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EV and AV companies start off 2022 with strong VC funding, plus big moves in the mobility space

Welcome to this episode of The Friday 5 with Steve Greenfield, Founder and CEO of Automotive Ventures, an auto technology advisory firm that helps entrepreneurs raise money and maximize the value of their companies.

Well, it’s a brand new year, and we’ve got a bunch of new auto tech deals to announce. So, let’s get right into this week’s deals. 

XLerate Group

To start off today’s segment, XLerate Group, a leading, nationwide vehicle auction land remarketing company owned by Brightstar Capital Partners, has signed a definitive agreement to acquire America’s Auto Auction, another leading vehicle auction provider.

The strategic combination of XLerate and America’s will create one of the nation’s premier providers of vehicle auctions and related financing to enable the remarketing of vehicles, delivering critical services and liquidity to the vehicle ecosystem.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

National Auto Care

In F&I news this week, National Auto Care has acquired ADS Management Group. Deal terms were not disclosed.

The agency provides dealership development and finance & insurance products and services to automobile dealerships throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions of the U.S.

Voyant Photonics

In autonomous technology this week, Voyant Photonics has raised a $15.4 million dollar A round to bring its smaller, cheaper, more easily manufactured, yet still highly capable lidar to production.

The round was led by UP.Partners, with participation from LDV Capital and Contour Ventures.

Voyant’s goal is to shrink lidar down from sandwich to fingernail size using silicon photonics. The real challenge faced by nearly every lidar company is getting the price down. Between a strong laser, capable receptor and a mechanical or optical means of directing the beam, it just isn’t easy making something cheap enough that, like an LED or touchscreen, you can easily put several of them in a vehicle that costs less than $30,000.

The way Voyant does it, it’s cheap — possible to get under a hundred bucks with scale. All the optics, beam handling and sensing is right there on the microchip.

Kneron

In further AV news this week, AI chipmaking startup Kneron closed a new round of $25 million dollars in funding with LITE-ON Technology, a Taiwanese optoelectronic pioneer, as a strategic investor. Other investors included Alltek Technology, PalPilot International, Sand Hill Angels and Gaingels.

AI chips, which are semiconductors designed to accelerate machine learning, have many applications including autonomous driving vehicles.

Eve Air Mobility

In the Vertical Take-Off and Landing or VTOL space this week, Eve Air Mobility has entered into a definitive business combination agreement with SPAC Zanite Acquisition Corp.

Upon closing of the transaction, Eve Holding will be listed on the NYSE under the new ticker symbol EVEX.

Embraer will remain a majority stockholder with an approximately 82% equity stake in Eve Holding following the closing of the business combination.

The strategic alignment with Embraer provides Eve with significant cost and execution advantages relative to other industry participants.

eLeapPower

In the electrification space this week, eLeapPower, a technology innovator revolutionizing electric vehicles with its Smart Inverter System, has raised $21 million Canadian dollars in Series A funding. The round was led by a consortium of pension funds and BDC Capital’s Cleantech Practice.

eLeapPower’s initial contract is with a global automotive manufacturer headquartered in China that will use eLeapPower’s smart inverter technology to drive its best-selling line of fully electric commercial fleet vehicles.

eLeapPower’s suite of powertrain technologies significantly reduces electric vehicle charging time, and allows for bidirectional charging, as well as charging directly from renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

Cling Systems

In further electrification news this week, Cling Systems aims to revolutionize the recycling industry and has secured $2.3 million dollars from a number of global investors, led by Trucks Venture Capital and First Venture.

When batteries reach their so-called end-of-life, they end up in a fragmented system of car dismantlers and automobile workshops. Logistics can account for almost 50% of the entire recycling costs. Hence, the challenge in the circular system is mainly concerned with collection and sorting – how each battery should be reused, remanufactured or recycled in order to best utilize the raw material.

Cling Systems has studied the battery industry for several years and is now investing heavily in solving the complex and global problem of a B2B marketplace. Through efficient matching of supply and demand for used batteries, Cling enables a closed-loop while maintaining a competitive market. Today, the marketplace is aimed at car assemblers in the Nordic region and remanufacturers across Europe.

Hive Technologies

Hive Technologies, the company unlocking the full carbon benefit of electric vehicles (EVs), announced $30 million dollars in new funding.

The investment accelerates the company’s vision to ensure that future generations benefit from cleaner air quality by expanding affordable access to EVs and renewable energy-based charging infrastructure. This combination is critical to expedite EVs’ full carbon reduction potential.

