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Nikola Shares Slides After Fuel Cell Chief Departs Electric Truckmaker

Electric truckmaking start-up Nikola lost another key executive this month with the departure of industry veteran Jesse Schneider.

Nikola Corp  (NKLA) - Get Nikola Corporation Report shares moved lower Wednesday amid reports that a key executive in charge of the electric truck maker's fuel cell development had left the company earlier this month.

Industry veteran Jesse Schneider, who was hired as the group's vice president of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in 2018, left Nikola on April 1, Bloomberg reported. Schneider's verified Linkedin account suggests he is now the founder, CEO and CTO at Zev Station, a "fast-moving startup to fuel ZEV vehicles" based in California.

Fuel cells using hydrogen extracted from water using electrolysis are seen by some analysts as key to the transport industry's clean-energy ambitions and the government's desire to lower carbon emissions. 

President Joe Biden's $2.25 trillion infrastructure bill is expected to include around $175 billion to accelerate the electric vehicle and renewable power industries in the United States, although critics argue that it doesn't go far enough in specifically promoting green hydrogen technologies. 

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Nikola shares were marked 4.6% lower in mid-day trading Wednesday in New York to change hands at $12.80 each, a move that extends the stock's four month decline to around 65%.

Reports of Schneider's departure followed news that former founder and CEO Trever Milton -- who left the group last year -- sold $48.6 million worth of Nikola shares Tuesday, but did not collect any cash from the transaction, according to Securities & Exchange Commission filings.

Nikola shares plunged last fall after Milton stepped down amid allegations of fraud levied by noted short seller Hindenburg Research.

Milton, who was replaced by former General Motors'  (GM) - Get General Motors Company Report vice chairman Stephen Girsky, was accused by Hindenburg of orchestrating an "intricate fraud built on dozens of lies", citing data from phone calls, text messages and emails that it says detail dozens of false statements

Hindenburg also claims Milton hyped his company's battery technology after becoming aware of issues related to a planned acquisition in October of last year, all of which the 39-year old entrepreneur has strenuously denied even as reports emerged of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and a Department of Justice probe into the claims.