Once briefly the darling of Wall Street – with its valuation surging higher than Ford, a company more than 100 years older – Nikola Motors was largely written off for dead following a 2020 scandal that last month saw its founder, Trevor Milton, convicted of fraud.
Nikola's fall from grace was nearly as spectacular as its rise, seemingly out of nowhere. Nikola became a publicly traded company via reverse merger and in a matter of less than a week, its stock price doubled. That surge, the court alleged, was driven by "false and misleading statements" made by Milton about Nikola’s products and capabilities that induce retail investors to purchase Nikola stock and sent the stock to the moon and made him a billionaire.
Last year the company said it produced 42 and wholesaled 35 Class 8 Nikola hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) – "What we believe is the only U.S. designed and assembled Class 8 hydrogen fuel cell electric truck on the road today,” noted Nikola CEO Steve Girsky. Assembled in Coolidge, Arizona, the FCEV commenced serial production July 31, 2023, with the commercial launch Sept. 28.
The company has also produced and shipped more that 200 all battery electric models, but wound up having to recall all of them over battery problems and the associated risk of fire.
Nikola and its dealers as of November had received 277 non-binding orders from 35 customers for the hydrogen fuel cell electric truck from the likes of J.B. Hunt, AJR Trucking, Biagi Bros. and TTSI.
Of the seven trucks produced but not wholesaled, three are being used in an extended field test with a fleet partner, two are in continued validation and engineering and two are being used for service training/customer demos.
Nikola’s FCEV features a range of up to 500 miles and the company claims an estimated fueling time as low as 20 minutes. The company believes its truck is among the longest ranges of all commercially available zero tailpipe emission Class 8 trucks, with versatile applications ranging from drayage and intermodal to metro-regional truckload and less-than-truckload to certain specialized hauling use cases.
“Our goal is to introduce a better, cleaner way to deliver goods to the North American market in a reliable package,” said Girsky. “Our FCEV customer pilot programs have shown strong results, with truck uptime at 98% – crucial for efficient fleet usage.”