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Nikola Badger hydrogen-electric pickup isn't really that important, CEO alludes

As a potential partnership to build the pickup with General Motors remains in limbo, the startup's CEO wiped away some of the hype surrounding the vehicle.

Sounds like the Badger might be headed to the back burner.
Nikola Motors

Nikola made a cannonball-sized splash when it announced intentions to bring a hydrogen-electric pickup truck to market in the form of the Badger this past February, but amid fraud allegations and the company's founder and chairman, Trevor Milton, stepping down, it seems the current brass is working to tamper down hype that surrounds the machine.

Speaking to the Financial Times for an interview published last Thursday, Nikola's CEO Mark Russell said "our institutional shareholders are mostly focused on the business plan." He said the Badger was an "interesting and exciting project," which may hint the company's prepared to back away from the vehicle. Nikola is far more focused on its commercial semi trucks and hydrogen refueling network, according to Russell. But as the report points out, it's not the refueling network, nor the commercial trucks that drove Nikola stock to eclipse the value of Ford earlier this year -- it was the Badger. 

Russell's comments could be laying the groundwork for an announcement that the Badger is moving to the back burner. The company has already canceled the truck's reveal, previously set for December, saying it was scrapped as a coronavirus safety precaution.

Nikola in the past maintained the pickup would feature an electric and hydrogen powertrain, but said it sought a partner to manufacture the vehicle. That partner emerged in General Motors in early September. However, part of the deal included GM's own battery and fuel cell technology for not just the Badger, but its commercial semi trucks. The question remains: If Nikola has its own proprietary powertrain, why does it need GM's tech?

The Nikola-GM partnership was supposed to close weeks ago, but discussions remain ongoing, Nikola told Roadshow. Just last week, Russell said Nikola can venture into the future without GM if the proposed deal fails, but he mentioned in a Bloomberg interview that a partner will only help it speed up development.

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