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At some point on Trevor's visit to Oregon, Paul remembers when his partner Bob asked, "What if we took it one step further? What if we tried to make a fully electric, zero emission truck rather than a hybrid? Trevor, he said, "I don't give a shit about the environment.
I just want to make money. Ben Foldy: Years later, when he would be called to testify as a witness in Trevor's federal fraud trial, Paul recalled this anecdote for the jury. In court, Trevor's lawyers questioned whether this kind of conversation would've shocked Paul pointing to examples where Paul himself used explicit language online. But Paul testified he wasn't just taken aback by the language, but by the sentiment.
Paul told us that he became an engineer in part to fight climate change. Paul says that for a moment, it felt strange teaming up with someone whose motivation seemingly were so different, but Trevor's idea still represented a really big opportunity to move the needle on cleaner transportation, so the engineers from Oregon decided to team up with him to help him build this unique truck.
Right away though, Paul says that working with Trevor, it was proving difficult. Paul Lackey: As we started working on this, Trevor got a little bit more scary, I would say. He would get very hostile if we were missing a deadline or something. And so, we were a little bit intimidated of him as time went on. Ben Foldy: But for the most part, the engineers from Oregon say they were able to look past this kind of thing.
The work was its own reward. To them, the truck Trevor envisioned had a real shot at being a very, very impressive piece of engineering and a proof of concept that could kickstart the electrification of heavy transportation.
Bob and Paul say that they were shipping the components they made in their Oregon shop to Nikola in Salt Lake City through the end of At that point, Paul says what they saw was mostly a bunch of unassembled parts scattered around a warehouse. Paul Lackey: The stuff that we had shipped them was sitting in the corner of this empty warehouse on the same pallets we had shipped them on. It was pretty obvious that there was no truck imminent. Ben Foldy: In May , Nikola decided it was time to come out of stealth mode.
That's what startup founders call it when they keep their company secret. Nikola put out a flurry of press releases to tell the world what the company had in store. One simply announced that Nikola was going to transform the transportation industry. Another announced the hybrid electric truck Bob and Paul had been working on, christened the Nikola One and said that the company was taking reservations for it.
Then in August, Nikola made its two most ambitious announcements yet. First, the company put out a press release that said that Nikola One had achieved zero emissions, which to Bob and Paul just raised more questions. Paul Lackey: That was really surprising and we spent some time speculating on how he was going to make this zero emissions.
Ben Foldy: Just a few weeks later in another press release, Nikola provided the answer. The Nikola One would be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. The hydrogen fuel cell is a big deal in clean energy circles. The technology is an old one.
It's been around since the s. It uses a chemical reaction to combine hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, with oxygen, the most abundant element on earth. In the process, it creates electricity, heat, and water. Remember, Trevor's original idea was to build an electric truck with a natural gas turbine.
It would be cleaner than a diesel, but it wouldn't be emission-free. But if the truck used a fuel cell instead, the only byproduct would be water. I asked Paul. Just to make clear, there's a big difference between a hydrogen fuel cell and a nat gas turbine, which is itself a pretty complex system? Paul Lackey: Yeah. Those are completely different technologies. Both of them are hard, but they're hard in different ways.
The idea that they would get hydrogen working anytime soon was ridiculous. It's like, "How is he going to do hydrogen? Where did he come up with that idea? We have no hydrogen anything that we're working on. Bob Simpson: At that point, we were all just in the dark, just holding our breath. Ben Foldy: Again, Bob. Bob Simpson: What was going to happen come December 1st? What was he going to say? Because I knew he had people scheduled up, hundreds of people coming in and staying in hotels and it was going to be a big event.
Ben Foldy: The engineers from Oregon say they started working full time in Utah for eight weeks leading up to the reveal. A few days before the big show, Bob and Paul say that a sleek white cab was put on the truck, but they also say that the shiny new cab was masking the fact that underneath, not only were the truck's metal housings for gears and motors totally empty, it also didn't have a fuel cell in it or anything else relating to hydrogen.
They say they watched as Nikola- Paul Lackey: Brought in an artist who stenciled H2 for hydrogen on the truck, even though there was no hydrogen technology, not only in this truck, but not under development either. Ben Foldy: They say the truck, as it was, couldn't possibly drive. In fact, Bob and Paul told me the truck needed to be plugged into an extension cord for the headlights to turn on, but from the audience, it would look exactly like the truck of the future Trevor said it was.
