Electric-vehicle battery producer Solid Power on Tuesday announced it’s going public by merging with blank-check firm Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corporation III in a deal valued at $1.2 billion.
The company is expected to have approximately $600 million in cash, including $165 million from investors such as Koch Strategic Platforms, Riverstone Energy Limited, Neuberger Berman funds, and Van Eck Associates Corporation. The capital will be used to fund operations and growth.
Ford Motors and BMW recently participated in the $135 million Series B funding of Solid Power in May. The two companies also expanded partnerships with Solid Power to secure all solid-state batteries for future electric vehicles.
Solid Power produces rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles and mobile power markets. The company claims its production mirrors lithium-ion manufacturing processes while eliminating certain expensive and timely steps.
Upon closing of the transaction, which is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2021, the combined company will trade under the Nasdaq ticker “SLDP.”
Solid Power is expected to have a nine-person board composed of a majority of independent directors and will continue to be led by Solid Power’s existing management team.
SPACs, shell companies seeking to merge with private companies with the intention of taking them public, have exploded in popularity in the last year.
In 2020, a total of 248 SPACs raised $83.3 billion according to SPAC Analytics. But in the sixth month of 2021 alone, data already show 340 SPACs that have raised $106 billion, comprising 61% of initial public offerings.
Shares of Nio rose 4% on Tuesday after Citi upgraded the Chinese car maker to “buy” from “neutral,” citing a surge in demand for electric vehicles in China.
Citi lifted its 2021 sales estimate for electric vehicles in the country to an estimated 2.52 million units from 1.79 million units. For 2025, the firm also boosted sales estimates to 7.84 million units from 6.86 million units.
Citi said it expects that the uptick in the second quarter order backlogs will increase Nio’s revenue and market share in the second half of 2021.
Citi’s new price target of $58.30, raised from $57.60, represents a potential 50% upside from Friday’s closing price of $38.62. The bullish new target comes despite a rough year so far in 2021 for the electric vehicle maker, and the industry broadly, as supply chain and manufacturing constraints weigh on car makers’ delivery guidance.
“Based on the current production and delivery plan, the company will be able to accelerate the delivery in June to make up for the delays from May,” Nio said in a statement Tuesday. “The company maintains and reiterates the delivery guidance of 21,000 to 22,000 vehicles in the second quarter of 2021.”
Rivian Automotive, the electric truck startup that’s backed by Amazon, is targeting an IPO that could value the company at $70 billion, according to a Bloomberg report.
Previous reports suggested Rivian could target a $50 billion valuation in its public debut. The company was last valued at $27.6 billion when it raised $2.65 billion from T. Rowe Price Group, Fidelity Investments, and Amazon in January.
Amazon’s investment in Rivian goes well beyond its January fundraise. The e-commerce giant committed to buying 100,000 electric delivery vans produced by Rivian in 2019, and some of those deliveries began to hit the road earlier this year.
Rivian had targeted a June launch of its electric pickup truck, the RIT, but the company recently pushed back its planned launch to July. The company didn’t give a reason for the delay, but a supply chain crunch in the automotive sector has temporarily sidelined production for a number of companies, including Ford, Tesla, and General Motors.
When the Rivian RIT does hit the market, it will be one of the first electric pickup trucks on the market and seek to standout against competition, like Ford’s recently unveiled F-150 Lightning, and Tesla’s Cybertruck.
The company has hired advisers from JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley to work on the IPO, according to the report. No final decisions have been made about the IPO and details of Rivian’s potential listing could change, sources told Bloomberg.
The company also said it expects electric vehicles to make up 40% of its global sales by 2030.
The series of announcements were made during Ford’s Investor Day conference on Wednesday, the first under CEO Jim Farley who assumed his post in October 2020. Farley came to Ford in 2007 after a career at Toyota.
“While the stocks and the EV space are clearly going through a painful digestion period, we view this as a short-term pullback in a bullish multi-year upward rally,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note Wednesday.
He added: “We forecast the EV market represents a $5 trillion [total addressable market] over the next decade with many EV original equipment manufacturers/supply chain players poised to be major winners over the coming years in this green tidal wave.”
The rationale behind the new plan dubbed “Ford+” is for investors to shift their perspective of the company from an automaker to a technology firm instead.
