023.

Because of the guarantees, the short seller wrote, Fisker has been forced to use “at-the-market” stock offerings to continue funding its operations instead of tapping its cash.

In an “at-the-market” offering, or ATM, a company issues new shares and sells them via the open market, at the prevailing price. Fisker filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in May that allows it to raise a total of $2 billion from ATMs over time.

Fisker said it raised $118 million via ATMs in the third quarter, but Fuzzy Panda added the EV maker will need to raise “significantly more cash” via that facility.

The report cites a number of indicators that Fisker has been moving to conserve cash since early in 2022, including a note that the company’s employee-lunch program was “downgraded from high-end salads to mostly pizza.” (Fisker said in a statement it is “happy that we can continue to offer our employees lunch at a time when many startups are struggling.”)

Fuzzy Panda said it has a short position in Fisker’s shares. The firm previously published similar reports about Electric Last Mile Solutions, which filed for bankruptcy in June, and Ohio-based electric van maker Workhorse Group.

XPeng (XPEV) Q3 earnings: Revenue, profit miss expectations

XPeng has been dealing with rising material costs, which forced the company to hike the price of its cars earlier this year.

Chen Yihang | Visual China Group | Getty Images

Chinese electric carmaker XPeng posted a wider than expected loss and its revenue fell short of expectations — thanks to rising competition and a tougher macroeconomic environment.

XPeng shares were 10% higher in premarket trade in the United States.

Here’s how it did in the third quarter of 2022, compared with Refinitiv consensus estimates: 

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  • Revenue: 6.82 billion Chinese yuan ($960.9 million) versus 7.26 billion yuan expected. That represents a 19.3% year-on-year rise.
  • Net loss: 2.38 billion Chinese yuan versus 2.09 billion yuan expected. That was wider than the 1.59 billion net loss posted in the same period last year, but narrower than the second quarter.

XPeng delivered 29,570 electric vehicles in the third quarter, 15% more than the same period last year. However, that was a 14% decrease from the second quarter of the year.

In October, XPeng delivered 5,101 vehicles, a sharp drop from the 8,468 cars delivered in September.

The Guangzhou-headquartered firm has faced several challenges in recent months, including widespread Covid lockdowns in China as the country battles outbreaks in various cities. Like other carmakers, XPeng has been dealing with rising material costs, which forced the company to hike the price of its cars earlier this year.

The company expects to deliver between 20,000 and 21,000 of its cars in the fourth quarter, representing a year-over-year decrease of approximately 49.7% to 52.1%.

XPeng shares have been hammered this year and are down 85% as investors turned away from Chinese growth stocks amid a slowdown in the economy and rising interest rates around the world.

A number of analysts have cut their target share price for the company. This week, Jefferies cut its target price on XPeng’s stock from $18.6 to $4.20.

China Tesla rival Nio and Tencent partner to work on self-driving tech

Nio is trying to stand out from a wave of Chinese electric vehicle competitors through its technology. The company is hoping its partnership with Tencent can help it boost its tech prowess in areas from mapping to autonomous driving.

Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio and tech giant Tencent agreed to work together on areas including autonomous driving and high-definition mapping.

Tencent — a gaming, social media and cloud computing titan — has signed a cooperation agreement with Nio, one of Tesla’s rivals in China, as the firms look to cash in on Beijing’s focus on so-called new energy cars.

The partnership could allow Tencent to do this, while also giving Nio the technology backing of one of China’s biggest firms. Tencent is already a major investor in Nio, which is striving to differentiate itself from a sea of electric car start-ups.

It comes after e-commerce firm Alibaba and Nio rival Xpeng in August opened a computing center to train software for driverless cars.

Nio and Tencent said on Monday they will work together on high-precision mapping systems for drivers. Nio will also be using Tencent’s cloud computing infrastructure for data storage and training for autonomous driving. Driverless cars require huge amounts of real-time data to be processed in order to train algorithms.

Tencent’s partnership with Nio gives the company another opportunity to push into new business areas as its core video gaming business, which has been battered by strict domestic regulation, continues to face headwinds.

Nio meanwhile is facing its own challenges, including widening losses and pressure on margins from higher material costs and supply chain issues.

Still, the company delivered 31,607 vehicles in the third quarter, marking a quarterly delivery record for the start-up.

However, China’s once high-flying EV start-ups have seen their share prices hammered this year as investors turned away from growth stocks and China’s economy faced a slew of problems.

Why your next Domino’s pizza delivery may arrive in a GM Chevy Bolt EV

Domino’s will roll out 800 custom-branded 2023 Chevy Bolt electric vehicles at locations across the U.S. in the coming months.

Domino’s

Domino’s Pizza will be rolling out a fleet of 2023 Chevy Bolt electric vehicles, 800 of the GM EVs in total across the U.S. in the coming months, as it looks to not only reduce its environmental impact but also attract new delivery drivers.

The pizza chain restaurant has previously set a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and CEO Russell Weiner said optimizing how it delivers pizza is key.

“Domino’s was founded in 1960 as a delivery company, and we go to bed every night and wake up every morning saying ‘how can we get better?'” Weiner told CNBC’s Jim Cramer on “Mad Money” last week. “This is a way we can get better; better service for our customers and better for the environment.”

The Chevy Bolt EV will provide the company with zero tailpipe emissions and lower average maintenance costs than nonelectric vehicles, as well as a reduction in fueling costs, according to Domino’s. The new vehicles, which have a 259-mile range, will be custom-branded with Domino’s logos.

An initial 100 vehicles have been arriving at select franchise and corporate stores across the U.S. in November, with the additional 700 arriving over the coming months. Domino’s had 6,643 stores across the U.S. as of Sept. 11, with 402 of those being corporate locations.

The adoption of this fleet of EVs is not the first time Domino’s has looked to optimize how pizza is delivered.

In 2014, the company introduced the DXP delivery vehicle, a custom-build Chevrolet Spark that featured a built-in warming oven and special compartments to hold items like sodas.

Domino’s has also been piloting driverless delivery with robotics company Nuro, delivering pizzas with an autonomous on-road vehicle at the chain’s Woodland Heights location in Houston, Texas. Other start-ups, such as Refraction AI, have been testing autonomous vehicles suited for pizza delivery.

Domino’s has also looked to move beyond traditional car delivery, launching an e-bike delivery program in 2019 at stores in major metropolitan cities like Baltimore and Miami. It now delivers pizza by electric bike and scooter in 24 international markets.

EVs help finding new workers

Rolling out the new fleet of GM EVs also is expected to help the company with its driver recruitment efforts.

“It just allows us to tap into a different driver pool,” Weiner said. “If you think about today, what we do is hire folks with cars, but that’s getting really competitive with what’s going on.”

There are many people who work in Domino’s stores or potential workers who have driver’s licenses, and Weiner said, “all they need is a car… it’s a great way for us to bring in incremental labor at a time when that market is tight.”

While some of the company’s stores require delivery driver applicants to use their own vehicle, some do provide a car.

Weiner said that the company’s hiring metrics including applications and new hires per week are back to pre-Covid numbers, but he added, “there’s still gaps to fill, and that’s part of why we’re doing things like this to bring the inflow and give a few more options.”

On the company’s third quarter earnings call with analysts on Oct. 13, Weiner said staffing remains a constraint, “but my confidence in our ability to solve many of our delivery labor challenges ourselves has grown over the past few quarters.”

Domino's CEO on the company's purchase of over 800 Chevy Bolt EVs for pizza deliveries