Paul says he was so ready to get out of there to get back to his family and distance himself from Trevor that he didn't even stick around for the unveiling. Bob on the other hand, Bob says he was too intrigued to leave and that he'd volunteered to be the guy who crawled onto the stage to plug in the truck. Bob Simpson: I was very, very curious. And so, I stayed on purpose for the event. I mean, I didn't have to, but I wanted to be there and I wanted to be on stage and see the whole thing splash out formally.
Ben Foldy: December 1, , the day the Nikola One would be shown to the world and the kickoff of a two-day presentation about the truck. You can still watch videos of the entire event online. This event would be a hotly contested part of Trevor's fraud trial. Clips from these videos would be presented as evidence in that trial by both sides. In the video of the main event, the truck's unveiling on the first night, you can see that the Nikola headquarters in Salt Lake City looks like it's hosting a Silicon Valley style product reveal.
A rotating stage is flanked by massive screens. There's elaborate stage light. When Trevor Milton's introduced, the room goes completely dark except for a set of spotlights that light his path as he trots up onto the stage. He's wearing a tight blue button down with the sleeves rolled up. He's got a big smile on his face. Trevor Milton: Wow. A good crowd out here tonight. Thank you. I appreciate it. This is a really incredible time. It's on stage covered by a giant white sheet. He tells the audience that the truck they're about to see, it's going to change the world.
Trevor Milton: One of the tasks in life that we have as entrepreneurs is to be able to take risks that no one else thought was possible, that no one ever thought that they could ever do. The consequences would be too great, but we took it and we achieved.
It's a really incredible story of our time. Ben Foldy: He goes on to talk about Nikola's innovative technology, the hydrogen fuel cell that he says is in the truck, how it's so much better than diesel. Imagine a diesel engine, you're much, much lower, a turbine, you're much, much lower. Ben Foldy: He tries giving details about the fuel cell. Ben Foldy: But Trevor seems to forget on stage what the acronym stands for, a proton exchange membrane, which creates a strange moment where Trevor just ad-libs.
Paul, echo, mango, whatever, I don't know the terminology. I'll let you guys figure that out. PEM, fuel cell. On board, there's Ben Foldy: Trevor talks for over 20 minutes and then it's time for the big moment. Time to show the Nikola One to the world. Music builds, and as the strings crescendo, the white sheet covering the truck is pulled off. Trevor Milton: Oh, that thing is so awesome. Oh, we've been waiting so long to show this to the world. You have no idea. It's hard to even contain my emotion about this.
Ben Foldy: The truck sitting on the center of the stage, the truck that's making Trevor emotional, it looks like it's from some sci-fi movie about the truckers of tomorrow. The cab's gleaming white curves with dark angular windows make it look like a Stormtrooper's helmet from Star Wars. On its side, the words H2, zero emission, hydrogen electric are written in a clean, bold font. Trevor Milton: Hydrogen's the most, it's really the only few out there doesn't create any emissions or byproducts, incredible.
The only byproduct's water. As this truck goes down the road, the only thing coming out of this truck will be drips of water. Ben Foldy: As he's extolling the truck's benefits, Trevor tells the audience he does have one worry. Trevor Milton: We will have a chain on the seats to prevent people from coming in just for the safety. I don't want someone to end up doing something and driving this truck off the stage.
It's a little expensive. You could probably buy a jet with what it costs to build this thing. We're going to try to keep people from driving off, but this thing fully functions and works, which is really incredible. Ben Foldy: Trevor invites the then governor of Utah, Gary Herbert up on stage to share in the moment. Trevor Milton: I want to bring up the governor of Utah who is here tonight. If you can come up, Gary, I appreciate it. Ben Foldy: On stage, standing next to the governor, Trevor closes with a promise.
Trevor Milton: I wanted to thank everyone for coming out to this event. It means more to me than anything, and this truck will come to market, I can promise you that. For every doubter out there that said that there's no way this is true, how can that be possible? We've done it. Ben Foldy: Bob Simpson, who is standing off to the side of the stage says he was looking on in disbelief. Bob Simpson: He's telling everybody something that this truck is not. There was nothing hydrogen about this truck.
