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GM and Nikola Strike New Deal, Badger Electric Truck Likely Dead

General Motors will no longer take an equity stake in Nikola.

Kelly LinAuthor

General Motors has dropped plans to take an equity stake in Nikola and build the Phoenix-based company's electric pickup. The two automakers announced a new, significantly scaled back deal that involves fuel cell systems for semi-trucks. The original deal, announced in September, gave Nikola a strong foothold into the electric truck market.

GM was going to build the Nikola Badger, a 906-hp truck that was expected to reach 60 mph in 2.9 seconds. These numbers would make it a viable competitor with the Tesla Cybertruck and Rivian R1T. Unlike its rivals, however, the Badger would be available in battery-electric and fuel-cell electric versions, with the latter generating electric power from a hydrogen fuel-cell stack. GM was also expected to take a $2 billion equity stake in Nikola, which equated to 11 percent ownership in the company.

Unfortunately, the good press was short-lived. Right after that deal was announced, a short-seller report claimed that Nikola's founder and then-executive chairman, Trevor Milton, overstated the capabilities of the company's battery technology. Nikola disputed the claims. Milton, however, resigned later that month.

The new agreement is considerably curtailed and doesn't involve the Badger. In the new agreement, GM will provide its Hydrotec fuel cell system to Nikola's Class 7 and 8 semi-trucks. The two companies will also discuss the possibility of semi-trucks using GM's latest Ultium battery technology.

Nikola says the Badger program was dependent on a partnership with an original equipment manager, so things aren't looking good for the truck's future right now. The company will refund all order deposits submitted for the Badger.

"Heavy trucks remain our core business and we are 100 percent focused on hitting our development milestones to bring clean hydrogen and battery-electric commercial trucks to market," Nikola CEO Mark Russell said as part of a statement, touting the deal will leverage the strengths and resources of both companies. "We believe fuel-cells will become increasingly important to the semi-truck market, as they are more efficient than gas or diesel and are lightweight compared to batteries for long hauls."

The recent agreement is a non-binding memorandum of understanding. The final deal is subject to negotiation.