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Tesla lobbies for Elon and Kia taps into the GenAI hype

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Is it me, or is the Tesla board being a bit extra these days as it tries to convince shareholders to vote in favor of relocating the company to Texas and to approve CEO Elon Musk’s $56 billion pay deal? Perhaps that’s because the board is worried neither measure will pass. Tesla board chair Robyn Denholm told the Financial Times that the company needs to climb “Mount Everest” to win over shareholders ahead of an annual meeting on June 13. 

The result has been a parade of appeals and additional proxy materials that make the pitch for the controversial pay deal that — reminder! — was struck down in January by a Delaware court. 

Do you think shareholders will say yes? 

A little bird

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

This week, TC contributor Jagmeet Singh didn’t overhear a little nugget; he saw it. 

During a trip to Dubai, Singh opened up the BluSmart ride-hailing app and discovered the India-based company had quietly launched a service in the United Arab Emirates’ most populous city. 

Rumors that BluSmart was planning to set up shop in Dubai and Abu Dhabi has swirled for months. After spotting the new service area, TechCrunch received confirmation from BluSmart co-founder Anmol Jaggi that a pilot started Tuesday, with 100 Audi E-Tron SUVs and 130 drivers in the city. The formal launch will be in early June, he said.

Got a tip for us? Email Kirsten Korosec at, Sean O’Kane at or Rebecca Bellan at Or check out these instructions to learn how to contact us via encrypted messaging apps or SecureDrop.


money the station
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Harbinger, a startup building medium-duty electric commercial vehicle chassis, has had my interest since I visited the Southern California-based headquarters earlier this year. The market opportunity to electrify medium-duty vehicles has always seemed like a bit of a no-brainer to me since the segment covers such a wide swath, from school buses and RVs to delivery vans and emergency response vehicles.

And it seems the interest — at least in Harbinger’s chassis — is high. The company announced this week at the ACT Expo that it has locked in $400 million of binding vehicle preorders from customers, including a multi-year order from Bimbo Bakeries USA, the U.S. business of Grupo Bimbo. Thor Industries, the recreational vehicle manufacturer behind brands Airstream, Jayco, Tiffin and Thor Motor Coach, also placed an order. 

Harbinger also shared this week that it closed an additional $13 million in Series A funds from investors that included the Coca-Cola System Sustainability Fund, managed by Greycroft. The added funding pushes its Series A round to $73 million. 

Other deals that got my attention …

South 8, a battery startup focused on boosting EV performance in cold weather, recently attracted new funding from Porsche Ventures in the form of a SAFE note, which will be applied to a Series B round that the company is starting to raise. The size of Porsche Ventures’ investment was not disclosed.

Seattle-based Overland AI and New Brunswick, Canada-based Potential — two startups focused on off-road autonomous vehicle technology — have both raised seed rounds. Overland raised a $10 million seed round led by Point72 Ventures, and Potential raised a CA$2 million (~$1.5 million) extension to its seed round led by Brightspark Ventures, a Canadian early-stage VC.

Spiro, an Africa-based electric two-wheeler company, secured a $50 million debt facility with the African Export-Import Bank. 

Notable reads and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Aurora Innovation revealed a new self-driving truck, loaded with its autonomous vehicle tech and manufactured by Volvo, that could be on public highways as early as this summer. 

The U.K. government has enacted the Automated Vehicles Act, a law that regulates self-driving vehicles and is expected to bring the technology to public roads within two years.

Electric vehicles, charging & batteries

Airbnb and ChargePoint have partnered to “make it easier” for hosts to install EV chargers at their listings by providing discounts on chargers and accompanying installation services.

Audi plans to jointly develop a new EV platform designed for China with partner SAIC. 

The Chevrolet Equinox EV, which has an estimated range of 319 miles on the front-wheel-drive model, is rolling into dealerships. The Equinox EV has a starting price of $43,295. However, GM says a cheaper $34,995 version will be available later this year.

Kia revealed the EV3 — the next electric vehicle in its lineup. One item that got my attention: It used OpenAI’s large language models (LLMs) to build a highly customized version of ChatGPT for its in-car assistant. 

InfluenceMap released an analysis last week that I missed. The report, which examined climate lobbying activities of 15 of the largest automakers, found that all except for Tesla have actively advocated against at least one policy promoting electric vehicles. 

McLaren Automotive is getting into the “hyperbike” business. The company unveiled four limited edition electric bike models – the Extreme 600, Extreme 250, Sport 600, and Sport 250. No word on pricing!

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched a formal investigation into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF 8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family of four.

Yoshi Mobility, a mobile car care startup that raised $26 million in April, is launching an EV mobile charging service that will debut on General Motors’ BrightDrop Zevo 600 vehicles. The company aims to commercialize the service by early next year. 


Uber and Lyft reached an agreement with Minnesota that will result in higher pay and protections for drivers while placing limits on state government. TC reporter Rebecca Bellan digs into who wins, who loses and who pays. 

This week’s wheels

What is “This week’s wheels”? It’s a chance to learn about the different transportation products we’re testing, whether it’s an electric or hybrid car, an e-bike or even a ride in an autonomous vehicle. Keep an eye out to learn about my time behind the wheel of the 2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, as well as two EV surprises that I just can’t mention quite yet! Later this summer I plan to get into the Fiat 500e, test a few e-bikes and more!

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