WHAT IS BEING CLAIMED?
Hindenburg Research, a Nikola short-seller, published the findings of an investigation about Nikola Motor, a hydrogen and electric truck startup that went public in June through a reverse-merger. Hindenburg said it obtained dozens of private emails, text messages, phone calls, and photographs that document false statements made by Nikola and its founder Trevor Milton.
Some highlights from the report...
- NIKOLA STAGED VIDEO OF TRUCK RUNNING: Hindenburg claimed that Nikola staged a video featuring its Nikola One hydrogen fuel-cell semi-truck. The firm obtained text messages and investigated the site to find out that the company had towed the truck to the top of a hill and rolled it down, giving viewers the impression that the vehicle was operational. Nikola confirmed today that it had never stated the truck was driving under its own propulsion.
- NIKOLA CLAIMED IT HAD REVOLUTIONARY BATTERY TECH, BUT WAS VAPORWARE: Nikola has claimed it is ready to unveil "game-changing battery cell technology" at Nikola World 2020, an event scheduled for fall 2020. However, according to the report, Nikola was planning to onboard the technology through an acquistion, and later called off the deal once it found out it was "vaporware." Nikola sued the battery company, ZapGo, in March.
- NIKOLA CLAIMS THIRD-PARTY TECH IS "OURS": Hindenburg said that Nikola and Milton said that technology being developed by third-party partners was its own, and falsely claimed it was developing some technology in-house, when it was actually being developed by a third-party.
- NIKOLA'S TECHNOLOGY IS "HOT AIR": A spokesperson for a former supplier partner Powercell claimed Nikola's hydrogen fuel-cell technology was "hot air."
- NIKOLA ONE PROTOTYPE WAS INOPERABLE: Milton claimed that the Nikola One was a fully-operational hydrogen semi-truck prototype when unveiled at an event in 2016, which was later found to have missing and inoperable parts according to photos obtained by Hindenburg and Bloomberg.
- HYDROGEN VEHICLE DESIGNATION WAS STENCILED ON CNG TRUCK: Hindenburg also found out that the truck prototype shown off at the 2016 event featured a turbine designed for natural gas (CNG), which would not make it a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. Still, Milton ordered his team to add a stencil to the side of the vehicle, which claimed it was a "Zero-Emission Hydrogen Electric" vehicle.
- NIKOLA ONE PROTOTYPE WAS NOT SELF-POWERED: The firm also claims the vehicle displayed during the event was not self-powered and discovered an electric cable was snaked up the stage into the vehicle. Production of the Nikola One truck stopped shortly after the presentation.
- WORK ON NZT OFF-ROAD VEHICLE HALTED: After unveiling a prototype of the NZT off-road vehicle at Nikola World 2019, the company quietly scrapped production of the vehicle due to "manufacturing challenges."
- FALSE CLAIMS OF SOLAR PANELS: Milton claimed Nikola's headquarters was "off the grid" thanks to roof solar panels, but Hindenburg found no evidence of solar panels. (Omar Qazi during the Inside Transportation Podcast told me on Saturday there were some solar panels in the company's parking lot.)
- NIKOLA DID NOT TRULY BREAK GROUND ON A FACILITY: A Bloomberg report published Saturday showed that the company had not indeed started construction, even though it held a groundbreaking ceremony in July.