It’s been a wild ride if you’ve been following Nikola Motor news over the past week, with the announcement of a partnership with GM. This was quickly followed by research firm Hindenburg Research dropping some major allegations over the company’s behaviour. Nikola refutes these allegations and posted a statement here.
Since the announcement that General Motors would build the Nikola Badger, the specs on the website haven’t changed and that seems pretty strange.
Here’s a look back on the timeline of events.
February 10th, 2020
The company unveiled the Nikola Badger, complete with a set of specs to get potential buyers excited. The ute would be offered in both a FCEV (Fuel-Cell Electric) and BEV (Battery-Electric) versions.
You can read the press release here, but the quick summary includes:
- Manufacturing through an OEM partnership; to be announced soon (we now know that came 211 days later.
- Badger will make its first appearance at Nikola World 2020; expected in September (Rescheduled to Dec)
- Electric 0-60 mph in approximately 2.9 seconds
- Over 906 horsepower, 980 ft. lbs. of torque
- Range – FCEV: Estimated 600-mile range, BEV: 300 miles
- Battery – FCEV: 120 kW fuel cell, BEV: 160 kWh lithium-ion battery
- Price – FCEV: Starting US$80k, BEV: Starting US$60k
- Towing capacity – 8,000 pounds (3.628kg).
March 4th, 2020
General Motors holds ‘EV Day’ where they reveal the Ultium battery platform, which will power GM products from sub-brands Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick.
At the time, GM announced their joint venture with LG Chem will drive battery cell costs below $100/kWh.
General Motors is working on shipping their first vehicle, the new version of the Bolt EV, was expected to launch in late 2020, however, that has now been delayed till 2021.
June 8, 2020
Nikola opened pre-orders for the Nikola Badger. These pre-orders ranged from free (now start at a refundable $100), up to US$5,000 that includes tickets to Nikola World, backstage passes to meet Founder Trevor Milton etc.
September 8th, 2020
Nikola announced they were entering into a partnership General Motors. This was the big OEM they’d spent months locking in. At one stage, Trevor said they were vetting
When the specs for the Badger was released way back in February, that was a month before GM publicly announced their new EV platform, which the Badger is supposed to now depend on.
This makes it very difficult to believe the published specs on the Badger are accurate. Of course, it’s possible Milton could have signed an NDA and had insider knowledge from GM, but I find that highly unlikely as this was GM’s big reveal event to the world for the technology they’ll use to power the next decade of vehicles. Ensuring internal employees don’t leak information is hard enough, without letting people external to the company in, especially one that could be a competitor.
Nikola has repeatedly touted how good their powertrain technology is and the OEM partner was supposed to help them commercialise it.
All that changed when the details of the GM deal were revealed. Instead of Nikola building the electric motors, inverters, batteries etc, instead the Badger will now use GM’s powerplant, based on the Ultium platform.
Even the Fuel-Cell version of the Badger won’t use Nikola’s tech, one of the company’s main assets.
As recently as a month ago, Milton announced they had shortlisted 3 possible OEMs, so that makes the GM deal look appear very recent, and unlikely that Milton knew details of GM’s upcoming Ultium platform ahead of the public reveal.
All of these factors are problematic when having confidence in the specs listed on the Badger’s website as being accurate. Milton admitted in recent interviews that parts that GM can source at lower-costs, will be switched out, which would have an impact on weight (positive or negative), but almost certainly will not deliver the same specs provided to those who pre-ordered.
At the bottom of the Badger page, Nikola do have a disclaimer:
*Specs can change due to weather, altitude, hydrogen output, battery state of charge, thermal needs and customer requirements. Final specs may change or vary.
The first line is fairly standard and sets the expectations of customers around the physics involved in the chemistry of newer powertrains, however the final line is the disclaimer to pay attention to.
Given so much is set to change between 2 prototypes and the final production versions, using a completely different powertrain and many different components, it’s incredibly difficult to believe the specs provided for either version of the Badger.
Disclaimer: I don’t own stock. The change to GM’s platform could actually improve the specs, but my point is simply the chances of the Feb specs aligning perfectly to a vehicle built on GMs tech is virtually impossible.