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Nikola makes 35 hydrogen truck deliveries in Q4, company announces during earnings call

Phoenix Business Journal

Nikola Corp. has made what it describes as the first delivery of a hydrogen fuel-cell electric truck in the U.S., the Phoenix-based company said on a fourth quarter earnings call.

Nikola (Nasdaq: NKLA) said it delivered 35 hydrogen fuel-cell electric trucks to dealers, selling all of its available inventory. It produced 42 trucks and reserved seven for testing and fleet demos, according to the company.

In addition, Nikola said it’s “on-track” to return battery-electric trucks with new battery packs to customers in the first quarter and expects to generate revenue from battery electric trucks in its inventory by the fourth quarter.

The company recalled the battery electric trucks in August and temporarily halted sales after a coolant leak in a battery pack sparked a fire at the company’s headquarters in June.

Nikola received 33 voucher requests for the battery electric trucks in California and will add new features to the vehicles, including an updated instrument display, an improved mobile app and scheduled departure charging, ensuring maximum power when a driver begins their route.

“Today we’re sharing what we’ve accomplished and how we are providing fully integrated zero-emissions mobility solutions to fleets right now,” Steve Girsky, CEO of Nikola said in a statement. “We began delivering production hydrogen fuel cell electric trucks in Q4, fleets are fueling daily at our modular refueling station in Ontario, California, we continue to rack up HVIP vouchers, and we are on track to start getting our battery-electric trucks back to end users by the end of the first quarter.”

Earlier this month, Nikola opened its first HYLA hydrogen refueling station near Ontario International Airport, marking a key step in the company’s plans to further support its energy business and the sale of its hydrogen fuel-cell electric trucks.

It also inked a partnership with FirstElement Fuel, allowing the company’s customers to refuel electric trucks at First Element’s hydrogen refueling station near Oakland.

The refueling station is part of the company’s long-term plan to build what it’s calling a “hydrogen highway,” consisting of mobile refuelers and up to 60 hydrogen refueling stations — nine of which are slated to be open by the end of the second quarter.

Nikola reported a net loss of $154 million in the fourth quarter, compared to a net loss of $966 million in the prior-year quarter.

Nikola generated $11.5 million in revenue the fourth quarter, compared with $35.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. The company’s quarterly revenue missed Wall Street expectations as seven analysts expected revenue of $13.2 million, according to Business Insider.

The company ended 2023 with $464.7 million in cash on hand, marking the company’s greatest unrestricted cash balance since 2021.

Nikola’s stock remained flat on Thursday, closing at 70 cents a share on Thursday.

Nikola addresses Badger program

Britton Worthen, Nikola’s chief legal officer, told investors on the earnings call that the company sold intellectual property for the Badger electric pickup truck, Powersport off-road and Waverunner watercraft vehicles to Embr Motors, a vehicle manufacturing startup.

Embr Motors is led by Dave Sparks, star of reality show “Diesel Brothers,” and Cole Cannon, an attorney and owner of Cannon Law Group. Embr also acquired two prototypes of the Badger.

This week, Sparks announced via his YouTube channel that he plans to bring the Badger to market. In a video titled “The Nikola Badger is Real and I Own Them,” Sparks claims that he and Cannon negotiated the deal to acquire the Badger assets for “tens of millions” of dollars.

Sparks, a longtime friend of Nikola’s former CEO, Trevor Milton, said he was provided stock in exchange for promoting the Badger. He also claims there “were a lot of issues” with Milton’s fraud trial and that Nikola was “growing and thriving” under his leadership.

Milton stepped down from the company in September 2020 amid the fallout following a report by short seller Hindenburg Research that claimed Nikola was an “intricate fraud built on dozens of lies.”

In February 2020, Nikola unveiled the Badger, an fuel-cell electric truck intended to rival Tesla’s Cybertruck. The truck garnered a $2 billion commitment from General Motors, which later ended its partnership with Nikola amid fallout from the Hindenburg Research report. Nikola refunded customer deposits for the Badger and shelved the program.

In December 2020, Milton was sentenced to four years in federal prison for defrauding investors about Nikola’s electric vehicle technology to inflate the company’s stock price.

“Over the three and a half years since Mr. Milton left the company, we at Nikola have worked to stay above the fray, not comment on his legal proceedings, and stay focused on the work at hand to bring zero-emission class eight trucks to market,” Worthen said on the call.

Worthen said Nikola retained a 30% interest in Embr and struck a deal for it to purchase the Badger assets with no money down to be paid back to Nikola over time. Nikola struck the deal on the agreement that Milton would not be involved with the Badger or Powersport assets, he added.

Earlier this month, M&M Residual — a business entity controlled by Milton — announcing intentions to nominate five directors — including Sparks and Cannon — at Nikola’s 2024 annual shareholders meeting.

“The irony that Mr. Milton is now trying to take control of Nikola, after all that has happened in the past three and a half years is not lost on us at the company,” Worthen said. “We will continue to push back against any efforts he makes to attempt to take control of Nikola and we believe our directors and management are far and away better for our stockholders than a slate of directors who lack relevant experience to run a clean energy clean tech company.”

In a statement, M&M Residual accused Girsky of diluting Nikola’s stock value and called for replacements of the company’s existing board.

“This is a reasonable request, especially considering Nikola recently disclosed that substantial doubt exists regarding its ability to continue as a going concern through the next 12 months,” M&M Residual wrote. “This followed a material weakness being identified in the Company’s 2022 financial reporting. Time is clearly of the essence for Nikola stockholders who cannot afford to wait — the time for boardroom change is now.”

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