Nikola to Halt Sales, Recall Trucks After Battery Fires

Investigation Finds Coolant Leak, Not Foul Play, Likely Source
Nikola Tre
A Nikola Tre battery-electric heavy duty truck. (Andreas Gebert/Bloomberg News)

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All the Class 8 Tre battery-electric trucks Nikola Motor sold or sent to potential customers for testing are being recalled, the company said.

A total of 209 trucks have been recalled and a temporary hold on new sales is now in place as a result of an investigation into a June 23 fire at Nikola’s Phoenix headquarters. Nikola is in the process of notifying the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it added.

The probable cause of the fire, which spread from one truck to four others, was a coolant leak inside a single battery pack, according to the preliminary findings of a probe by Exponent, a third-party investigator.

A similar incident followed on Aug. 10, this time involving a battery pack on an engineering validation truck parked at the company’s Coolidge, Ariz, manufacturing plant.


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Nikola said internal investigations by in-house safety and engineering teams narrowed the source of the leaks to a single supplier component within the battery pack.

A solution to the problem will be available in the coming weeks, the company said.

However, customers can still keep the trucks running if they so choose, Nikola said, while offering a couple of tips to minimize the risks:

  • Place the main battery disconnect switch in the on position at all times to enable real-time monitoring.
  • Park trucks outside to enable over-the-air updates from Nikola fleet command.

Nikola promised further information, updates and what actions customers will need to take would be announced “in the coming weeks.”

“At Nikola we take safety very seriously,” said CEO Steve Girsky. “We stated from the beginning that as soon as our investigations were concluded we would provide an update, and we will continue our transparency as we learn more.”

Transparency over the company’s initial hypothesis on the reason for the fire was also on show in the late Aug. 11 statement from Nikola.

Initially, the company warned of potential foul play as the cause of the fire, but Nikola admitted Aug. 11 that “extensive internal and third party-led hypothesis testing, employee and contractor interviews, and hours of video footage review” showed this not to be the case.

Nikola’s focus has pivoted away from battery-electric trucks to hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, and the company said the findings of the probe would not affect the hydrogen trucks as those vehicles’ battery pack had a different design.

The company began production of the Tre FCEV July 31 at its Coolidge factory after halting all manufacturing at the site to retool the facility. As a result of the retooling, the plant is set to build FCEVs mostly, with BETs only available on a build-to-order basis.

In addition to the trucks sold or out for testing, the company had 139 BETs in inventory at Nikola facilities at the end of the second quarter of 2023, while dealers had 92 BETs on forecourts, it said Aug. 4 when releasing second-quarter earnings.

The same day the company released its second-quarter results also saw CEO Michael Lohscheller step down, part of what analysts at investment firm Wedbush Securities termed a two-step forward, one-step back trend in recent quarters in an Aug. 9 research note.

All the original members of the management team have now departed from the firm and investors are understandably nervous, Deutsche Bank analyst Emmanuel Rosner said in an Aug. 14 research note.

The company’s share price, which was below $1 earlier in 2023, leading NASDAQ to threaten to delist Nikola, went on another roller coaster ride after the announcement of the recall. The stock slumped more than 17% on the open Aug. 14, but gradually climbed toward its Aug. 11 close through the rest of trading.

Nikola’s recall of its BETs is not the only one for a major Class 8 truck manufacturer due to a battery fire in recent weeks.

Volvo Group has had to recall nearly all the BETs it made over the last four years because of the potential for a battery fire. The Swedish company recalled 172 Volvo-branded trucks and nine Mack Trucks-branded vehicles.

The batteries in the trucks will be replaced after a fire in a pack due to improper torque control on the buss bars connecting battery cells, according to reports by NHTSA.

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