Hydrogen truck startup Nikola sues Tesla for $2 billion over alleged patent infringement
May 03, 2018 | by Iqtidar Ali
On May 01 Nikola Motor Company has sued Tesla for $2 billion in damages alleging their rival has intentionally copied their truck Nikola One’s design patents in creating the Tesla Semi Truck.
Nikola unveiled their hydrogen powered class 8 semi truck ‘Nikola One’ in December 2016 and promised to start production in 2019 but recently they returned all of the pre-order deposit amounts to their customers saying they are not the ‘ones’ using reservation money to run company operations.
Such statements and Tweets clearly criticized Tesla’s business practices without any financial proof against their competitor in the truck manufacturing business.
In the lawsuit (full filing PDF below), Nikola Motor Company claims Tesla has copied several of the design patterns from their Nikola One truck like the front fenders, mid-entry doors, wraparound windshields, aerodynamic fuselage (producing an equal drag coefficient).
The lawsuit also mentions that Tesla attemtpted to hire Nikola’s chief engineer shortly after the Nikola One’s public unveiling.Nikola also requested Tesla to delay it’s Semi unveiling until the patents issue is resolved but Tesla went on with the event as it was already delyed once before.
A Tesla spokesperson said “It’s patently obvious there is no merit to this lawsuit,” in a statement to The Verge.
The situation seems to be the result of Nikola’s growing frustration over how Tesla Semi has gained mass popularity and landed several big and small pre-orders from corporate customers to small companies.
This frustration is clearly visible in the lawsuit where Nikola Motor Company states that the ‘Tesla Semi’ design similarity with it’s Nikola One truck is creating confusion in the market and they are not able to attract new investors and partners due to this confusion — in other words, Tesla is giving them unfair competition, thus creating an unhealthy market.
In spite the lawsuit and criticizing Tesla even publicly which shows Nikola’s internal issues, the company claims to have $8 billion in reservations and pre-orders that they will return to the customers 100% and never use that money for company operations.
I highly doubt after returning this money they will be able to go into production at all and the $2 billion lawsuit against Tesla was their last resort at getting some sort of a profit from their efforts, the near future will tell.
Elon Musk said in the Q1 2018 Earnings Call yesterday that they have 2,000 Tesla Semi Truck pre-orders with deposits, this is way more than the publicly known 603 trucks pre-ordered to date in our online tracker.