Promising 675kW hydrogen-electric ute killed off in GM deal

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Words: Matthew Hansen
1 Dec 2020

It’s been a case of stormy seas for General Motors and electric vehicle start-up Nikola. The pairing has spent most of 2020 at the negotiating table working out a deal while simultaneously being rocked by allegations of fraud and the sudden departure of founder Trevor Milton.

These developments delayed the deal the two firms had been working towards. Now, overnight, they’ve confirmed a new Memorandum of Understanding, superseding the previous agreement. It’s non binding, but appears to pull all of GM’s equity out of the start-up. It’s worth noting that the new MOU is non-binding, and will require further negotiations.

Still, it’s not great news for the embattled Nikola. And one of its biggest casualties is its promising hydrogen-electric ute, the Badger. Unveiled in February, the Badger was an interesting counterpoint to the Tesla Cybertruck and Rivian R1T. Its addition of hydrogen tech helped it make handy gains on the other two, at least on paper.

The Badger was claimed to have a 965km range to a charge. Even individually, the ambitious ute's battery and fuel cell claimed a healthy 483km of range each. Peak power was rated at 675kW, with peak torque 1330Nm. Towing capacity was to be a dizzying 3629kg, and the 100km/h completed in roughly three seconds. Although, for what it's worth, Nikola never actually built a functioning Badger.

Now, the ute looks set to fall through the cracks. While the new GM MOU does allow Nikola to use GM’s Ultium battery hydrogen fuel cell tech in its projects, this will only apply to the firm’s Class 7 and Class 8 commercial vehicles.

Nikola has confirmed that this development, plus the removal of funding and GM’s lack of involvement in Badger production (which had been slated to include homologation, validation, and manufacturing) means that it will not be producing the Badger. Those who have ordered one are set to be fully refunded.

Cancelation of the Badger isn’t the only bad news for Nikola. Following the MOU announcement, its stock prices tumbled another 26 per cent. It’s now down 58 per cent on where it had sat following the announcement of its GM deal.

 

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