Nikola’s recently appointed CEO – Steve Girsky – was upbeat about prospects for the company and hydrogen fuel in a recent Q&A session, and did not shy away from difficult questions relating to the firm’s recent battery fire incidents and voluntary recall.

Steve Girsky

Despite only being in post since August this year, Girksy was confident and spoke candidly about the recent challenges Nikola has faced.

“I think there’s a lot of white space between Nikola and the competition in the zero-emission Class 8 truck market,” Girksy said. He drew on his previous experience as president of GM Europe. During his role there he “asked about Tesla and was told it was bunch of engineers playing with laptop batteries.”

“We know how that turned out,” he continued. “Tesla got a ten-year jump start on the entire industry.”

“I think we have a similar opportunity at Nikola. The big guys are riding off the zero-emissions trucking industry – I know they’re playing with prototypes but they believe this tech is late decades stuff, at the earliest,” he said.

“We’re just getting started. Nikola is not checking a box like the others: this is our business. We are zero emssions, we are energy – and that’s it.”

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He added that Nikola’s hydrogen fuel cell electric truck had begun serial production and was undergoing final testing. “I defy anyone to find another zero-emission vehicle [truck] that can run up to 900 miles a day,” he said.

He also addressed the challenges around the “several thermal incidents” which occurred earlier this year with the firm’s battery electric trucks, which were subject to a voluntary recall within 24 hours following preliminary findings of Nikola’s investigation. Girksy emphasised that the firm was prioritising public and customer safety in all its actions.  The cause of the issue was found to be coolant leak.

“We are taking further precautions by deploying to our active fleets to physically monitor the trucks in service. We have not encountered any concerns with those trucks that are in operation,” he said.

“We proved the sceptics wrong…and we are not planning on stopping anytime soon,” he said. “The marketplace is ready for our products. It’s a setback but we are in it for the long haul.”

Girksy also updated callers on the progress of the Nikola TRE fuel cell electric vehicle, for which deliveries are planned in late September and early October.

He added that the recall of its battery electric trucks did not affect the production or delivery of the fuel cell electric vehicles, as they use a different battery pack from another supplier.

Production capacity at Nikola’s Coolidge site is 2,400 trucks per year, on a mixed model line capable of producing battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell trucks, he added.

“In light of any recent setbacks, we’re moving in the right direction. It is not unusual to discover challenges with products post-launch, as history has proven with most OEMS anytime when they launch a new product or technology. And we are certainly not alone when it comes to the challenges faced with the battery technology.”