Nikola head of fuel cell development leaves

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Nikola Corp., the troubled electric-truck startup, lost a key member of its executive team with the departure of the former head of its fuel cell development program.

The company said Jesse Schneider, executive vice president of technology, hydrogen and fuel cells, left the company as of April 1. He had led its engineering teams working on fuel cell systems, a planned hydrogen fueling station network and storage technology.

“Jesse Schneider departed on April 1 on very good terms and we wish him well,” Colleen Robar, a Nikola spokeswoman, said Wednesday in a text message.

Hydrogen-powered vehicles and the fueling network to support them is at the core of the Phoenix, Arizona-based company’s business model after it abandoned a planned pickup project with General Motors and development of powersports vehicles.

Shares of Nikola fell 4.5 percent to $12.63 in afternoon trading in New York.

Nikola is one of a number of companies looking at fuel cell technology to power commercial vehicles, alongside Toyota Motor Corp and Hyundai Motor Co. It is also working on a battery-electric semi truck with CNH Industrial NV’s Iveco unit, which is due to be be built in Ulm, Germany, at the end of this year. Nikola also has agreements with both GM and Robert Bosch Gmbh to use their fuel cell technology in its trucks.

Nikola’s hydrogen-powered truck is due to go into production at a factory under construction in Arizona starting in 2023. The company is also working on a network of hydrogen-fueling stations with the aim of building several hundred locations over the next decade. Installation of the first of those is due to start this quarter.

At the time of his hiring in April 2018, Nikola described Schneider as an “automotive industry veteran” with 20 years of experience working on fuel cells and electrification in multiple regions. He previously worked at both BMW AG and the former DaimlerChrysler, the U.S. unit of which is now part of Stellantis NV, according to his LinkedIn profile.

“It was my honor to lead the hydrogen and fuel cell development teams of the Nikola Two and soon-to-be-released Tre Fuel Cell prototypes with Iveco and Bosch,” Schneider said in an emailed statement. “I left Nikola with the purpose of starting a new company in California.”

His LinkedIn profile now lists him as CEO of ZEV Station, a startup working on renewable-energy-powered electric charging and hydrogen fueling stations.

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Saurabh Shukla

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