Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

Nikola Motor, the Arizona startup that made its debut as a publicly traded company June 4, will open up reservations later this month for a hydrogen fuel cell electric pickup truck that was designed to compete with the Ford F-150.

Reservations, or pre-orders, will open June 29 for the hydrogen-electric pickup truck known as the Badger, Nikola Motor founder and chairman Trevor Milton tweeted Tuesday.

The company’s initial focus has been to design, develop and eventually produce hydrogen-electric Class 8 trucks and build out hydrogen station infrastructure throughout North America. Since its founding in 2014, the company has expanded its hydrogen-electric vision to powersports and more recently to pickup trucks. The company shared in February the first details about the Badger pickup truck, which will be available as a battery electric or fuel cell vehicle.

Nikola Motor has not produced any products yet. It doesn’t even have a factory. The company is building a factory in Coolidge, Arizona. The site has been cleared and construction will begin in 2020, Milton told TechCrunch in a recent interview, adding that he hoped for it to start this summer.

Against that backdrop of bold vision but no products — or even revenue — Nikola Motor is valued at $ 28.63 billion as of market close Tuesday. Nikola’s market capitalization eclipsed Ford at one point Tuesday.

Nikola became a publicly traded company through a reverse merger with VectoIQ, a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company led by GM’s former vice chairman Stephen Girsky. Since its June 4 debut, the stock has had a short volatile ride, trading at more than 112% higher than its debut price of $ 37.55. Shares closed Tuesday at $ 79.73.

Badger takes aim at Ford, Tesla

“We went directly after the Ford F-150 market and it’ll be a direct competitor to the Tesla Cybertruck as well,” Milton told TechCrunch.

Milton said the pickup truck won’t compete with Rivian, which is also planning to produce an electric pickup truck.

“The Rivian is a small truck like a Toyota Tacoma and will not compete in the construction world nor the Ford F 150, bigger pickup market that’s focused on home businesses construction and things like that. The Rivian is more of a consumer model that is used for outdoor recreational activities.”

The Badger has some eye-popping specs, including up to a 600-mile range, 906 horsepower and 980 pound-feet of torque, according to Nikola Motor. The battery electric version will be able to travel 300 miles on a single charge and can be upgraded with fuel cells to double the range. The company expects the Badger to go into production in 2022.

But Nikola doesn’t plan to produce the Badger on its own, according to Milton. Instead, the company plans to partner with an OEM, which Milton said will be revealed later this year.


TechCrunch

Trucks and other large commercial vehicles and the biggest whales on the road today — are they also, by virtue of that size, some of the most dangerous and inefficient if they are driven badly. Today, a startup that has built a platform aimed at improving both of those areas has raised a large round of funding to continue fuelling (so to speak) its own growth: SmartDrive, a San Diego-based provider of video-based telematics and transportation insights, has snapped up a round of $ 90 million.

The company is not disclosing its valuation but according to PitchBook, it was last valued (in 2017) at $ 290 million, which would put the valuation now around $ 380 million. But given that the company has been growing well — it says that in the first half of this year, its contracted units were up 48%, while sales were up by 44% — that figure may well be higher. (We are asking.)

The funding comes at an interesting time for fleet management and the trucking industry. A lot of the big stories about automotive technology at the moment seem to be focused on autonomous vehicles for private usage, but that leaves a large — and largely legacy — market in the form of fleet management and commercial vehicles. That’s not to say it’s been completely ignored, however. Bigger companies like Uber, Telsa and Volvo, and startups like Nikola and more are all building smarter vehicles, and just yesterday Samsara, which makes an industrial IoT platform that works, in part, to provide fleet management to the trucking industry, raised $ 300 million on a $ 6.3 billion valuation.

The telematics market was estimated to be worth $ 25.5 billion in 2018 and is forecast to grow to some $ 98 billion by 2026.

The round was led by TPG Sixth Street Partners, a division of investment giant TPG (which backs the likes of Spotify and many others), which earlier this year was raising a $ 2 billion fund for growth-stage investments. Unnamed existing investors also participated. The company prior to this had raised $ 230 million, with other backers including Founders Fund, NewView Capital, Oak Investment Partners, Michelin and more. (NEA had also been an investor but has more recently sold its stake.)

SmartDrive has been around since 2005 and focuses on a couple of key areas. Tapping data from the many sensors that you have today in commercial vehicles, it builds up a picture of how specific truckers are handling their vehicles, from their control on tricky roads to what gears and speed they are using as they go up inclines, and how long they idle their engines. The resulting data is used both to provide a better picture to fleet managers of that performance, and to highlight specific areas where the trucker can improve his performance, and how.

Analytics and data provided to customers include multi-camera 360-degree views, extended recording and U-turn triggering, along with diagnostics on specific driver performance. The company claims that the information has led to more satisfaction among drivers and customers, with driver retention rates of 70% or higher and improvements to 9 miles per gallon (mpg) on trips, versus industry averages of 20% driver retention and 6 mpg.

“This is an exciting time at SmartDrive and in the transportation sector overall as adoption of video-based telematics continues to accelerate,” stated Steve Mitgang, SmartDrive CEO, in a statement. “Building on our pioneering video-based safety program, our vision of an open platform powering best-of-breed video, compliance and telematics applications is garnering significant traction across a diverse range of fleets given the benefits of choice, flexibility and a lower total cost of ownership. The investment from TPG Sixth Street Partners and our existing investors will fuel continued innovation in areas such as computer vision and AI, while also enhancing sales and marketing initiatives and further international expansion.”

The focus for SmartDrive seems to be on how drivers are doing in specific circumstances: it doesn’t seem to focus on whether there could have been better routes, or if better fleet management could have resulted in improved performance.

“SmartDrive is a market leader in the large and expanding transportation safety and intelligence sector and we are pleased to be investing in a growing company led by such a talented team,” noted Bo Stanley, partner and co-head of the Capital Solutions business at TPG Sixth Street Partners, in a statement. “SmartDrive’s proprietary data analytics platform and strong subscriber base put it in a great position to continue to capitalize on its track record of innovation and the broader secular trend of higher demand for safer and smarter transportation.”


TechCrunch

Toyota will work with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on a fuel cell Moon rover vehicle, with a target launch date of a Moon mission currently set for 2029. The two previously announced their collaboration, but on Tuesday they signed a formal agreement which defines a three-year joint research agreement to co-develop pressurized lunar rover prototypes.

Each year will see the partnership focus on a different phase of the prototype’s development, with 2019 all about identifying technical requirements and drawing up spec docs; next year, the goal will be to build test parts and then actually putting together a rover prototype; finally, in fiscal 2021, the partners will test both the rover parts and rover prototype in order to evaluate the results for potential full production.

The pressurized rover will be able to transport astronauts over 10,000 km using its onboard fuel cells and solar recharging mechanism, according to a press release detailing the concept from March, prior to today’s development partnership agreement. It would have a total seating capacity of two people, with the option to carry as many as four if there’s an emergency need to do so.

It’s about the size of two microbuses, according to Toyota, which means about 20 feet long, by 17 feet wide and 12.5 feet tall. The six-wheeled concept also features deployable solar panels for recharging, ample communications equipment and a front winch for getting itself out of jams another potential applications.

JAXA intends to launch a series of lunar missions, including 2007’s Selene (or ‘Kayuga’), which sent an orbiter and a pair of communication satellites to lunar orbit. Ultimately, JAXA’s goal is to host a series of uncrewed and human missions under a broader Lunar Exploration Program with the ultimate aim of establishing a presence for Japanese astronauts in a combined international lunar outpost program.


TechCrunch

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