This is a lie that you can't hide. There's too many people that know about it. Trevor Milton: It's my pleasure to actually let you guys enjoy the night, see the truck, know it's real. Touch it. Feel how sturdy it is. You're going to see that this is a real truck. This is not a pusher. Thank you so much everyone. Come here, buddy. Ben Foldy: Watching the replay of the event online, I can almost feel the enthusiasm in that room. It radiates off the screen. People are taking photos, several get out of their chairs to applaud, a standing ovation for a semi truck.
It seems like a moment of triumph for Trevor. The defense at his trial said that because the company was years away from being publicly traded, the events surrounding the reveal were irrelevant to whether or not Trevor committed securities fraud. But a jury decided that this was the scene of a crime, and that Trevor's language about the truck being drivable constituted part of his fraud. A few days after the event, Bob was back in Oregon with Paul and Paul says they were just waiting for Trevor to tell him to get back to work and what the next steps would be.
Paul Lackey: What I expected was an email the next day saying, "All right, everybody back to Salt Lake City and let's get this thing running before people figure out that it doesn't work. The engineers from Oregon eventually went back to work designing components for other electric vehicle projects.
They say they tried their best to move on from Nikola. For Trevor though, the success of the Nikola One debut was something to build on. It was a smash hit. On the Jimmy Rex Show Podcast the following year, he said it was- Trevor Milton: Probably the most successful private launch of a product in American history. Ben Foldy: He would soon say that within just a few months of the unveiling, Nikola was racking up billions of dollars in pre-orders for the Nikola One.
Trevor Milton: I got the opportunity to be able to build a company that is turned into this worldwide phenomenon. Ben Foldy: An internal review by Nikola would later say these orders were non-binding and that orders for several hundred trucks were from companies whose existence could not be confirmed. Nikola was nonetheless asking for incentives to build a factory to fulfill all those pre-orders. I called someone who says he heard Trevor's pitch first hand.
Can you hear us? Gary Herbert: I can hear you, yes. Ben Foldy: Great. Former governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, the same governor who Trevor called on stage at the end of the Nikola One reveal. Governor Herbert told me that around the same time behind the scenes, Trevor was trying to get Utah to give Nikola a large incentive package to build its factory there. He said Trevor asked for other things as well like for the state to order 1, trucks and buy a facility for Nikola.
The state said no. I'm curious, did that stand out? Was that an ambitious ask? Gary Herbert: Well, oh, sure. It was all ambitious, but it was really unprecedented. That's not how we do things in Utah. We have incentive programs. We never do anything up-front.
Ben Foldy: Governor Herbert said a state committee evaluated Nikola's request and rejected it. When Governor Herbert talked to Trevor about it, he said Trevor then made a harder sale. Gary Herbert: He said, "Well, we're going to go to Tennessee instead. They're ready to take us on and help us where you are not willing to. I'd like to stay in Utah, really want to stay in Utah and it's my home state, but we're going to have to go where we can get the incentive.
Ben Foldy: A spokesperson for then Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam told us the state's economic development team met with Nikola but did not pursue the project. At the event to announce the move, Nikola showed a video. In it, the Nikola One, the same white truck that Bob and Paul had worked on was cruising on a desert highway pulling a trailer.
Panoramic drone shots and the mountain backdrop give the clip a real sense of speed. The company also posted the footage on Twitter where Bob and Paul saw it and they say that they were completely bewildered. Paul Lackey: My first thought was, "Did they get that thing working? Paul Lackey: I hadn't talked to anybody from there for almost a year. And so, I texted my friend and asked, "Hey, did you get this truck up and running? Trevor started talking a lot about Nikola's plan to start making all the hydrogen to fuel those trucks as well.
Trevor Milton: The biggest difference we've been able to do is disrupt the whole supply chain. Nikola doesn't just build the hydrogen electric truck from the ground up, but we also build the hydrogen stations that go with it. It's the chicken and the egg. Ben Foldy: The chicken and the egg. This idea was central to Trevor's vision for the company in the years following the Nikola One reveal.
Remember, hydrogen fuel cells have been around since the s and fuel cells have been put in cars experimentally at least since You could buy a hydrogen car right now, but unless you live in California, you probably wouldn't have anywhere to fill it up. That's because no one's made clean hydrogen fuel at affordable prices in the U.
