Here’s a story of the electric truck startup whose founder was just accused of fraud
On Thursday, Trevor Milton, founder and former CEO of Nikola Corp., was indicted by a federal grand jury on three counts of fraud for lying about the business to investors. He also faces civil securities fraud charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Nikola has long faced scrutiny from investors, automotive enthusiasts, and the media regarding his path to vehicle deliveries.
Here’s a look at the history of the company and the moves it is making in 2021.
Milton founded the startup as Nikola Motor Company in 2014 with a £ 2 million investment from metals maker Worthington Industries.
In 2016, the Phoenix-based company introduced the Nikola One, a Class 8 hydrogen-powered semi-trailer. Intended to be an 8-wheel sleeper cab, the design featured a 320 kilowatt-hour EV battery that supplied six electric traction motors for 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 pound-feet of torque. The model was to derive its 300 kilowatts of power and 1,200-mile range from hydrogen fuel cells.
After announcing the truck, the company said it had received 7,000 pre-orders, totaling more than £ 2.3 billion.
In 2018, Anheuser-Busch placed an interim order for up to 800 leases from Nikola One. The move was part of a broader plan to cut the brewery’s carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2025. The Nikola NZT was a prototype work utility vehicle introduced in 2016.
Equipped with a 72 or 107 kilowatt-hour battery, the company said its power plant was capable of delivering 555 horsepower. Development of the vehicle was canceled after the motorsports division was closed in 2021 to focus on trucks.
The Nikola NZT debuted and was then quickly scrapped with the company turning its attention to trucks.
Nikola Motor Corporation
A military-grade version of the NZT, called the Nikola Reckless, was an off-road concept shown in 2018 that was also scrapped. Following Tesla Motors’ unveiling of its Tesla Semi in 2017, Nikola filed a £ 2 billion lawsuit against the electric car maker claiming it had infringed six patents, pointing to numerous similarities in their respective designs.
The litigation is ongoing.
In early 2019, the company hired Mark Russell as company president, while Milton became CEO. Russell had previously served as Worthington’s president and CEO. Soon after, the Nikola Two, another hydrogen-powered Class 8 truck, was announced.
Nikola advertises that the model offers 645 horsepower and takes about 20 minutes to refuel. Production is expected to start in 2024. The Nikola Tre, its European counterpart, was also announced in 2019.
The company also revealed the WAV, a personal watercraft device.
In February 2020, a mid-size electric pickup called the Badger debuted.
Initially, Nikola planned hydrogen fuel cell and fully electric versions of the model. Nikola went public in March 2020 as part of a merger with VectoIQ Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company, and ended its first day of operations with a valuation of more than £ 28 billion. On September 8, 2020, the company announced a partnership with General Motors.
For an 11 percent stake in Nikola, GM had agreed to use its manufacturing facilities to begin production of the Badger. A few weeks later, Milton resigned as CEO after a report was released accusing the company of fraud. In November 2020, GM announced that it would provide the company with fuel cell technology, but canceled plans to take the stake and produce the Badger.
The Badger concept was later canceled.
The Nikola Badger was introduced as a revolutionary hydrogen-powered truck.
Nikola Motor Corporation
In September 2020, it was widely reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission had launched an investigation into the fraud allegations against Nikola. An investigation by the United States Department of Justice followed. On September 21, 2020, Milton resigned from Nikola.
Nikola canceled its motorsports division in the first quarter of 2021 to focus efforts on the truck side of its business.
Earlier this year, the company announced that it had invested £ 50 million in a new hydrogen plant in the Wabash Valley and expanded its sales and service footprint to 51 dealerships in nine states.
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