Hive’s unique model reduces the Return on Invested Carbon Dioxide of EVs to one year, down from approximately seven on average with today’s utilization. To achieve this vital carbon benefit, Hive taps a convergence of proven technologies including high range EVs, IOT, iSun, Inc’s modular solar charging capabilities, and energy storage.

Planet42

In international news this week, Planet42, a South Africa-based car subscription company that buys used cars from dealerships and rents to customers via a subscription model, has raised $30 million dollars in equity and debt.

The investment is a prequel to a larger Series A round next year. It comprises $6 million equity and $24 million in debt financing.

Naspers Limited, through its early-stage investment vehicle, Naspers Foundry, led the equity round with $3.4 million. Existing investors include Change Ventures, the lead investor from Planet42’s seed round, as well as Startup Wise Guys.

Metro Africa Xpress

In further international news this week, Nigerian mobility tech startup Metro Africa Xpress is planning to enter more markets across Africa as it races toward formalizing the continent’s transportation sector after securing $31 million dollars in Series B funding.

The latest funding round was co-led by global private equity platform Lightrock, which is making its first investment in the African mobility space and UAE-based international venture capital firm Global Ventures. Others that also took part in the round are existing investors Novastar Ventures and PROPARCO.

The startup will use the funding to enter Ghana and Egypt by the end of the first quarter of 2022, and other additional markets in Francophone, East and Southern Africa by the close of the same year. The funds will also be used to extend vehicle financing credit to over 100,000 drivers in the next two years.

Companies To Watch

So with that, Let’s Transition To Our Companies To Watch!

Every week we highlight interesting companies in the automotive technology space to keep an eye on. If you read my monthly industry Intel Report, I showcase a few companies each month, and we take the opportunity here on the Friday Five to share some of those companies each week with you.

Today, we have three companies to watch: WeaveGrid, Smartcar.com, Motion Intelligence.

WeaveGrid

WeaveGrid works with utilities and electric vehicle owners to enable and accelerate the electrification of transportation.

Using machine learning, optimization, and predictive analytics, their software solution solves several EV-grid integration challenges for utilities in a systems-oriented manner; helps integrate renewable energy resources on the grid; and saves utility customers money on their bills.

WeaveGrid’s vision is to drive the rapid decarbonization of the transportation and electric networks by intelligently connecting EVs to the grid.

Check out WeaveGrid at www.weavegrid.com.

SmartCar

SmartCar empowers developers to build the future of mobility. Their API allows web and mobile apps to locate and unlock cars using simple HTTP requests.

The Smartcar platform is compatible across car brands. It works without aftermarket hardware like OBD dongles.

SmartCar’s customers have built apps for peer-to-peer car sharing, mobile car washes, and fleet management.

Check out SmartCar at www.smartcar.com.

Motion Intelligence

Motion Intelligence has created a technology platform capable of precisely locating and identifying mobile devices inside any vehicle using equipment that already exists in cars.

This industry-leading platform enables mobile operators, vehicle manufacturers, service providers, and application developers to customize the interaction with each device based on where it is located in the vehicle.

The Motion Intelligence service can prevent distracted driving while simultaneously allowing targeted interactions with passengers, based on their location within the vehicle, for entertainment, climate control, navigation, and more. The identification of each device (including wearables) ensures safety while also fueling innovation for vehicle services, mobile engagement, and autonomous driving.

Check out MotionIntelligence at www.MotionIntelligence.com.

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So that’s your weekly Friday 5, a quick wrap-up of the big deals in automotive technology over the past week.

It’s an exciting time to be in the automotive space, with a ton of deals going on. Make sure you stay tuned in each week to stay up to date on the auto industry’s technology M&A activity. I’ll keep my fingers on the pulse of deals being done, so I can share updates with you.

If you’re an early-stage automotive technology entrepreneur looking to raise money, or an entrepreneur who wants to chat about the best timing and process to sell your company to achieve the best outcome, I’d love to discuss it with you at steve@automotive.ventures.

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Besides having an outstanding, extremely talented, and hardworking team up here at the studio, I greatly appreciate the valuable role that CBT News plays in the automotive industry.

Every day, I eagerly look forward to my morning email from CBT News to ensure I’m getting the most up-to-date and relevant information on the industry.

I encourage you to tune in to CBT News to ensure that you’re getting the automotive news that matters.


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Steve Greenfield
Steve Greenfield
Steve is the Founder and CEO of Automotive Ventures, an automotive technology advisory firm that helps entrepreneurs raise money and maximize the value of their companies. They also assist PE firms to conduct due diligence on automotive technology acquisitions, advise technology CEOs on strategy, and help represent sellers at the time of sale.

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