General Motors and Nikola Corporation announced a strategic partnership on Tuesday in which GM will supply hydrogen fuel-cell systems and battery systems to Nikola.
Furthermore, GM will build the upcoming Nikola Badger pickup truck starting in 2022.
The Badger will be built with GM’s Ultium battery systems, which include cells jointly developed between GM and LG Chem. The Badger will be offered in at least two powertrain versions: one battery-electric and the other leveraging the advantages of fuel cells and batteries together.
GM hasn’t yet specified whether the Badger will use the same underpinnings as its own upcoming electric trucks, including the GMC Hummer EV and the yet-unnamed Chevrolet electric pickup.
With the partnership, GM will be the exclusive supplier of its fuel-cell tech, badged Hydrotec, to Nikola for its Class 7/8 trucks to be made in Arizona.
Nikola One electric semi truck
The announcement does not say that GM will be the exclusive supplier of battery modules or packs for Nikola’s other trucks—like the 2,500 battery-electric garbage trucks announced last month.
GM has been developing its next-generation fuel-cell stack together with Honda, and it plans to produce them in Michigan. Although Honda might still plan to use fuel-cell tech in cars—like a successor to its Clarity Fuel Cell—GM said in July that it will focus its fuel-cell powertrain efforts toward commercial and military use.
The partnership doesn’t involve any near-term cash transaction. GM will get a $2 billion equity stake in Nikola—and about an 11% share of the company—in exchange for “in-kind contributions.”
A release accompanying the announcement notes that GM expects to receive more than $4 billion of benefits that include the value of the shares, contract manufacturing, the supply of fuel-cell stacks, and “EV credits retained over the life of the contract.” Meanwhile, Nikola said that it expects to save more than $5 billion in battery and engineering costs over a 10-year period.
GM also mentioned its ongoing battery development, which includes a roadmap potentially including silicon anodes and lithium-metal anodes for improving energy density and affordability and reducing dependence on rare-earth elements and conflict materials.
2007 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell Vehicle
The partnership announcement also doesn’t discuss the reason GM has considered scaling up commercial fuel-cell vehicles several times before and opted against it. Nikola plans to establish its own hydrogen fueling network, and with this partnership it might allow the company to focus more on that critical support piece.