Nikola Corporation, a zero-emissions transportation, and energy solutions company, announces preliminary battery pack investigation results after a fire around its Phoenix, Arizona headquarters, leading to a voluntary recall of approximately 209 Class 8 Tre battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). This recall is being filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and new BEV sales are temporarily on hold. The recall does not affect the production of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), as their battery pack design differs.
A reputable third-party investigator, Exponent, found that a coolant leak in a single battery pack likely caused the truck fire at the company's headquarters on June 23, 2023. A minor thermal incident further supported these findings. Nikola's internal safety and engineering teams identified a single supplier component as the source of the coolant leak, with efforts underway for a field remedy in the coming weeks.
“At Nikola, we take safety very seriously,” stated Steve Girsky, Nikola's CEO. “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.”
While Tre BEV trucks can remain in operation, Nikola advises customers and dealers to take the following actions immediately:
1. Place the Main Battery Disconnect (MBD) switch into the "ON" position at all times to enable real-time vehicle monitoring and safety systems operation
2. 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 continually monitors trucks in the field, with only two battery packs (less than 0.07% of total packs) experiencing thermal events out of over 3,100 packs produced to date.
Nikola truck safety
According to Nikola’s website, before launching the Tre BEV, Nikola conducted extensive safety validations to ensure driver and environment safety. The truck surpasses Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and UN GTR 20 regulations, undergoing comprehensive crash and battery safety tests. These tests encompass resistance isolation monitoring, water fording, coolant leakage monitoring, thermal runaway detection, and high-voltage interlock loop fault detection. The battery system's safety was confirmed through various assessments, including passive propagation resistance, mechanical robustness, thermal and fire resistance, and rigorous tests for overcharge, over-discharge, overcurrent, and extreme temperatures.