Electric truck maker Nikola provided the preliminary results of its battery pack investigations on Friday following a truck fire at the company's headquarters in Phoenix on June 23, 2023. According to preliminary findings from Exponent, a third-party investigator, a coolant leak inside a single battery pack was the likely culprit.
The findings were further corroborated by a minor thermal incident that impacted one pack on an engineering validation truck parked at the company's Coolidge, Arizona plant on August 10, 2023. No one was injured in either incident.
Internal investigations from Nikola's safety and engineering teams indicate a single supplier component within the battery pack as the probable source of the coolant leak and efforts are underway to provide a field remedy in the coming weeks.
As a precautionary measure, Nikola announced a voluntary recall of approximately 209 Class 8 Tre battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). The company is in the process of filing the voluntary recall with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and is placing a temporary hold on new BEV sales until a resolution is in place.
The actions do not affect the hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) currently in production as the truck's battery pack has a different design.
Tre BEV trucks may remain in operation, but for optimal performance and safety, Nikola encourages all customers and dealers to immediately take the following actions:
- Place the Main Battery Disconnect (MBD) switch into the "ON" position at all times to enable real-time vehicle monitoring and safety systems operation.
- Consider parking trucks outside to allow for over-the-air updates and better connectivity with Fleet Command, Nikola's truck monitoring system.
The company's software systems are being used in real-time to monitor trucks in the field closely and continually assess risks. Thus far, only two battery packs have experienced a thermal event, out of more than 3,100 packs on trucks produced to date.
Additional information, updates and required customer actions will be announced in the coming weeks.
The company's initial statement on June 23 alluded to foul play as a possible cause of the incident, based on video footage showing a vehicle parked next to the impacted trucks and quickly pulling away after a bright flash and the start of the fire. Extensive internal and third party-led hypothesis testing, employee and contractor interviews, and hours of video footage review has since suggested foul play or other external factors were unlikely to have caused the incident.