Nikola says electric-hydrogen truck never ran, as company publishes counterpoints

Despite founder Trevor Milton saying the One was "not a pusher" and could move under its own power, the company confirmed this was never the case.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read

The Nikola drama spilled into Monday as the startup refuted the accusations in last week's bombshell report from financial researcher Hindenburg Research that the company and its founder, Trevor Milton, lied to work their way into big-name deals. In the process, Nikola admits its first semi never ran under its own power, as it carefully maneuvered around accusations.

Nikola got very, very granular in its rebuttal, saying the company never said the One moved under its own power, or via a powertrain at all. Instead, the startup pointed out it simply showed the fuel-cell semi truck prototype "in motion" in a 2017 video, but nowhere did the company take the opportunity to clarify what powered the vehicle. That may be true, but there's no denying this was, at a minimum, a deceptive tactic to underscore suggestions the firm had a totally working prototype and fuel-cell powertrain on its hands. 

Hindenburg alleged the truck was "simply filmed rolling down a big hill," and that Nikola used camera tricks to give viewers the effect of powered movement. Nikola still did not clarify this in its rebuttal Monday, saying the One's "inverters functioned and powered the motors on a bench test prior to the show," and that other elements were "functional," but that "Nikola never stated its truck was driving under its own propulsion in the video, although the truck was designed to do just that." You can watch the video in question above. 

Nikola dismissed the video of the One as "irrelevant" since the video is three years old, and Nikola later abandoned development on the truck anyway. It's a careful admission on Nikola's part, but an admission nonetheless. 

A large portion of the Hindenburg report accuses Milton and the company of greatly overstating its technology and development process. The startup supposedly had fuel-cell and battery technology installed and ready with the One semi, which Nikola now calls an "incredibly successful proof of concept." 

Nikola repeatedly refers to Hindenburg as a "short seller" in its statement. Hindenburg did disclose that it may profit if Nikola stock performs poorly. 

The Hindenburg report, which accuses the startup of many other lies and mirages, dropped a day after General Motors inked a partnership to build Nikola's promised electric pickup truck and supply battery and fuel-cell hardware. The question surrounding the supplier details remains a curious one: Why would GM supply battery and fuel-cell hardware if Nikola touted a running prototype with its own proprietary technology three years ago?

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Watch this: Inside the Nikola One hydrogen-electric semi-truck