What happened

Shares of electric commercial-vehicle maker Workhorse Group (NASDAQ:WKHS) were up sharply for the fifth-straight session on Wednesday. There was no news, and the rise was counter to the market's broad-based decline on renewed coronavirus concerns. But the rush to buy the company's shares might have a lot to do with a potential rival to Nikola (NASDAQ:NKLA) and its upcoming electric pickup truck.

As of 2:30 p.m. EDT, Workhorse's shares were up about 39% from Tuesday's closing price.

So what

Workhorse is a small maker of battery-electric commercial vans, some of which can be operated in conjunction with a package-delivery drone. The company has relationships with big fleet operators like United Parcel Service and FedEx, which are testing its technology -- but at least right now, it's not a big operation. Workhorse expects to deliver just 300 to 400 vehicles in 2020. 

So why the investor excitement? I think it's partly because Workhorse owns 10% of another start-up, Lordstown Motors, that's gearing up to launch its own battery-electric work vehicles, including a pickup. On Wednesday, Bloomberg published a report on Lordstown Motors that mentioned the connection to Workhorse. 

A silver Lordstown Endurance, an electric pickup truck.

Workhorse owns 10% of Lordstown Motors, which is gearing up to launch an electric pickup to rival Nikola's. Image source: Lordstown Motors.

Lordstown Motors is the company that bought General Motors' shuttered factory in Lordstown, Ohio. It's hoping to get its own electric pickup into production next year, making it a direct rival to (among others) the Badger pickup that Nikola is expected to reveal next week. 

It's an intriguing company -- but right now, it isn't public. I think auto investors are buying Workhorse shares in part because of growing excitement about Lordstown Motors.

Now what

Earlier this week, Workhorse received U.S. government approval to begin production and sales of its C-Series, a line of electric delivery vans that has drawn considerable interest. But the week's biggest electric-truck news may be coming from Lordstown Motors: It plans to debut its electric pickup, called the Endurance, tomorrow.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.