Trevor said Nikola planned to do just that. He wanted Nikola to make both the trucks and the fuel. It was as if the company's business plan was to be the next Ford Motor and the next ExxonMobil. As Trevor cast his vision for Nikola's future, other companies started wanting to get in on it. Nikola developed partnerships with some huge names in global manufacturing, companies like Bosch.
How did I do that? I proved the fuel cell could work and I turned around and I said, "Hey, I've got this thing. Let's do it. It did say it "invested in early funding rounds for Nikola because it believes in the possibilities of hydrogen technology. With partners like Bosch, Nikola was getting access to the kind of engineering firepower and cash that would help it develop prototypes of new trucks, prototypes that could actually drive. I think this is one of the most crucial parts of the story to understand.
I remember later, when Nikola was getting called out by skeptics for allegedly overhyping its technology, people were asking if Nikola was like Theranos, the company whose founder was later convicted of misleading investors over its blood testing technology. But what happened here is far more interesting than that, because unlike Theranos, Nikola in this moment didn't require some big technological breakthrough.
The technology already existed even if it wasn't practical yet. Though according to Bob and Paul, while the Nikola One might not have been everything Trevor claimed it was, there is actually a world in which everything Trevor envisioned for Nikola could become reality. Through , the company raised hundreds of millions of dollars and continued making big deals with big companies gaining access to technology and manufacturing partners. By the end of , Nikola still hadn't made a truck for production yet, but Trevor said the company was well on its way, that the first trucks would be on the road soon.
To reach the kind of scale that Trevor planned for Nikola though, plans that involved building hundreds of hydrogen stations in addition to thousands of trucks, the company would need a lot more money. In early , Nikola announced the company's biggest move yet.
The company was about to go public and it would do so during one of the wildest stock market environments in history. Speaker 9: Many of the top stocks on Robinhood have seen triple digit returns in the past month. Speaker What do you guys think? Nikola Motors, are they the next Tesla? Ben Foldy: That's after the break.
In March while the US was starting to shut down from the spread of a new coronavirus, Trevor and Nikola were staying active. Nikola had just announced that it would go public in the next few months. I'm still trying to work on it guys, but I'm going to get it right. Ben Foldy: With the pandemic looming. The floor of the exchange behind Trevor in the video is bereft of its usual hustle and bustle. There are three people behind the news desk.
There's Trevor in his characteristic Nikola polo shirt. And a third man, a member of Nikola's board of directors, a suave looking guy in a suit and tie, longish gray hair pushed behind his ears. Ben Foldy: Jeff Ubben is a notable name in the finance world.
He's famous for being an activist investor, which means he and his firm ValueAct would buy large stakes in companies and push to implement his ideas on how they should be run. ValueAct had just made a sizable investment in Nikola with Jeff taking a seat on Nikola's board. We reached out to Jeff Ubben for comment and we didn't get a response. Activist investors like Jeff can sometimes be at odds with company's executives, but at Nikola, Jeff says he was aligned with Trevor's vision.
In that CNBC interview, Jeff says he used his influence on Nikola's board to help convince Trevor that now was the right time to go public. He says that with enough capital, Nikola has the chance to grow into one of the most valuable companies in the world. But the way Trevor and Nikola decided to go public might have been a key reason for his conviction. The normal process to go public, listing your company to an IPO, it's a cumbersome one. It can take years to prepare with lots of legal review and back and forth with the SEC.
Trevor Milton and Jeff Ubben say that they chose a quicker way because there was a hot new trending capital market. Speaker SPACs have burst into the mainstream this year. It stands for a special purpose acquisition company. It's kind of a go public quick alternative to an IPO. A SPAC is essentially a publicly traded shell company with a pile of cash. It's listed on a stock exchange but doesn't have an actual operating business. For this reason, they're often called blank-check companies. Here's how they work.
SPACs go public and raise money from investors by promising to buy a private company with that cash. The private company gets new funding and a public listing with less scrutiny than a traditional IPO. Investors in the SPAC hope the combined company is a big hit. Now in the house, she crossed her legs and watched TV while Gina talked with her mother in the kitchen.
Alex was moving towards the dinning table when he saw her, he paused then moved closer "Hey Jess.. I didn't know you were home" "But you knew I was moving out and didn't even bother to call" he accused as he came to sit "My bad, just had a lot of stuff going on. I understand. I like it" She smiled, she had decided to go with a shorter haido this time and was glad with the outcome..
I guess your the hottest bachelor in town now, with your new job and all..
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