May 6, 2021


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Nikola dropped truck weight claim after US investigations began

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The tractor from Nikola’s first truck to go into production will weigh more than diesel-powered vehicles, contrary to previous claims on the company’s website that vanished the week federal prosecutors began investigating the company.

The electric truck boot said six months ago that the battery-powered Nikola Tre, with a range of 300 miles designed for regional routes, would be “As light as comparable diesels”, allowing truck drivers to “carry more cargo on each load”. US regulations cap the weight of a fully loaded truck at 80,000 pounds, so lighter vehicles free up space for income-generating goods.

But the Tre’s tractor – the machine that pulls the trailer carrying cargo – weighs 29,800 pounds, according to enlarged footage from a recent Nikola promotional video. The tractor for a diesel truck weighs about 17,000 pounds.

The weighty claim was removed from Nikola’s website on September 16, six days after short seller Hindenburg Research released a report describing the company as “a complex fraud,” causing the share price to plummet and prompting US authorities to investigate. Nikola disputes the characterization but admitted that the company and its founder Trevor Milton have made a number of “inaccurate” statements.

The Securities and Exchange Commission subpoenaed Nikola and its chief executive Mark Russell on September 14. A day later, the Financial Times reported that the Department of Justice was also investigating the company.

Nikola said the removal of the statement from the website was unrelated to the short seller’s report.

The company, based in Phoenix, Ariz., Released a video last week, outlining validation testing for the Tre, which she says will ship to first customers in Q4. CFO Kim Brady told investors Nikola will deliver between 50 and 100 vehicles during the quarter, generating $ 15 million to $ 30 million in revenue.

In the video, a whiteboard is briefly shown in the background of a photo. Zooming in on the painting shows the scribbled phrases “Tre Weights” and “Tractor 29800”.

Nikola declined to comment on the video, but said the vehicle’s gross weight would be between 40,000 and 57,000 pounds.

“Three [battery electric vehicle] the final weight will depend on a number of factors, including the capacity of the battery, ”the company said. “We will give more updates to the market as we go. . . we are finalizing the specifications. “

Batteries are heavier than diesel fuel, a problem faced by all manufacturers trying to build a long-haul electric truck. An article from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology valued a battery pack capable of powering a long-range tractor-trailer would weigh 20,000 to 30,000 pounds, which would reduce the amount of cargo a truck can carry.

The weight of the tractor can be compensated by making modifications to the trailer, such as using lighter tires. Besides weight, there are also more important factors that could discourage potential customers from buying an electric vehicle in the short term: limited US charging infrastructure and higher prices. A diesel truck starts at $ 140,000, while the average Nikola Tre will sell for $ 300,000.

Still, the weight of the tractor can turn off some customers. Rick Mihelic, director of emerging technologies at the North American Council for Cargo Efficiency, said the vehicle will work for trucking companies that regularly carry lighter loads, such as snacks or furniture. This would be less attractive to general freight carriers packing their vehicles up to the 80,000 pound limit.

“A heavy tractor like this will be in a niche market,” he said.

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