The company under the plan aims to deliver an 8% operating-income margin by 2023.
Ford joins other automakers worldwide in transitioning gasoline-powered vehicles into electric-powered ones in a bid to promote a greener environment and to compete with the leading electric-vehicle makers such as Tesla and Volkswagen.
“As more companies make the commitment to go carbon neutral, they are going to expect electric products that can integrate into their operations easily,” Jim Farley, Ford president and CEO, said in a statement in May. “Ford is so uniquely positioned to answer this call because we have a zero-emissions pickup and van, many of our customers want both vehicles in their fleet.”
Tesla announced in a blog post on Tuesday that it was scrapping radar for its driver-assist features, including Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, and would use cameras instead.
Model 3 and Model Y vehicles made in North America from this month would come with cameras to make Autopilot work. These cameras would help Autopilot keep the vehicle in lane and maintain space to other nearby cars, Tesla said.
During the transition, customers may find some Tesla features “temporarily limited or inactive,” it said. Autosteer – the automatic steering that keeps Teslas in their lane – will only work up to 75 mph, it said.
The company also said Smart Summon and Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance “may be disabled at delivery.” These features will be restored shortly via over-the-air software updates, according to Tesla.
Tesla is using Model 3 and Model Y vehicles for the transition to cameras because they’re the company’s most popular models.
“Transitioning them to Tesla Vision first allows us to analyze a large volume of real-world data in a short amount of time, which ultimately speeds up the roll-out of features based on Tesla Vision,” the electric vehicle maker said.
Model S, Model X, and all vehicles built for markets outside of North America will still be equipped with radar, Tesla said.
CEO Elon Musk tweeted on March 12 that the company was planning to adopt “pure vision – not even using radar.” In April, the company wrote in its quarterly update that “a vision-only system is ultimately all that is needed for full autonomy.”
Lordstown Motors shares tumbled Tuesday after the company severely cut its annual production guidance and said it needs to raise more money as it aims to start production on its electric pickup truck this year.
The company late Monday said it remains on track to begin producing its Endurance truck in late September, at limited capacity.
“However, we have encountered some challenges,” the company said. These include significantly higher-than-expected expenditures for parts and equipment.
It said it needs additional capital to execute on its plans and projected having $50 million-$75 million in cash and cash equivalents at the end of the year, which is less than the $200 million it projected in March.
Shares of the company dropped much as 19% to $7.88 as Tuesday’s session got underway. The shares have pulled back from a mid-February high to register losses of roughly 51% so far this year.
Lordstown forecast Endurance production this year would be “at best” 50% of its previous expectations.
The EV startup for the first quarter ended March 31 posted a loss of $0.72, wider than the loss of $0.16 per share a year ago.
Ford on Monday unveiled the F-150 Lightning Pro, a version of its newly announced electric pickup truck. This version is aimed at businesses.
Ford revealed its first all-electric pickup truck, the F-150 Lightning, on Thursday. The Lightning starts at $39,974 and its extended-range battery has a driving range of up to 300 miles.
The Lightning Pro is a very similar vehicle, but tweaked to appeal to commercial customers rather than the retail market, according to Ford’s press release. The main difference is that the Pro comes with telematics software so managers can keep track of their fleets and reimburse employees who charge the electric vehicle at home.
Ford said commercial businesses could use the lockable space under the hood to store tools, while saving the rear-end cargo bed for other equipment.
The most basic model of the Lightning Pro starts at $39,974, the same as the Lightning, with an estimated range of 230 miles. Models with 300 miles of range will start at $49,974, according to Ford.
Shipments of the Lightning Pro will kick off in 2022, Ford said.
The basic version of the truck will be able to generate 426 horsepower and tow up to 7,700 pounds. It also comes with a 32-amp charger which Ford said makes “the transition affordable for small and medium-size businesses.”
In comparison, the extended range can pull up to 10,000 pounds with the optional Max Trailer Tow Package, generates up to 563 horsepower, and comes with both an 80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro and onboard dual chargers.
“F-150 Lightning Pro represents so much more than an electric workhorse – it’s made for commercial customers inside and out, it gets better over time, and it’s totally plugged into always-on services that can help business productivity,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s president and CEO, in the press release.
