Electric vehicles are taking a front-seat role in the clean-tech revolution. Their potential for helping the planet avert a climate catastrophe by reducing carbon emissions has been recognized by industry and governments alike. This has led to a proliferation of startups racing to produce EVs that can rival the traditional gas-guzzlers in functionality and range.
As often happens with a young industry building next generation technology, industry players have been in the limelight with startlingly massive valuations and blockbuster IPOs. Some companies are faring better than others, as they face setbacks in the form of unmet production targets, supply chain concerns, and even outright corporate fraud. But last year, the industry’s optimism was turbocharged by decisive action from the White House and Congress.
The Biden administration established the goal for at least half of all vehicles sold in the U.S to be electric by 2030. It also required the federal government to stop purchasing gas-powered vehicles by 2035. Last November, congress passed a bipartisan infrastructure law, providing $7.5 billion for building a national network of electric vehicle charging stations.
Few industries enjoy such explicit support from the federal government, which puts EV companies on track for strong growth in the coming years. Here’s a look at what’s going on at four major U.S-based EV startups – including their recent hiring data, collected by our parent company Thinknum Alternative Data.
Tesla has long been synonymous with the EV industry as it is the largest producer of electric cars in the U.S and controls 70% of the market. In 2021, Tesla’s assembly lines delivered 936,000 vehicles and the company hired more than 28,500 full-time employees.
Its hiring spree continues into this year, with a 10% increase in job postings in the past three months. Elon Musk recently told the world that he will be releasing Tesla’s ‘Master Plan Part 3’, which may indicate major developments. Tesla’s previous two “master plans” outlined strategic big-picture goals for the company.
Rivian has been making a splash with its ambitions to dominate the electric pickup truck market and its recent IPO, which raised almost $14 billion. At the time it went public, the company was valued at more than automotive giants General Motors and Ford.
But the post-IPO months proved to be a harsh reality check for the company as supply chain woes forced it to downsize production goals, and its stock price contracted by more than 60%. So far, the company has delivered around 2,425 vehicles to customers, though it has tens of thousands of pre-orders.
It recently outraged customers and investors by announcing a retroactive price increase on pre-ordered vehicles, which it swiftly walked back following the public backlash. The production troubles and PR damage were likely the cause of Rivian’s stagnating hiring in recent months. Its jobs board now contains 15% less postings than it did a month ago.
The past few years have been rough for Nikola. The company had investors excited about its aspirations to produce an electric truck, bringing it to a $34 billion valuation when it went public in mid-2020. It has since seen its stock price tumble more than 80% after the SEC charged its CEO Trevor Milton with securities and wire fraud. The agency accused Milton of misleading investors about Nikola’s technological achievements and production capabilities in order to inflate its stock price. The company got off with a $125 million fine, while Milton’s trial is due to start in July.
Though the fraud charges did much damage to Nikola’s reputation, the company continues to operate and appears to be on the rebound from its troubles. A few months ago, it delivered its first two vehicles to a California-based port drayage company. And it hopes to produce up to 500 of its new battery-electric Tre BEV semi trucks by the end of the year.
Nikola’s hiring, however, has been dwindling in the past few months, which could mean the company isn’t entirely out of the woods. Its job postings have contracted by 38% since the beginning of January. Nikola runs a lean operation, with just 840 employees identified on Linkedin. Most of its workers are based in the Phoenix area, which is home to its headquarters and its main manufacturing facility.
Lucid Motors is looking to become Tesla's main competitor in the luxury EV market. Despite being around since 2007, Lucid began shipping its first product just last year. The Lucid Air sedan comes with a sleek aerodynamic exterior and a top speed of 168 miles. Most impressively, it can travel up to 500 miles on a single charge, a range that puts it ahead of all rival EVs.
Lucid went public through a SPAC merger early last year, and its stock has since more than doubled in price. In recent weeks, the company has been making moves to extend its reach and spread awareness about its product. Lucid launched a Youtube show about the technologies under the hood of its cars. It also sponsored this year’s Oscars by buying up TV ads that aired during the event. The company is now expanding its footprint by opening a dealership in Toronto, as it plans to begin shipping cars to Candians sometime this spring.
Lucid’s expansionary moves are translating into an increased headcount at the company. Thinknum’s data shows that it has been ramping up hiring recently, with the open positions count up almost 8% compared to what it was three months ago.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.