Nikola Badger electric pickup debut event canceled, as GM deal hangs

With a potential deal with General Motors hanging in limbo, Nikola Motors announced Wednesday that it had canceled the reveal event for its Badger electric pickup truck.

The event, dubbed Nikola World, was to be held in Arizona in December. It was called off due to coronavirus-related restrictions on large in-person gatherings at venues in the state, a Nikola press release said. The company plans to reschedule, and said it will hold or refund tickets, depending on holders’ preferences.

The Badger was first shown to the public as a series of sketches meant to troll Tesla CEO Elon Musk shortly after the Cybertruck unveiling in November 2019. Nikola confirmed plans to sell the truck in February, and began taking reservations, but hasn’t even shown a prototype version yet. The company previously said production would start in 2022.

Nikola previously quoted a 600-mile range for the Badger, which will have both a battery pack and hydrogen fuel-cell stack. The battery pack is expected to be the primary energy source, with fuel cells used for longer trips, and supplied with hydrogen from a network of stations Nikola plans to build for its semi trucks.

GM and Nikola announced a deal September 8 that would see GM manufacture the Badger for Nikola, and provide batteries and fuel cells for the startup’s other projects. GM would also take an 11% stake in Nikola—worth about $2 billion when the deal was announced—and get up to $700 million for building the Badger.

GM has said the deal could yield $4 billion from Nikola shares, supply contracts, and EV credits. Nikola said it expected to save $5 billion in engineering costs over 10 years.

But while the deal was supposed to have closed September 30, but both companies confirmed to Reuters this week that discussions were still ongoing. On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that GM could potentially end up with an even larger share of Nikola.

Two days after the deal was announced, short-seller Hindenburg Research released a report saying it believed Nikola had made fraudulent claims about its technology. This prompted Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission probes, while CEO Trevor Milton stepped down September 21.

Nikola claimed earlier in the year to be a fuel cell leader, but it apparently would be relying on other companies—such as GM and Bosch—to be that leader.

In a press release discussing the current state of its business, the company described itself as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), but also noted that it “works with business partners and suppliers to manufacture a majority of the vehicle components.”

The company did break ground on a one-million-square-foot factory in Coolidge, Arizona, earlier this year. Nikola still plans to complete the first phase of construction in 2021, completely finish the factory by mid-2023. At full capacity, the factory will have capacity for 35,000 Class 8 semi trucks annually, according to Nikola.

However, the first trucks will come from a joint-venture factory in Ulm, Germany, run in partnership with Iveco. The first five prototype battery-electric Tre trucks should be completed within the next few weeks, Nikola said. The first prototype hydrogen fuel-cell trucks are scheduled to begin testing in 2021.

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