Automakers Double Down on EVs, While General Motors’ Hydrogen Partner Nikola Faces Scrutiny

Detroit’s automakers are setting a joint goal for new electric vehicles. Meanwhile, prosecutors say the founder of Nikola, a truck maker that gained a partnership with General Motors, lied about its hydrogen progress.

Coming off profitable second quarters, Ford, Stellantis and General Motors are ramping up their goals for bringing new electric models to market. The Detroit automakers have jointly announced a target that would see EVs account for at least 40% of new sales by the end of the decade.

In addition to fully battery-driven vehicles, that categorization also includes models that are hydrogen- and gasoline-electric powered. The Biden administration said last week that it wants about 50% of new automobiles to fall in that range by 2030.

“You’re talking about a 25-fold increase in less than a decade.” –Paul Eisenstein, The Detroit Bureau

Paul Eisenstein is publisher of automotive website The Detroit Bureau. He says electrified vehicles account for about 2% of the market today.

“So you’re talking about a 25-fold increase in less than a decade,” says Eisenstein, “and that’s going to be a major challenge.”

Some buyers will need convincing that EVs are a worthwhile purchase, with public access to charging stations seen as an issue limiting potential sales. The Biden administration is hoping to remedy those concerns with money earmarked in an infrastructure funding bill, currently on Capitol Hill.

Nikola, GM Partnership Facing Uncertainty

While all-electric models have been in the spotlight, General Motors has been exploring the possibilities of hydrogen power. They’ve been doing so in partnership with Nikola — an upstart company that aims to bring fleets of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles to the trucking industry.

However, Nikola has come under scrutiny. The company’s founder, Trevor Milton, was recently indicted on federal charges of making false and misleading statements to investors.

“According to prosecutors,” says Eisenstein, “[Milton] lied about a number of things, including whether or not the company had a running prototype.”

With Milton now facing legal charges, Eisenstein says the future of Nikola and General Motors’ partnership faces uncertainty. He says planned collaborations between the companies have included a Nikola-branded truck model that General Motors would assemble.

Listen: The Detroit Bureau’s Paul Eisenstein discusses Nikola and Detroit’s EV commitment.

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  • Alex McLenon
    Alex McLenon is a Reporter with 101.9 WDET. McLenon is a graduate of Wayne State University, where he studied Media Arts & Production and Broadcast Journalism.