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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

General Motors will no longer take an equity stake in Nikola Corp. or build its pickup truck, under a revised deal that still envisions GM as a key tech supplier for Nikola's planned line of electric and fuel cell heavy trucks.

Driving the news: The revised agreement Monday is smaller in scope than a draft partnership rolled out in September that had included a $2 billion stake in the startup and an agreement to build its Badger pickup.

  • Under the nonbinding deal, the companies will work together to use GM's "Hydrotec" fuel-cell technology in Nikola's planned semitrucks.
  • In addition, they will "discuss the potential for the utilization of GM’s versatile Ultium battery system" in the vehicles, the announcement states.

Why it matters: The deal's future has been uncertain since Nikola was hit with allegations that now-departed founder and executive chairman Trevor Milton had made misleading or inaccurate statements.

Where it stands: In addition to dropping plans for the equity stake, the slimmed-down deal no longer involves GM building the pickup, and Nikola said it will refund customer deposits it had taken for the vehicle.

  • "[T]he Nikola Badger program was dependent on an OEM partnership," the announcement states, signaling that Nikola is not currently planning to proceed with the vehicle.

What they're saying: "The signing of GM as a partner is a positive but ultimately no ownership/equity stake in Nikola and the billions of R&D potentially now off the table is a major negative blow to the Nikola story," Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives said in a note.

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Dec 4, 2020 - Economy & Business

Clean trucks are paving the road to the electric vehicle era

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The electric vehicle revolution is underway, led by the un-sexiest of plug-in models: the commercial truck.

Why it matters: Growing demand for cleaner trucks means 2021 will be a pivotal year for electric vehicles — just not the kind you might have expected.

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Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

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Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

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The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."