When Nikola Motor Firm founder Trevor Milton unveiled a prototype of the Nikola One truck in December 2016, he portrayed it as totally practical.
“We can have a sequence on the seats to forestall folks from coming in only for the security. I do not need somebody to finish up doing one thing and driving this truck off the stage,” Milton mentioned. “This factor totally capabilities and works, which is absolutely unimaginable.”
In January 2018, Nikola posted a video to YouTube and different social channels known as “Nikola One Electrical Semi Truck in Movement.” It confirmed the Nikola One truck shifting quickly alongside a two-lane desert freeway.
However final week, the short-selling funding agency Hindenburg Analysis printed a bombshell report claiming that the Nikola One wasn’t near being totally practical in December 2016. Certainly, Hindenburg printed a 2017 textual content message change wherein a Nikola worker acknowledged that the corporate did not resume work on the truck within the months after the present.
Much more unimaginable, Hindenburg reported that the truck within the “Nikola One in movement” video wasn’t shifting beneath its personal energy. Reasonably, Nikola had towed the truck to the highest of a shallow hill and let it roll down. The corporate allegedly tilted the digicam to make it seem like the truck was touring beneath its personal energy on a stage roadway.
Nikola now admits Nikola One didn’t work
On Monday morning, Nikola despatched out a lengthy press release titled “Nikola Units the File Straight on False and Deceptive Quick Vendor Report.” Whereas the assertion nitpicks various claims within the Hindenburg report, it tacitly concedes Hindenburg’s predominant declare in regards to the Nikola One. Nikola now admits that the Nikola One prototype wasn’t practical in December 2016 and nonetheless wasn’t practical when the corporate launched the “in movement” video 13 months later.
Nikola claims that the gearbox, batteries, inverters, energy steering, and another elements of the truck had been practical on the time of the December 2016 present. However Nikola would not declare that the truck had a working hydrogen gas cell or motors to drive the wheels—the 2 key elements Hindenburg acknowledged had been lacking from the truck in December 2016.
“Nikola by no means acknowledged its truck was driving beneath its personal propulsion within the video.”
And Nikola now admits that it by no means obtained the truck to completely perform. “As Nikola pivoted to the following era of vehicles, it finally determined to not make investments extra sources into finishing the method to make the Nikola One drive by itself propulsion,” Nikola wrote in its Monday assertion. As a substitute, Nikola pivoted to engaged on its subsequent automobile, the Nikola Two.
So what about that video of the Nikola One driving throughout the desert?
“Nikola by no means acknowledged its truck was driving beneath its personal propulsion within the video,” Nikola wrote. “Nikola described this third-party video on the Firm’s social media as ‘In Movement.’ It was by no means described as ‘beneath its personal propulsion’ or ‘powertrain pushed.’ Nikola buyers who invested throughout this era, wherein the Firm was privately held, knew the technical functionality of the Nikola One on the time of their funding.”
Nikola says it’s time to maneuver on
Nikola’s bigger level is that the performance of the Nikola One truck is irrelevant as a result of the corporate now indisputably has a practical prototype of the truck’s successor, the Nikola Two. The hype across the Nikola One helped Nikola increase funds that it then used to pay extra skilled corporations, together with Bosch and Iveco, to assist it design and construct its subsequent automobiles. This technique culminated with final week’s announcement that GM will construct Nikola’s Badger pickup truck.
Nikola’s fortunes at the moment are tied to the success of the Nikola Two, Badger, and different merchandise. If these merchandise are profitable, it most likely will not matter that the Nikola One was by no means drivable.
However the truth that Milton lied when he mentioned Nikola’s first truck “totally capabilities and works” would possibly make buyers and clients ponder whether Nikola is exaggerating its present capabilities, too.
The construction of Nikola’s cope with GM places these points into stark aid. When GM builds the Badger truck for Nikola, it will not use the supposedly groundbreaking battery know-how Nikola claims it is engaged on. Reasonably, the battery-electric model of the Badger shall be based mostly on GM’s Ultium battery platform.
Nor will Nikola’s vehicles be utilizing home-grown hydrogen gas cell know-how any time quickly. Not solely will GM construct a hydrogen model of the Badger based mostly on GM’s Hydrotec gas cells, however GM may also grow to be Nikola’s unique supply of hydrogen gas cells for Class 7 and eight semi vehicles globally exterior of Europe.
So what’s Nikola bringing to the desk? One among Nikola’s key promoting factors at the moment is that the corporate has supposedly found out how you can cut the cost of hydrogen fuel from at the moment’s market worth of round $16 per kilogram to under $4 per kilogram.
That will be a giant accomplishment if it had been true, because it might allow Nikola to construct a community of hydrogen filling stations analogous to Tesla’s SuperCharger community. However Nikola has offered few particulars about this supposed breakthrough. And Milton’s historical past of exaggerating Nikola’s capabilities is a motive to view them skeptically.