Back in late June, electric semi-truck startup Nikola Motors said foul play was the cause of a fire that toasted several vehicles at its Phoenix, Arizona headquarters. Shortly after, the Phoenix Fire Department concluded that there was no evidence to backup such claims and that the cause of the fire was "undetermined." However, the cause is undetermined no longer. It turns out a coolant leak in the battery packs likely started the fires, causing Nikola to recall all 209 battery-electric trucks that it has delivered or built to date.
Nikola has walked back its previous claims as a result of the finding. The company's official line, stated in a press release, is that "foul play or other external factors were unlikely to have caused the incident."
A third-party investigation by Exponent found the coolant leak, which was then confirmed when another "minor thermal incident" occurred on an engineering validation truck at the Coolidge, Arizona plant on August 10. According to Nikola, the culprit behind the leak is a single supplier component, and these reported fires are the only known "thermal incidents."
In addition to the recall, Nikola has put a stop-sale on all electric trucks until the issue can be remedied. Despite these moves, Nikola isn't telling existing owners to stop using their trucks. Instead, owners are being advised to park their vehicles outside, "for over-the-air updates and better connectivity" with Nikola's monitoring service, in the company's words—not explicitly because the trucks could catch fire and burn a warehouse down. Customers are also being told to keep the Main Battery Disconnect (MBD) switch on at all times.
This recall doesn't affect Nikola's hydrogen fuel cell trucks, though. Those employ a different battery pack design and don't share this issue.
Between the company's founder being busted for fraud, recently hiring its fourth CEO in as many years, and now these fires, it seems that Nikola can't get out of its own way. Shares were down by nearly 12 percent Monday morning following the news of the recall and pause on sales.
Got tips? Send 'em to firstname.lastname@example.org