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Electric TrucksNewsTrucking

Struggling battery startup Romeo Power taps veteran executive for CEO

Despite solid order book, momentum elusive for commercial truck battery maker

Editor’s Note: Clarifies Nikola plans for additional battery cell supplier

Lionel Selwood Jr. is out as the president and CEO at startup commercial truck battery pack maker Romeo Power Inc., replaced by 30-year auto and energy industries veteran Susan Brennan.

Selwood, who became CEO about a year ago, led the company through its public debut sponsored by special purpose acquisition company RMG Acquisition Corp. Romeo received $384 million before expenses with an enterprise value of $900 million when the business combination closed last December.

Selwood is stepping down and leaving the Romeo board to pursue new opportunities, the company said. He rose through the ranks to the top job and will stay on as senior adviser and consultant to facilitate a smooth leadership transition.

“Lionel has worked tirelessly over the last four and a half years, and past year as CEO, to help Romeo Power successfully become a publicly traded company and achieve key strategic commercial and supply chain partnerships,” Robert Mancini, Romeo board chairman and CEO of RMG Capital which created the SPAC to merge with Romeo, said in a press release Friday.

Even with $525 million in confirmed orders and a five-year supply agreement for battery power systems for the heavy-duty battery-electric Peterbilt 579EV and 520EV refuse trucks, Romeo (NYSE: RMO) could not sustain momentum.

EV infrastructure shares under pressure

Romeo shares closed Friday at $6.64, after nearly touching $40 on Dec. 28, two days before it began trading publicly.

Romeo is not alone in taking a hit to its stock price despite the likelihood of Congress passing a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that includes billions for electric infrastructure. Electric bus maker Proterra Inc. (NASDAQ: PRTA), which is building battery and charging businesses, has seen its shares fall by nearly 50% since mid-June.

“Romeo Power is on the path towards significant advancement in the EV battery market, with the goal of powering the transition to full electrification of commercial and industrial vehicles,” Mancini said.

Veteran leadership

The Romeo board, which includes representatives from investors BorgWarner Inc. (NYSE: BWA) and Republic Services Group (NYSE: RSG), chose Brennan based on her decades of operations experience.

Brennan most recently held the role of chief operations officer at Bloom Energy Corp. (NYSE: BE), which manufactures and markets solid oxide fuel cells that produce electricity on-site. She will take over Aug. 16, the day Romeo will report its Q2 earnings.  

Before Bloom Energy, she was vice president of manufacturing at Nissan Motor Co. (OTC: NSANY) after spending 13 years at Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) in roles that included director of manufacturing operations.

“Her direct experience helping scale Bloom Energy from a distributed power startup to a fully operational public company makes her ideally suited to lead Romeo Power as it grows to meet the needs of the most demanding commercial vehicle manufacturers,” Mancini said.

Book of business

Romeo nearly doubled the size of its order book last November when it signed a five-year production contract with Canada’s Lion Electric Co. Romeo expects to book $234 million in revenue from equipping Lion’s Class 6-8 commercial trucks and buses. The company recently expanded its 113,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Los Angeles.

In January, Romeo signed a deal with Heritage Environmental Services that should lead to fleet sales of 500 electric trucks by 2025, with a long-term goal of electrifying 2,000 trucks.

Nikola Corp. (NASDAQ: NKLA), which was ordering battery packs for its prototype Class 8 electric cabover truck, hinted during an earnings call Tuesday at finding an additional battery cell supplier.

“Going to 2022 … we are relying on more than just one source in terms of our battery cells,” CEO Mark Russell said. “We have recently started having detailed discussions with respect to [a] battery cell supplier, where we could receive significant battery cells.”

Romeo will remain in Nikola’s future plans but not exclusively.

Competition intensifies for commercial vehicle battery makers

GSCW chat recap: Romeo Power CEO on importance of CV batteries

BorgWarner plans 15X growth in electrification revenue by 2030

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is a Detroit-based award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press, the Detroit Free Press and most recently as Detroit Bureau Chief for Trucks.com. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.

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