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Flexport taps Shopify for cash, behind the wheel of the Kia EV9 and where Amazon wants to invest

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Welcome to TechCrunch Mobility - the same weekly newsletter you've been reading, but with a new name and a few changes.

Don't worry, this is still your central hub for news and insights on the future of transportation. This week, read about Amazon, EV startup Fisker, electric boats, a bunch of new funding deals and my time driving the all-new Kia EV9.

Let's go!

A little bird

blinky cat bird green
blinky cat bird green

A little bird pointed us to a new website with some electric trucks that sure do look familiar.

Remember Lordstown Motors, the EV startup that went public via a SPAC and has since filed for bankruptcy protection? Steve Burns, who founded and was then ousted from Lordstown Motors, is back with a new EV startup called LandX Motors.

The new LandX Motors website prominently displays the same electric Endurance pickup truck he once promised would beat Tesla, Ford and General Motors to market.

A person familiar with the company's plans told TechCrunch that it's not so much about the Endurance truck, but the underlying platform, software and engineering behind it. Still, with the former Lordstown trucks playing a starring role on company's website and video, it's unclear just how developed this plan is.

Want to reach out with a tip, comment or complaint? Email Kirsten at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com or sean.okane@techcrunch.com. If you prefer to remain anonymousclick here to contact us, which includes SecureDrop (instructions here) and various encrypted messaging apps.

Deal of the week

money the station
money the station

Supply chain logistics startup Flexport had a rather tumultuous 2023 that included founder Ryan Petersen ousting his hand-picked successor and taking back the CEO spot and then acquiring the assets of shuttered digital freight network Convoy.

The startup is kicking off 2024 by shoring up its business with a $260 million "uncapped convertible note" from Shopify, a deal that was announced by Petersen in a series of posts on social media site X.

As a reminder, Shopify and Flexport are already attached. Flexport acquired in 2023 Shopify's logistics arm. The deal gave Shopify 13% equity stake in Flexport and a seat on the board.

Other deals that got my attention ...

Electra, the Paris-based EV charging startup, raised $330 million in a Series B round led by Dutch pension fund service provider PGGM and Bpifrance's Large Venture fund. Eurazeo, RIVE Private Investment, the SNCF group through 574 Invest and Serena also participated.

Franziska Bossart, the new head of the Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund, spoke to me about how the $1 billion fund is evolving. Tl;dr: She's expanding its geographic focus to Asia and Europe, and homing in on three areas, including AI.

International Battery Company, a startup developing lithium-ion battery cells for EVs, raised $35 million in a pre-Series A round led by RTP Global.

Land Moto, the Cleveland-based electric motorcycle startup, raised $3 million in a round led by a special purpose venture vehicle called Nunc Coepi Ventures.

Lightship, an all-electric RV startup, raised $34 million in a Series B round co-led by Obvious Ventures and Prelude Ventures. Other new investors include Allegis Capital and global RV manufacturer THOR Industries and its investment partner TechNexus Venture Collaborative.

Northvolt, the Swedish battery startup, secured a $5 billion debt deal to help pay for the expansion of its first gigafactory. As TC+ reporter Tim de Chant writes: "Northvolt's $5 billion loan won't be enough to guarantee success, but it should be enough to help ramp up its production to a targeted 60 gigawatt hours."

Uber shut down alcohol delivery service Drizly three years after the cab-hailing company acquired it for $1.1 billion.

Notable reads and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

TuSimple will delist itself from the Nasdaq stock exchange as it moves forward with its plan to fully exit the U.S. market.

Electric vehicles, charging & batteries

BMW's future growth depends on EVs, and it's finally going all in, TC+ reporter Tim de Chants writes.

Fisker's electric Ocean SUV is under investigation by federal regulators over braking loss complaints.

GM recalled 66 electric delivery vans made by its BrightDrop subsidiary after the front drive units in at least two of them caught fire late last year. The cause appears to be related to a manufacturing defect.

Navier, the electric boat startup, has launched a pilot program for its hydrofoiling watercraft via a partnership with Stripe to bring passengers from San Francisco's outskirts to the downtown area.

Future of flight

Wing, the drone-powered delivery company operated by Alphabet, intends to introduce a larger craft capable of delivering heavier packages to customers.

This week's wheels

kia ev9 press drive
kia ev9 press drive

Image Credits: Kirsten Korosec

I headed to Napa Valley to try out the Kia EV9 - an all-electric SUV with three rows that many believe will bring a whole new batch of EV customers into the market.

Before I give some abbreviated thoughts on what I did and didn't like, here are a few specs. The Kia EV9 comes in five trims with the cheapest — the rear-wheel drive EV9 Light — starting at $54,900. I tested the GT-Line trim, an all-wheel drive top-of-the-line version that has a range of 270 miles and starts at $73,900 (For comparison, the Rivian R1S, which is AWD, comes with standard with  260 miles of range and starts at $78,000. The Kia EV9 Light RWD trim equipped with the bigger battery has the best range of 304 miles.

What did I like? It remained well planted on winding roads, even if I pushed the vehicle a bit. It's also quiet, has the kind of interior details one might expect in a premium-priced SUV, the seats are comfortable and the advanced driver assistance system is easy to engage. The third row isn't exactly spacious, but certainly better than many three-row SUVs I have been in.

There were a few misses. I do think that Kia missed an opportunity by not giving the EV9 rear-wheel axle steering and I'm not sure if the battery range, which is between 230 miles and 304 miles depending on the trim, is enough for buyers. Finally, the layout of the interior cabin is almost there, but I'm still not sure I love the placement of the start button and gear shifter (it's a stock tucked behind the steering wheel).