Electric tractor-trailer maker Nikola has agreed to be acquired by a NASDAQ-listed shell company, a move that will take it public in the second quarter of 2020.

The acquirer, VectoIQ Acquisition (VTIQ), is a shell company led by former General Motors (NYSE: GM) Vice Chairman Stephen Girsky. VectoIQ has been searching for a "partner" company in the clean-transportation space for two years, Girsky said.

A Nikola One, a long-haul heavy truck powered by a hydrogen fuel cell

Nikola's heavy trucks are powered by electricity. Image source: Nikola.

About Nikola

Nikola has developed a series of heavy trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells, devices that chemically convert the energy in hydrogen gas to electricity. It also has battery-electric heavy trucks in development, using a proprietary new battery technology that attracted at $250 million investment from CNH Industrial's (NYSE: CNHI) IVESCO unit last year. 

Nikola said that it expects to launch the battery-electric truck next year, with the fuel-cell-powered trucks expected to follow in 2023. The company has more than 14,000 pre-orders for its trucks, representing over $10 billion in potential revenue. 

About the deal

The combined company will be renamed "Nikola Corporation" and will trade on the NASDAQ exchange under the ticker "NKLA". Nikola's founder and current CEO, Trevor Milton, will become executive chairman of the combined company, with current chief operating officer, Mark Russell, taking over as CEO. Girsky will join the board of directors. 

The transaction includes a $525 million private placement of stock to investors including Fidelity Management and Research Company, ValueAct Spring Fund, and P. Schoenfield Asset Management. 

The deal implies an enterprise value of $3.3 billion for Nikola. It's expected to close in the second quarter of 2020.