General Motors gets ownership stake in battery and fuel cell tie up with Nikola

The agreement with Nikola extends General Motors’ utilization of its fuel cell technology to the Class 7/8 semi-truck market.The agreement with Nikola extends General Motors’ utilization of its fuel cell technology to the Class 7/8 semi-truck market.

Nikola Corporation and General Motors (GM) on Tuesday announced a strategic partnership that gives the Detroit automotive behemoth an ownership stake in the Arizona-based hydrogen-electric startup in exchange for use of GM’s battery system and fuel cell tech.

Nikola initially will utilize GM’s Ultium battery system and Hydrotec fuel cell technology for its Badger pickup – a commercialization milestone for General Motors. Nikola will exchange $2 billion in newly issued common stock for in-kind services and access to General Motors’ global safety-tested and validated parts and components. General Motors will also engineer, homologate, validate and manufacture the Nikola Badger battery electric and fuel cell versions.

By linking up with GM, Nikola founder and Executive Chairman Trevor Milton said his company gains access to validated parts for all its programs, including “General Motors’ Ultium battery technology and a multi-billion dollar fuel cell program ready for production,” he said. “Nikola immediately gets decades of supplier and manufacturing knowledge, validated and tested production-ready EV propulsion, world-class engineering and investor confidence.”

The agreement with Nikola also extends General Motors’ utilization of its fuel cell technology to the Class 7/8 semi-truck market and represents a high-volume commercialization of its Hydrotec fuel cell system, which was developed in collaboration with Honda.

In addition to exchanging tech on battery and electric power, GM will manufacture Nikola’s Badger pickup.In addition to exchanging tech on battery and electric power, GM will manufacture Nikola’s Badger pickup.

“We are growing our presence in multiple high-volume EV segments but building scale to lower battery and fuel cell costs and increase profitability is our goal,” said General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “In addition, applying General Motors’ electrified technology solutions to the heavy-duty class of commercial vehicles is another important step in fulfilling our vision of a zero-emissions future.”

Leveraging GM’s battery and hydrogen platforms “emboldens our ability to focus on the trucks,” Milton said, noting now the company could hone in on ramping truck production of the battery-electric Nikola Tre from its now-under-construction Coolidge, Arizona, manufacturing facility by late next year. Milton expects the use of GM’s systems to drop its cost of the tractor by upwards of 30%.

General Motors is the latest investor – and arguably the most notable North American one – to take shares in Nikola, joining a list that includes the likes of Bosch, Iveco parent company CNH Industrial, and ZF via its acquisition of Wabco earlier this year.

Barra said the partnership with Nikola would allow GM a re-entrance of sorts into the heavy-duty space, but in a role more of technology provider than truck maker. She noted there were no current plans for GM to re-emerge in commercial trucking – a segment which it exited in the late 1990s – under its own nameplates.

Under the terms of Tuesday’s announcement, Nikola will be responsible for the sales and marketing for the Badger – which was first announced Feb. 10 and will make its public debut at Nikola World 2020 in December – and will retain the Nikola Badger brand. Badger production is now expected to start in late 2022, slightly later than originally planned, at a location to be announced at a later date.

Production targets for Nikola’s BEV Tre (2021), and hydrogen-electric One and Two tractor models (2023) are unchanged, Milton said.