Nikola Sues Tesla

Nikola Motor Company, a maker of hybrid trucks, alleges that Tesla stole Nikola’s patented design for Musk’s all electric semi-truck.Nikola OneNikola Motor Company is suing Tesla for copying its Nikola One semi-truck, pictured here. Photo: Nikola Motor Company

The Salt Lake City company alleged in its lawsuit when it first released photographs of the design of its own truck – which is powered by hydrogen fuel cells – on May 9, 2016, Tesla had not announced any plans to build its own semi. The first announcement of such a development came only on July 20, 2016, 72 days later, when Musk said so on the Tesla blog, as a part of his “Master Plan Part Deux.”

“In addition to consumer vehicles, there are two other types of electric vehicle needed: heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport. Both are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year. Many are wondering if those who buy these products will read more about the options to keep track of them once they’re out on the road. That’s up to them. We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate,” Musk said at the time. It may not be long until we start seeing these kinds of vehicles in fleets around the country. With a big fleet of trucks, it’s wise to ensure that they’re running as they should which is why something like fleet maintenance in Houston, TX, is favored among businesses with a large number of such vehicles under them to avoid breakdowns on the job.

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The lawsuit goes on to allege Tesla reached out to Nikola’s chief engineer Kevin Lynk in September 2016, apparently in a bid to hire him, but Nikola never responded to the invitation. A few months later, in April 2017, Tesla released a teaser image of its upcoming semi.

Tesla SemiTesla’s new electric semi truck is unveiled during a presentation in Hawthorne, California, Nov. 16, 2017. Photo: REUTERS/Alexandria Sage

Seeing that image, Nikola wrote to Tesla, pointing out similarities to its own patented truck design features, and asked Tesla not to unveil the vehicle till such time as any claims of patent infringement were not settled. This time, Tesla never responded.

Tesla has not filed any patents to protect the design of its semi-truck, while Nikola received six patents between February and April this year, for its first vehicle, Nikola One. Specifically, Nikola alleged Tesla copied the design of its wrap windshield, aerodynamic fuselage, and mid-entry doors, all features it claims are firsts in the trucking industry. It also said the front fender and overall design were copied as well.

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