Once perceived as a potential rival to Tesla, hydrogen fuel cell truck startup Nikola hit the skids last September when short-selling financial firm Hindenburg Research accused the would-be automaker of “intricate fraud.” Hindenburg’s report sent Nikola into an immediate tailspin, recovery from which has been stalled by a seemingly endless string of scandals, from departing executives (including its founder) to failed business dealings and even accusations of attempts to censor its critics. And the hard times aren’t over, as Nikola’s technological head Jesse Schneider has just departed the company.
Schneider served three years as Nikola’s Executive Vice President, Technology, Hydrogen and Fuel Cells according to his LinkedIn page, which now registers employment at another green transport startup. The former Nikola exec’s registration shortly follows the aspiring truck maker’s announcement of a sleeper cab, hydrogen fuel cell-powered semi-truck with a claimed range of up to 900 miles, which brings Nikola either on track to finally produce a real vehicle or just back on its you-know-what.
Its fuel cell expert’s departure marks but the latest speed bump for Nikola, which has bounced over an almost countless number of them since Hindenburg’s damning report. Shortly after its publication, Nikola’s once-vaunted founder Trevor Milton resigned. Since then, Milton has still found himself still in the spotlight for allegedly shady business dealings and accusations of sexual misconduct, from no less than his own family.
During this same period, Nikola was accused of outsourcing the design for its One FCEV semi-truck from the college portfolio of a Rimac stylist and trying to censor its critics by weaponizing YouTube takedowns, shortly before canceling the reveal of its Badger FCEV pickup truck. The Badger project would later be effectively terminated and its deposits refunded after Nikola’s potential business partner General Motors got cold feet and declined to take a stake in the startup after all.
Nikola’s only chances of recovery seem to be fulfilling one of—any of—the lofty promises it has made so far, many of which the company itself admitted in a statement published by Reuters to be false. Credibility is key to the futures of all new vehicle startups, especially now that legacy carmakers are muscling in on the electric and hydrogen sectors.
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