Nikola recalls electric truck fleet over battery fires

You can still drive 'em, but park outside for ... OTA updates, says EV maker

Updated Electric semi truck maker Nikola's fortunes just keep getting worse – after a couple dismal quarters, it's now recalling nearly all of its battery electric vehicles due to a fire risk.

The automaker said Friday it was recalling approximately 209 Class 8 Tre BEV semi trucks, as well as putting a hold on sales of the vehicles until it fixes the problem. According to Nikola, a single supplier component within its Tre battery packs is the likely source of coolant leaks that caused a Tre to catch on fire at Nikola's Phoenix, Arizona HQ in June. 

A second vehicle at a Nikola plant experienced "a minor thermal incident" with the same cause earlier this month, according to the troubled automotive biz. 

No injuries have been reported to Nikola yet and the issue has only been found in the two battery packs on those two vehicles "out of more than 3,100 packs on trucks produced to date," which the EV maker said amounts to less than 0.07 percent of total battery packs. 

While affected vehicles can still be driven, Nikola is warning customers to park trucks outside "to allow for over-the-air updates," surely not to prevent larger fires. Additionally, the company is advising Tre owners to counterintuitively leave the Main Battery Disconnect switch in the ON position at all times so Nikola can continue to monitor battery safety systems.

"The company's software systems are being used in real-time to monitor trucks in the field closely and continually assess risks," Nikola said.

Besides that, Nikola's only other advice to Tre owners was to wait. "Additional information, updates and required customer actions will be announced in the coming weeks," the biz said. 

Previous suspicions that the fire was caused by foul play have also been allayed by the investigation. The longer-range version of the Tre powered by hydrogen fuel cells, which went into production late last month, is unaffected by the recall and sale stoppage. 

Nikola's troubles keep piling up

It's unclear precisely what percentage of Nikola's BEV fleet the recall affects - several news outlets have reported the 209 vehicles as the entirety of Tre BEVs sold, while other reporting from earlier this year indicates 258 Tres had been delivered as of April. We've tried to confirm the number of Nikola Tre BEVs on the road with the company, and haven't heard back. 

Regardless, the recall is sure to only magnify Nikola's woes. 

The manufacturer's first quarter of 2023 was marked by $169 million in losses, a freeze on production of Tre BEVs thanks to "sufficient inventory," (i.e., not enough sales) and the severing of its European arm, which caused a considerable drop in its stock prices. 

Fast forward to earlier this month when Nikola announced its Q2 numbers, and things haven't improved. 

Net loss grew to $217 million, and along with reporting earnings Nikola CEO Michael Lohscheller also announced he was exiting the biz due to a "family health matter," leaving the organization in the hands of board chair Steve Girsky. 

“Nikola has turned the corner and is well on the way to executing our business plan and achieving profitability,” Lohscheller said before announcing his departure.

Girsky becomes Nikola's fourth CEO since founder Trevor Milton stepped down in 2020 over allegations he had misled investors over the readiness of the Nikola One, the company's first electric semi. Milton was convicted of those crimes late last year, though remains free pending sentencing. ®

Updated to add

Nikola was able to clarify to The Register that the 209 Class 8 Tre BEV models being recalled cover all those in the marketplace, both in dealer and customer possession. It also said that operations have resumed after a pause in May to reconfigure the production line.

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