January 6th, 2021 by Johnna Crider
Just as 2020 ended, Nikola Corporation’s stock took a knocking. It fell more than 8% on Christmas Eve, after a 10.70% drop the previous day. These drops came after the loss of an order by Republic Services, a major name in the recycling and waste disposal industry. The plan was for Nikola to provide 2,500 electric garbage collection trucks. The trucks were planned to have a range of around 240 kilometers, and testing was supposed to start in 2022. The company said the trucks would look “exactly like the photo,” and Nikola was hoping that the order would be expanded to 5,000 units.
The cancellation of the contract was reportedly due to the fact that Nikola didn’t even have an electric truck yet — they were planning to develop it from scratch. This plan, the brand noted, was going to take too long. Nikola’s journey was something that many startups endure — appearing out of nowhere with seemingly innovative technological ideas and dazzling the world with a new shiny new thing, and then falling apart amidst scandal.
In the case of Nikola, that new shiny thing was a hydrogen truck that was supposed to travel 2,000 kilometers without refueling. However, an investigation by Bloomberg and Hindenburg Research revealed that Nikola was presenting a truck that wasn’t operational, and exaggerating its technical capabilities to increase the hype and funding from investors.
Nikola, which seems to be falling apart bit by bit, not only lost its garbage truck order, but Hyundai also refused to help the company with hydrogen technology. Nikola reportedly reached out to Hyundai twice for its expertise in fuel cell technology, and each time, Hyundai ignored the request.
Over the summer, many members in the Tesla community spoke out about Nikola (and continue to do so today), and I watched and observed it all. Many people in the Tesla community saw Nikola’s failure coming and often called out Milton on his inconsistencies on Twitter. Milton was very active on Twitter, but it often brought negative attention to Nikola.
Milton had high-drama interactions with many members of the Tesla community. Yes, some actually trolled him, but I think he should have focused on his products instead of engaging with those who didn’t like him, who disagreed with him, and who outright trolled him. Instead, he took to Twitter to bash the Tesla community as a whole.
Nikola Motor, an aspiring EV maker that focuses on hydrogen-fueled long-haul semi trucks as well as battery-electric shorter-range trucks, might have been a success if Milton had focused on actually developing the product instead of Twitter drama. Instead, he got on Twitter, created a lot of hype, and made a lot of money. Perhaps that was his goal, or perhaps he was blinded by the spotlight and lost his way. Either way, those who follow EVs closely will probably remember his adventures on Twitter, and not in a good way, and this harms the EV movement.
Electric vehicles are a force for change — creating cleaner vehicles that don’t contribute to the toxicity and greenhouse gases that are currently in our atmosphere. Unlike Nikola, in my opinion, the EV movement will be fine — we have other allies: Tesla, Lucid, Rivian, Bollinger, and also the legacy automakers who are producing EVs, such as Porsche, VW, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Ford, and GM.
This is about clean energy and our future. It is not helpful for a brand with a big name to rise and fall in high-drama fashion, but the movement will roll on.
All photos by Kyle Field, CleanTechnica
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