Nikola Corporation and General Motors today announced a strategic partnership in which GM gets a $2 billion equity stake in Nikola and 11% ownership in the hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) startup.
GM will engineer, validate, and build the Nikola Badger for both the battery electric vehicle and fuel cell electric vehicle variants. As part of the agreement, Nikola will utilize General Motors’ Ultium battery system and Hydrotec fuel cell technology.
According to a press announcement, GM expects to receive in excess of $4 billion of benefits between the equity value of the shares, contract manufacturing of the Badger, supply contracts for batteries and fuel cells, and EV credits retained over the life of the contract. GM also gains the rights to be the exclusive supplier of fuel cells globally (outside of Europe) to Nikola for Class 7/8 trucks.
Nikola will be responsible for the sales and marketing for the Badger and will retain the Nikola Badger brand.
Nikola’s initial public offering in June saw the Phoenix-based company briefly surge to a valuation surpassing both Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). While Nikola announced the Badger will make its public debut in December at Nikola World 2020 in Arizona — and that Badger production would start in late 2022 — the company didn’t have a manufacturing partner. Until today.
Referencing GM’s recent partnership on battery and fuel cell technology with Honda, Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Cox Automotive, said in a statement that strategic alliances are essential to accelerating electrification and fuel cell technology.
“What’s becoming clear is that no single company has enough resources to go it alone towards a future that is electrified, connected, and autonomous,” said Krebs.
Krebs said the deal will help proliferate GM’s newly developed Ultium battery systems and reduce costs through economies of scale.
Brian Moody, executive editor of Cox Automotive’s Autotrader, sees the partnership as fueling greater interest in fuel cells where attention has waned recently.
“Fuel cells aren’t getting the attention they deserve,” he said in a statement. “In other applications, fuel cells are seen as a reliable energy alternative, but only a handful of automakers seem interested. Right now, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota have fuel cell powered cars available to consumers in some regions.
… By GM forming a partnering with Honda and now Nikola, it shows they’re serious about alternative fuel vehicles.”
However, Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s Mad Money, thinks the deal might make it easier for GM to spin off Ultium.
“All the things that GM gives them (Nikola) are worth a lot more than what Nikola gives to GM,” Cramer said on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street this morning. “At the end of the day, I want to know if GM is going to spin off this unit. If they spin off this unit, then we’ve got some value.”