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Nikola Corp. announced that the company is no longer developing an electric garbage truck with waste management firm Republic Services.

Why it matters: It's the latest of several setbacks in recent months for Nikola, the once high-flying battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell truck company that went public mid-year in a reverse merger. Republican had placed a preliminary order for at least 2,500 vehicles in August.

Driving the news: "[B]oth companies determined that the combination of the various new technologies and design concepts would result in longer than expected development time, and unexpected costs," Nikola said in a statement.

Catch up fast: The announcement comes three weeks after General Motors dropped plans to take an equity stake in Nikola and build its Badger pickup truck, a vehicle that's now mothballed.

  • Under their revised agreement, GM will still be a key tech supplier for Nikola's planned line of electric and fuel cell heavy trucks.
  • More broadly, Nikola has faced a rocky road in recent months. Founder and executive chairman Trevor Milton stepped down in September following allegations over misleading or inaccurate statements.

Our thought bubble: Via Axios transportation reporter Joann Muller...This is a reminder to investors who have scooped up newly minted stock in various electric vehicle startups this year that searching for the next Tesla is a risky proposition. 

Nikola might yet succeed in hydrogen fuel cell trucks — its original idea — but the sky-high valuation assigned by Wall Street was based on hype. Investors beware: an EV bubble is a real possibility.

What they're saying: Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives, in a note, called the cancelled garbage truck order a "'gut punch' for investors that were hoping this monster order was a potential paradigm changer for Nikola."

  • But Nikola, in the announcement, emphasized that's plans for semi-trucks are going forward, including a target to begin U.S. deliveries of its Nikola Tre model next year.
  • "Nikola remains laser-focused on delivering on our battery-electric and fuel-cell electric commercial truck programs, and the energy infrastructure to support them," CEO Mark Russell said in a statement.

Go deeper: Wall Street is searching for electric vehicle gold

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

General Motors puts Trump in its rearview mirror

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

General Motors (GM) is racing to prepare itself for a president and a world that takes climate change more seriously — and putting the Trump era behind them in the process.

Driving the news: GM yesterday announced an ambitious plan to end global sales of internal combustion vehicles by 2035. It's part of their wider new pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040.

Jan 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

Transportation's next big thing: flying taxis

Photo: Joby Aviation

The next big thing in transportation could be electric flying taxis — think of a drone crossed with a helicopter — that would ferry people and goods high above congested roadways.

Why it matters: Air taxis are billed as a cheaper, faster, cleaner mode of transportation, and an important link between remote areas and population centers. But there are still technical and regulatory challenges to overcome — not to mention public skepticism.

China deems all cryptocurrency transactions illegal

A person walking past China's central bank in Beijing in August 2007. Photo: Teh Eng Koon/AFP via Getty Images

China's central bank declared on Friday that all cryptocurrencies are illegal, banning crypto-related transactions and cryptocurrency mining, according to Reuters.

Why it matters: China's government is now following through with its goal of cracking down on unofficial virtual currencies, which it has said are a financial, social and national security risk and a contributor to global warming.