Toyota-affiliated auto supplier Denso Corp. has invested in an e-bike startup to push forward its mobility technologies.
Denso's New Mobility Group and another company, Ininvest Global, led a $20 million Series A funding round in Bond Mobility Inc., according to a news release. Denso's Corporate Venture Capital Group under its North American subsidiary Denso International America Inc. negotiated the investment terms.
While Denso supplies automakers, it's also interested in "micromobility," or short-distance urban transportation methods such as electric bicycles, electric scooters and docked bicycles. They can be used to reduce traffic in cities and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and are a popular new segment of the high-tech mobility sector.
As such, Denso invested in Bond Mobility, which operates stationless e-bike sharing services. Its electric bicycles go up to 30 mph, and are advertised as a replacement for car, rideshare or public transit trips of less than 5 miles.
Micromobility is an area in which "Denso has not traditionally participated," Tony Cannestra, director of corporate ventures, said in an emailed statement.
Cannestra declined to disclose Denso's financial contribution to the round, which closed in early April.
Bond Mobility, which has operations in Palo Alto, Calif., and Zurich, Switzerland, operates its e-bike service in two cities in Switzerland. It aims to bring it to markets in the U.S. through the investment and relationship with Denso and Ininvest, co-founder Kirt McMaster said in the release.
Bond Mobility management is brewing a plan for expansion, Cannestra said. And Denso has discussed expanding its ties to Bond Mobility with a development agreement or other collaborative effort.
Denso's partnership with Bond Mobility will "accelerate the development of (Denso's) Mobility as a Service (MaaS) model," it said in the release. That concept uses cloud-based technology to collect and analyze data on how connected vehicles work in real-life traffic conditions with a goal of making mobility safer and easier, according to Denso's website.
"While Denso is certainly concerned about the projected future decline of new car sales in the United States, we are also very excited about the growth possibilities offered by the new types of mobility that are being pioneered by startup companies around the world," Cannestra said in the release. "While micromobility is a fairly new concept for the transportation industry, its potential value to urban environments is undeniable..."
Denso reported global sales of $48.1 billion for its fiscal year ended March 2018.
The supplier announced earlier in April that it bought a $5 million stake in Seattle-based connected vehicle services company Airbiquity Inc. It also took an equity stake last year in On The Road Co. Ltd., which makes software for MaaS technology. In 2017 it acquired Holland-based mobile phone software maker InfiniteKey Inc. and invested in Ridecell, a platform for ride- and carsharing operators.