Trevor Milton, CEO of Nikola Motors, is using LinkedIn to invite workers laid off recently by Tesla to apply for work at his company. “Forward this on to all Tesla workers,” the message says. “Anyone who was affected by the #tesla layoffs, please let me know and I’ll try to get you in front of our HR to be reviewed. We have hired as many as fit our positions from the #faraday and #gm layoffs so this is not a bash on Tesla. We are hiring hundreds of positions and have large cash reserves with a great company culture.” (h/t The Drive)
Tesla and Nikola have not had the most cordial of relationships in the past. As we’ve reported before, Nikola has sued Tesla, claiming Tesla’s all-electric Semi is a thinly disguised knockoff of its own proposed vehicle, which will be powered by electricity from hydrogen fuel cells. Nikola says Tesla has copied its idea for a central opening and wraparound windshield, among other things.
If Nikola’s claims are accurate, it has taken reservations worth $8 billion for its truck — enough to cover the cost of 7,000 vehicles. By contrast, Tesla is believed to have received about 650 pre-orders for its Semi. Neither company has announced when production is expected to begin.
Milton is at pains to make it clear this latest move is not a knock on Tesla but simply an attempt to help talented people who suddenly find themselves out of a job. “I feel for everyone that goes through that especially with financial obligations. If #tesla could they would keep everyone but it’s the result in growing in a competitive market. I hope I can help all those affected.”
To be clear, Milton is not saying his company will hire all former Tesla employees who apply. His offer is only to expedite the application process if they choose to come work at Nikola. One clear advantage is that Nikola Motors is based near Salt Lake City, Utah, where the cost of housing is considerably less than in the superheated real estate market of Silicon Valley.
One unanswered question about Nikola’s business plan is where its customers will be able to refuel their trucks once they are produced and on the road. Hydrogen refueling stations can cost $2 million or more while EV charging equipment runs a few hundred thousand at most, even for the Megachargers Tesla will need to recharge its own electric trucks.
Then there is the question of where to obtain a supply of hydrogen. In the United States, most hydrogen comes from natural gas and most natural gas comes from fracking — one of the dirtiest energy technologies of all. Between the harm caused to the environment by injecting water loaded with chemicals deep underground and the damage caused by methane emissions from fracking operations, the natural gas that results has a carbon footprint equivalent to coal.
It’s hard to see how Nikola’s fuel cell powered trucks can claim to have the same environmental benefits of the Tesla Semi. Which is important, since the whole point of electric trucks is to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. Nikola Motors may have 7,000 reservations for its truck, but if so, the companies who placed those orders are being very quiet about their commitments.
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