Nikola’s short history as an attempted electric truck maker has been nothing if not colorful, with Trevor Milton, its founder, being indicted last July on fraud charges. The startup, meanwhile, soldiered on without him, trying to salvage what was left. On Thursday, Nikola said it had achieved at least one goal in that effort, which is actually getting some trucks in the hands of customers.
Nikola said it had “shipped 11 saleable production trucks to dealers in April for customer delivery,” after having lost $152.9 million in the first quarter of 2022, which is a bigger number than the $120.2 million it lost in the same time period last year. Investors reacted by pushing up Nikola’s stock five percent for the day, though the stock price is still a fraction of Nikola’s valuation, back when it was the biggest company in the U.S. with no revenue.
Nikola’s market capitalization is down to just $3.1 billion, which is less than Tesla’s, which is just over $900 billion, but Nikola’s, this time, feels more right-sized. And Nikola’s ambitions feel a little more right-sized too. Nikola, for example, once claimed Nikola had 7,000 electric semi pre-orders, but on Thursday, Nikola gave the following numbers.
On March 21, 2022, we began serial production of the Nikola Tre BEV in Coolidge, Arizona. We began shipping saleable Tre BEVs to dealers in April for customer deliveries. Customer [purchase orders] for 134 trucks have been issued to our dealers utilizing California HVIP. To date, we have received POs, [letters of intent], and [memorandums of understanding] for a total of 510 Nikola Tre BEVs.
Fairly modest, then, or at least more believable. So was, to me, its update on how its fuel-cell electric semi program is going.
Tre FCEV alpha pilot testing with Anheuser-Busch (A-B) in Southern California was successfully concluded on April 29. The Tre FCEV alphas logged over 12,000 miles in A-B operations. FCEV alpha pilot testing is scheduled to begin with TTSI by the end of May. We plan to begin building the first six beta FCEV trucks by the end of Q2 2022 and complete them by the end of Q3 2022. This first batch is expected to be followed by builds of a second batch of five and a third batch of eight beta trucks. Each beta cohort will incorporate learnings from alpha fleet testing and previous batches. Validation of the beta fleet trucks is scheduled to progress through the first half of 2023, followed by the start of serial production planned in the second half of 2023.
Nikola has more or less completed its journey from gonzo to boring, just another startup with hundreds of millions burning a hole in its pocket. The jury is also very much out on whether Nikola will make it as a company, but if it does it’ll probably look back to delivering its first handful of trucks as the easy part.