this summer became more valuable than
Ford Motor Co.
on big promises made by its then-executive chairman and the enthusiasm of small investors.
Now, with the executive chairman gone and shares of the electric truck maker down about 80% from their peak, the company must rely on the strength of its business model. That model attracted auto sector luminaries, big-name investors and industry giants. But it depends on delivering big technological advances and dramatic cost reductions.
Founded in 2015 by Trevor Milton, the company is one of several startups competing to find ways to accelerate the move to clean energy in the auto industry. Nikola has specifically targeted trucks, which have been more challenging because of the weight of batteries needed to power them. While Nikola plans to use batteries at first, Mr. Milton focused on the potential of hydrogen as a source of non-fossil-fuel energy