Electric vehicle startup Lordstown Motors has been paying salespeople to secure pre-orders of its battery-powered truck prototype for at least five years – a practice that is outside the bounds of most startups without a sellable product – a little-noticed lawsuit from 2017 reveals.
In the suit, a former employee accused Workhorse Group, which Lordstown spun out of in 2019, of failing to pay him commissions he earned by logging over 8,000 pre-orders for the Endurance pickup truck now being offered by Lordstown. A recent report by Hindenburg Research noted the suit, but Insider is the first outlet to report its details and its implications both for Lordstown and the host of startups racing to meet growing demand for EVs.
Commissioning pre-orders is not illegal, but it should raise a major red flag for investors, said Gartner analyst Michael Ramsey.
While Lordstown’s practice appears unique in the EV startup world, experts warn that no matter how they’re collected, pre-orders and reservations aren’t great tools for predicting which young automakers will prosper. Because they’re typically non-binding, they don’t necessarily indicate what level of demand a vehicle will generate when it enters production. A startup’s success is better determined by its technology and talent than by a metric that hinges more on interest than intent.
Lordstown’s pre-order list ‘obviously does not indicate real demand’
Even with the electric vehicle market starting to grow, deep-pocketed investors are crucial to any startup. It takes billions of dollars to launch an automaker. The industry’s history is littered with failures, and most of today’s startups will likely flounder before their products hit the market, according to risk consulting firm Guidehouse.
To attract capital, many fledgling automakers use pre-order figures as a proxy for the demand their future vehicles will command. Tesla in particular has a long history of doing this. The problem is that these orders represent a consumer’s interest in actually buying the vehicle once it reaches the market – not their commitment to do so.
The fact that Lordstown paid commissions for bringing in these orders further undermines the figures’ credibility, Ramsey said. “It obviously does not indicate real demand,” he told Insider.
Lordstown Motors has been commissioning pre-orders for years
The idea for Lordstown Motors originated at Workhorse Group. In 2019, Workhorse CEO Steve Burns left the startup. He bought the patent for its electric pickup, along with thousands of pre-orders for it, and made it the basis for a new company, Lordstown.
Today, Lordstown boasts more than 100,000 pre-orders for the pickup. That’s impressive when compared to those for similar EV startups like Lucid Motors and Fisker, which have about 8,000 and 14,000 pre-orders, respectively.
The 2017 lawsuit was filed against Workhorse by its former director of fleet sales, Jeffrey Esfeld. When he was hired in 2016, Esfeld said, he was tasked with securing up to 10,000 pre-orders per year. In just over a year, he logged more than 8,000 pre-orders, according to the court document. That number alone would account for over 8% of Lordstown’s current pre-orders to date. A Lordstown spokesperson would not confirm whether signatures gathered by Workhorse Group in 2016 are part of that total. (Esfeld declined a request for comment from Insider.)
Esfeld received a commission of roughly $30 per vehicle for each signed pre-order, according to the suit, on top of his $100,000 base salary. He would also receive a commission of 0.14% of the vehicle’s sale price for pre-orders that officially became sales. He was one of several employees that worked specifically on obtaining pre-orders for the truck.
During his time at the company, Esfeld was paid commissions for 3,050 vehicle pre-orders, from companies including Duke Energy and American Electric Power. (The case also notes Esfeld had been working to win over Amazon, which ultimately agreed to buy 100,000 electric delivery vans from Lordstown rival Rivian.) But, he alleged, after laying him off in 2017, Workhorse failed to pay him $440,707 he had earned in commissions, representing about 5,000 pre-orders, including from Ryder, one of Lordstown’s biggest pre-order signees to date. (He ultimately won the suit, and Workhorse paid him an agreed upon amount of $87,000 in damages and $32,245.02 in attorneys’ fees and costs.)
The practice continued at Lordstown. In 2020, the startup hired consulting group Climb2Glory to commission orders, according to Hindenburg Research. On a page that was deleted after the short-seller’s report was released, Climb2Glory referenced how it helped Lordstown generate pre-orders.
Workhorse Group, Lordstown Motors, and Climb2Glory did not respond to requests for comment from Insider.
A questionable spin on a questionable practice
The Workhorse and Lordstown policy of paying commissions for pre-orders appears rare. “This is the first time I’ve heard of a start-up in that space doing anything like that,” Pitchbook analyst Asad Hussain told Insider. Comparable electric car startups, including Rivian, Lucid Motors, Fisker, and Nikola, do not pay commissions for pre-orders or contract workers to secure them, Insider found.
