Zero-emission truck startup Nikola Motor Company was recently awarded a $2 million grant from the Department of Energy. The grant comes just weeks after Nikola founder Trevor Milton was indicted on charges of fraud.
Per a report from The Verge, the new grant was made through the DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy transportation office as part of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells R&D program. The funding will be directed towards research into autonomous refueling technologies for hydrogen refilling stations.
The latest round of government funding for Nikola arrives as part of a broader initiative to develop clean energy technologies, a central focus of the Biden administration. In addition, a loan program aimed at similar goals has been revived after laying inactive since the first years of the Obama administration. The loan program previously provided funding for notorious failed clean energy startups, including solar cell company Solyndra and hybrid vehicle producer Fisker Automotive, as well as successful companies like Tesla.
“If you want to have the leading electric vehicle manufacturer in the world… you’ll have to make multiple bets,” said the head of the new loan program, Jigar Shah, back in March. “And some of those bets will lead to losses.”
In September of last year, Nikola came under scrutiny after a report from short-seller Hindenburg Research accused the startup of fraud. The accusations were published just a few days after announcement that Nikola was engaged in a new strategic partnership with General Motors, the latter of which would have resulted in GM engineering, validating, homologating, and building the new Nikola Badger electric pickup truck. In the wake of the Hindenberg report, GM abandoned its deal with Nikola, while Nikola founder Trevor Milton would resign shortly thereafter.
An internal investigation at Nikola later confirmed that Milton had indeed lied, while the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission opened subsequent investigations, levying charges again the former Nikola executive.