August 12, 2023

Nikola will recall 209 battery-electric trucks following 2 fires


Nikola will recall approximately 209 Class 8 battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and temporarily halt BEV sales following two battery pack fires. It is the second truck manufacturer to report the potential for battery fires this week.

Volvo Group North America is recalling 172 Volvo VNR Electric and nine Mack LR Electric battery-powered electric trucks. Those trucks cover the 2019-2023 model years.

Nikola initially suggested foul play in a June 23 fire in one truck that damaged four others. An internal investigation conducted with safety consultant Exponent concluded the issue was a coolant leak inside a single battery pack. A single supplier component is the likely source of the leak, according to Nikola’s safety and engineering teams.

The truck that caught fire at Nikola headquarters in Phoenix reignited on July 23. It was quickly extinguished. A second fire on Thursday impacted one battery pack on an engineering validation truck Nikola’s plant in Coolidge, Arizona. The company described the fire as a minor thermal incident. No one was injured in the Phoenix or Coolidge fires.

Nikola preparing recall paperwork for NHTSA

Nikola said it was preparing the recall filing for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Companies have five days after discovering a safety defect to report it to the agency.  

“We stated from the beginning that as soon as our investigations were concluded we would provide an update, and we will continue our transparency as we learn more,” CEO State Girsky said in a news release late Friday.

Company recommends parking trucks outside

Nikola said the trucks could remain in service, but it recommended that customers and dealers switch the main battery disconnect to the on position to enable real-time vehicle monitoring and safety systems operation. 

General Motors used its OnStar system in 2014 to remotely monitor gasoline-powered trucks for a software malfunction that could allow idling trucks to heat up to dangerous levels. The automaker eventually recalled 370,000 trucks after eight reported fires..

Nikola also recommended that customers consider parking trucks outside to allow for over-the-air updates and better connectivity with Fleet Command, Nikola’s truck monitoring system. Parking outside is often recommended in fire-related recalls to prevent a potential fire from spreading to nearby structures.

Romeo Power battery packs involved in the fires

Romeo Power Inc. produced the battery packs. Nikola purchased financially struggling Romeo in August 2022 in a $144 million all-stock deal. Nikola moved Romeo production to Coolidge from California but has since halted regular production of BEVs to focus on hydrogen fuel cell models now in production. The company is liquidating Romeo’s assets.

Nikola’s fuel cell trucks have two battery packs made by Proterra Inc. There are nine Romeo packs in the battery-electric trucks. Nikola said that only two of 3,100 packs used on trucks built to date have been involved in fires — less than one-tenth of 1%.

Volvo, Mack replacing batteries on electric trucks because of fire risk

Fire-damaged Nikola electric truck reignites; will a recall follow?

Foul play suspected in fire at Nikola headquarters

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.


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