In recent automotive history, Elon Musk set the standard of using pre-orders to preview sales figures. “Tesla’s reservations taught the industry that this is a way to develop credibility with investors,” Ramsey said. But while it once charged $50,000 to pre-order a Roadster, it now asks a mere $100 from someone who wants a Cybertruck. That’s comparable to (usually refundable) reservation fees charged by the likes of Fisker ($250) and Lucid Motors ($300).
That lesson isn’t necessarily a good one, Ramsey said. “Investors need to think long and hard about the viability of the pre-orders that any of these startups are touting.”
Hussain told Insider that investors need to focus more on technology and execution, rather than “propaganda.” He thinks the Wall Street trend of using special-purpose acquisition companies to go public has put a lot of companies, like Lordstown Motors, in a position they’re not mature enough for yet.
“The ability for early stage startups to go to market, even without revenue, creates a double-edged sword,” Hussain told Insider. “It allows everyday people to gain access to disruptive technologies like electric cars, but it also puts new companies and investors in a precarious position – how can they prove there will be demand for their product, without revenue? That’s where pre-orders can get tricky.”
For Lordstown, reliance on pre-orders has put it in the crosshairs of notorious short-seller Hindenburg Research. Just last fall, the same group released a damning report on Nikola that caused the company’s stock to plummet and its CEO Trevor Milton to step down. Currently, Lordstown is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for its pre-order practices. Its stock is trading at around $9, down from a high of $30 in February.
“A lot of these companies tout non-binding pre-orders or reservations,” Hussain said. “But, if you’re actually paying for them [the pre-orders] it does bring up some questions and it is not characteristic of the space.”
“The key question mark for many of these startups is: Can you actually get your factories up and running? Can you actually manufacture those vehicles?”
Toyota debuted its new all-electric SUV concept car on Monday at the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show.
The Toyota bZ4X is the first electric car under the company’s new Beyond Zero (bZ) lineup of cars with zero carbon emissions. It is the first of 15 fully electric cars the company plans to make by 2025 and one of seven under the bZ badge, according to a statement from CTO Masahiko Maeda.
The car is a compact SUV that looks similar to Toyota’s RAV4, but rides lower to the ground and features a longer wheelbase.
It’s the first car to be built on Toyota’s new electric e-TNGA BEV platform that the company created jointly with Subaru. Subaru is expected to unveil its own electric car on the platform shortly.
The new car has several distinctive features, including a system that can use solar power to alleviate the impact of cold weather on the vehicle’s range, as well as yoke instead of a typical steering wheel. The car’s interior also has a large touchscreen.
The car company plans to manufacture the car in Japan and China. It should be available globally by the middle of 2022, according to the company.
Toyota has not announced how far the car will be able to travel on a full charge, but it will likely be competitive with other EVs on the market, including the Ford Mustang Mach-E which has a range of over 300 miles.
Toyota also did not attach a price estimate to the car, but CarandDriver.com reported the vehicle may sell for about $40,000 – a similar price to Toyota’s RAV4 hybrid.
The Model 3, its cheapest sedan, has been hit by the most price changes this year. In the latest change, Tesla raised the price of the Standard Range Plus from $37,990 to $38,490, and the Long Range AWD from $46,990 to $47,490. The Performance version had an even bigger increase, from $55,990 to $56,990.
The automaker also raised the price of its Model Y Long Range AWD from $49,990 to $50,490.
Electrek also noted that the Model 3 price hike was accompanied by a small design update, adding a new wooden door trim, which Tesla had already rolled out on Model 3 vehicles produced at its Shanghai, China Gigafactory.
A Tesla customer, Terry Oelschlaeger, told Insider’s Kate Duffy he was double-charged for a Tesla Model Y costing nearly $54,000 on March 25, and that a Tesla service center employee told him the error had affected “many” buyers.
The company has since refunded the customers, including Oelschlaeger, and offered them $200 in credit at its online store.
Tesla posted record sales in the first quarter of 2021 despite a worldwide shortage of semiconductor chips. It sold 184,800 vehicles in the first three months of 2021, and Wall Street now expects the electric-vehicle company to sell more than 800,000 cars this year.