Albeit it was first blown out of all proportion and then blown up in mid-air by an American activist firm whose specialism it is. Nikola Motor, the ex-darling of Wall Street, is still around. Its trucks are coming to Europe soon enough and it is building a whole ecosystem in the US.
That was in September 2020. While the booming start-up, founded in 2015, was being praised to the skies by Wall Street, the firm Hindenburg Research published a report pointing out the multiple lies of its founder and accusing him of having “misled its partners (…) by falsely claiming to possess cutting-edge technologies.” It accused the zero-emission truck maker of being a “vast and complex fraud.” Nikola was targeted for a 2017 video showing one of its prototypes in action. Such was the controversy that the group’s executive chairman, Trevor Milton, resigned. And in the process, it lost valuable allies including General Motors and Bosch.
Hindenburg, who could also have attacked Tesla for faking its video on autonomous driving (but didn’t), got what they wanted. And all those who have doubts about hydrogen saw this setback as a sign that the technology will never work. But Nikola is still standing. Admittedly, it has seen better days with a stock exchange price oscillating around $2.63, but the manufacturer is on the rise. The CEO, Michael Lohscheller, is a former member of the car industry, having worked for Volkswagen and Opel. Incidentally, the company employs 1,500 people.
Although the headquarters are in Phoenix, Arizona, Nikola also has a base in Europe, through a joint venture with Iveco in Ulm, Germany. This is where the European version of the Tre FCEV with a 800 km range will be produced, alongside the 100% electric BEV version. The American group offers a global approach, which includes trucks and hydrogen refuelling stations (on the model of Tesla and its super chargers), with the added bonus of energy production. In this regard, Nikola is in the process of organising a hub around Phoenix and is weaving its web to participate in low-carbon hydrogen production projects in the USA and Canada. The newly formed Hyla subsidiary – which was recently presented to carriers and officials – handles everything that has to do wth hydrogen, including the mobile refuelling solution (with a capacity of 960 kg of hydrogen stored at 700 bar).
As for products, Nikola is racking up orders: 100 trucks from the GP Joule group (a German operator specialising in renewable energies and producing green hydrogen) and 75 from Plug at the end of last year. These are hard facts. As regards to stations, the company has announced 60 for 2026, with the first ones due to open in California.
I wonder what Hindenburg Research and those who railed against Nikola at the time are now thinking.
Article written by Laurent Meillaud and translated by Logan King