In 2020 and early 2021, electric vehicle (EV) stocks delivered enormous gains for investors. Boosted by enthusiasm for sustainable investments, many EV stocks generated triple-digit returns.
With valuations across the EV sector elevated, short sellers have turned their attention to this area of the market. This year, we have seen a number of critical short reports in relation to electric vehicle start-ups.
In this report, we are going to highlight five electric vehicle stocks that short sellers are targeting right now. These stocks all have very high levels of short interest which indicates that there could be downside risk ahead.
Let’s start with Lordstown Motors (RIDE:US). It’s an automotive company that’s in the process of developing an all-electric pickup truck. Its flagship vehicle, the ‘Endurance’ is set to go into production in the fall of 2021. Currently, the company has a market cap of about $2.3 billion.
Looking at the short selling data on Lordstown Motors, there are several red flags. One is that short interest is extremely high. Currently, 51% of Lordstown’s free float is being shorted.
Another red flag is that utilization is very high at 99.86%. Utilization is the number of loaned shares divided by the available shares in the securities lending market, expressed as a percentage. Essentially, it’s a measure of demand for shares from short sellers. A reading of 99.86% tells us that demand for the stock on the short side is intense at present.
A third issue to be aware of is that the cost to borrow stock is also very high at 36.97%. This confirms that there’s a lot of interest in this stock from short sellers at present.
It’s worth noting that in March, short selling firm Hindenburg Research published a scathing report on Lordstown Motors. In this report, it claimed that Lordstown’s orders are “largely fictitious” and that the EV company may have “misled investors” in relation to both demand and production capabilities.
Given the attention from short sellers here, we think caution is warranted towards Lordstown Motors stock right now.
Another electric vehicle stock that is being targeted by short sellers at present is Nikola Corporation (NKLA:US). It’s in the process of developing a range of commercial EVs including a cab-over truck and a fuel-cell sleeper for long-haul applications. Currently, it has a market cap of about $6.8 billion.
The short selling data here also looks quite concerning. Currently, the stock has short interest of 47.05%, utilization of 90.63%, and a cost to borrow of 14.994%. This data tells us that short sellers expect the stock to fall.
Nikola made headlines in September last year after Hindenburg Research published a critical report on the company, alleging a range of misdeeds. The report claimed that Nikola had presented a prototype truck as being closer to market than it actually is and that the company has made false statements about possessing proprietary technology to form partnerships with large automakers. NKLA stock fell from around $42 to $32 on the back of the report, losing nearly a quarter of its value. Regulators followed up the short report with an investigation into the company.
After Hindenburg released its short report, we did see some insider buying here. However, this has not helped the share price. Currently, the stock is about 70% below its all-time highs.
Canoo Inc (GOEV:US) has also been the focus of short sellers recently. It’s an American electric vehicle start-up that is developing a range of minivans and pick-up trucks. The company, which came to the market via a SPAC deal in 2020, expects to launch its first vehicle in 2022. It currently has a market cap of around $2.1 billion.
Looking at the short selling data on Canoo, we can see that 29.3 million shares are on loan at present. That represents approximately 30% of the free float. Utilization and the cost to borrow are both high, at 98.27% and 27.315% respectively.
Aside from the high level of short interest, there are a few red flags here. One is that the company is currently being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The investigation is in relation to the company’s recent SPAC deal as well as its operations, business model, revenues, revenue strategy, customer agreements, and earnings.
Another issue is that recently, the CEO, CFO, and Chief Lawyer all resigned.
Given these red flags, we think caution is warranted towards Canoo stock right now.
Turning to the EV battery space, QuantumScape Corp (QS:US) is also being targeted by short sellers at the moment. It’s a technology company that is engaged in solid-state lithium-metal battery development for use in electric vehicles. Currently, it has a market cap of around $11.6 billion.
Our short selling data shows that at present, 30.9 million QS shares are on loan. That represents around 18% of the company’s free float. Utilization is 92.6% while the cost to borrow is 11.23%.
In April this year, activist short seller Scorpion Capital published a scathing report on QuantumScape entitled ‘A Pump and Dump SPAC Scam By Silicon Valley Celebrities, That Makes Theranos Look Like Amateurs.’ In this report, Scorpion claimed that QuantumScape’s key scientific and technical claims are “misleading, grossly exaggerated, or fraudulent,” and that there are red flags around scaling manufacturability. It also said that there were “warning signs of a pump and dump.”
In light of this report, we see the high level of short interest here as bearish.
XL Fleet Corporation
Finally, we have also recently spotted some bearish short selling activity at XL Fleet (XL:US). It’s a provider of vehicle electrification solutions for commercial fleets in North America. It currently has a market cap of $1.1 billion.
An analysis of short selling data on XL Fleet reveals that at present, 36.8 million XL shares are on loan. This represents about 38% of the company’s free float. Since the beginning of April, short selling transactions have increased significantly. Utilization is 98.13% which tells us that demand for the stock from short sellers is very high.
In early March, short selling firm Muddy Waters published a report on XL Fleet entitled ‘XL Fleet Corp (NYSE XL): More SPAC Trash’. In this report, Muddy Waters claimed that XL’s customer base is “grossly overstated” and that XL’s management “systematically inflates” the company’s backlog. Muddy Waters concluded by saying that it gives “very little credence” to the narrative that XL Fleet will be a serious player in full vehicle electrification.
Given the high level of short interest here, we think investors need to approach this stock carefully.
Short Sellers Expect EV Stocks to Fall
In conclusion, it’s clear to see that the electric vehicle sector is the focus of the short selling community right now. Across the sector, there are many stocks with concerning levels of short interest.
Short sellers don’t always get it right, of course. However, given that valuations across the sector are still very high, relative to production numbers and revenues, we think a degree of caution is warranted towards electric vehicle stocks at present.