Nikola announces recall of battery electric vehicles, pauses sales after fire investigation

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Nikola Corporation announced a voluntary recall of approximately 209 of its Class 8 Tre battery-electric vehicles, following the preliminary findings of an investigation conducted by Exponent into its battery packs.

The company said Aug. 11 that it was in the process of filing the recall with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and will be holding off on selling new battery-electric vehicles for the time being. Nikola manufactures heavy-duty commercial battery-electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles, and is headquartered in Arizona. 

On June 23, Nikola reported in a tweet that a fire had affected multiple battery electric trucks at its Phoenix headquarters, and that the company suspected foul play as a vehicle was seen in the area just before the incident. However, the company now says that internal and third-party evaluations, as well as hours of video footage review, indicate that it’s unlikely the fire was caused by foul play or other external factors. 

Instead, the company reported that following an Aug. 10 presentation from third-party investigator Exponent, it found that a coolant leak in one lithium-ion battery pack likely caused the fire. It said this conclusion was corroborated by a “minor thermal incident” that impacted one battery pack on a truck at its Coolidge, Arizona plant.

“Internal investigations from Nikola’s safety and engineering teams indicate a single supplier component within the battery pack as the likely source of the coolant leak and efforts are underway to provide a field remedy in the coming weeks,” Nikola said.

The company said that so far, only two battery packs out of the more than 3,100 packs on trucks produced until now have experienced an issue. 

Nikola said that while its battery-electric trucks can stay in operation, it is encouraging its customers and dealers to take certain actions to ensure their safety. These include ensuring that the “main battery disconnect” switch is always on, to enable real-time vehicle monitoring, and trying to park trucks outside so that they are better connected to Nikola’s monitoring system.  

“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,” said Steve Girsky, CEO of Nikola.

Girsky replaced Nikola’s previous President and CEO Michael Lohscheller, whom the company announced was stepping down from his position on Aug. 4. The company reported that Lohscheller opted to step down because of a family health matter and will continue in an advisory capacity with Nikola until the end of September. 

Separately, Nikola began producing its hydrogen fuel cell electric truck on July 31, and had already received orders for over 200 trucks that it intends to start delivering in September. On the hydrogen front, the company was recently granted $58.2 million in different grants from regulators to build out a network of hydrogen refueling stations for heavy-duty trucks. 

The company said that the voluntary recall will not affect its hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, which have a different design. 

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