UPDATE: Nov. 30, 2020: Nikola announced a non-binding memorandum of understanding regarding a global supply agreement with GM on Monday for the integration of GM's Hydrotec fuel-cell system into Nikola's Class 7 and Class 8 zero-emissions trucks. This replaces the partnership announced in September, which was centered on the Nikola Badger pickup truck.
The initial agreement crumbled following Hindenburg Research's accusation that Nikola misled investors, and Monday's MOU drops the Badger collaboration. The MOU also does not include a GM equity stake.
Nikola said the use of GM's Ultium battery system is still up in the air, as the parties are set to "discuss the potential for the utilization of GM's versatile Ultium battery system in Nikola's Class 7 and Class 8 vehicles," according to the announcement.
The OEM said it remains on schedule to test prototypes of its hydrogen fuel-cell trucks by the end of 2021, with testing for beta prototypes expected to start in the first half of 2022.
- Nikola and GM announced a partnership on Tuesday, which will save Nikola billions of dollars in factory construction, according to their joint news conference on Tuesday. The partnership will spread to Nikola's Class 8 and Class 7 manufacturing, the companies said, and will potentially speed up production of Nikola's fuel-cell electric trucks and battery-electric trucks.
- Nikola CEO Trevor Milton said his company continues to build its factory for Class 8 hydrogen fuel-cell trucks in the Phoenix area. But the effort will be helped by the GM partnership, because it won't have to build two production facilities to also build the Badger, the pickup truck that is at the heart of the GM and Nikola deal. In 12 months, Nikola expects to have limited production in Arizona, Milton told reporters.
- Nikola will also use a GM electric battery for some trucks, saving the company about $4 billion, Milton said. GM will provide its Hydrotec fuel-cell batteries for Nikola's fuel-cell electric trucks, exclusively outside of Europe, as well as its Ultium electric battery systems for electric trucks. But Mary Barra, GM CEO, declined to expand on any possible plans for GM to further dip its toe in Class 7 and Class 8 truck markets.
GM will get an 11% stake in the electric-oriented OEM, worth about $2 billion, as part of the collaboration, the companies said. Partnerships have grown Nikola, though it has yet to deliver a Class 8 truck to market. Tuesday's announcement indicates Milton will continue this partnership strategy, instead of going it alone.
In December, Nikola teamed with IVECO and FPT Industrial and announced they would manufacture the battery-electric Nikola Tre, which is based on the IVECO S-way platform, for European buyers.
But the best example of that strategy was when Nikola went public. In March, Nikola and VectoIQ, a publicly traded acquisition company, agreed to merge and create a company focused on the development of zero-emission trucks. The company began trading under the ticker symbol "NKLA." Notably, VectoIQ's managing partner is Steve Girsky, a former vice chairman of GM.
Nikola said it teamed with GM to gain the benefits of manufacturing muscle and engineering bandwidth. Nikola and GM said Nikola could save $4 billion in battery and powertrain costs over 10 years and over $1 billion in engineering and other costs. In turn, GM said it will pick up $4 billion in benefits, including equity, contract manufacturing for the Badger, supply contracts for batteries and fuel cells, and electric-vehicle tax credits. And the partnership could speed up production of Class 8 vehicles, which Milton said could happen a year from now.
Nikola is not the only EV company seeking partnerships. In June, Daimler AG established Daimler Truck Fuel Cell GmbH to bring all its fuel-cell research on heavy-duty trucks under one roof. Volvo Group's fuel-cell division joined the subsidiary. Daimler entered into an agreement with Volvo Group in April to develop and produce fuel cell systems for heavy-duty commercial vehicles and other applications.