Nikola (pronounced Neek-oh-la) Motor Company, named after the famous electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, was quietly formed by Founder and CEO Trevor Milton years ago to design and manufacture electric vehicles, energy storage systems and electric vehicle drivetrain components.
With the first working prototypes displayed to the public later this year, the company will launch a 2,000 horsepower, electric semi-truck, dubbed “Nikola One”, and a 520 hp, 4×4 electric UTV with a code name of “Nikola Zero.”
While the majority of the semi-trucks components are being developed by Nikola, the company also co-designed the industry’s first ever independent suspension with Meritor.
“We want to even the playing field and income inequalities seen between owner operators and fleets for the first time in recent trucking history. This is just the beginning of what’s ahead for America, our company and the electric vehicle market,” added Milton.
If imitation is the highest form of flattery, Elon Musk must be so happy to hear about the latest startup promising “electric vehicles, energy storage systems and electric-vehicle drivetrain components.” It’s called Nikola Motor Company, and it appears to want to do the exact same thing as Tesla, judging by the quoted phrase above.
However, whereas Tesla got its start with a diminutive, sporty roadster, Nikola (seriously, where’s the originality?) is rolling out two products simultaneously — the Nikola One and Nikola Zero.
The Nikola One is a 2,000-horsepower semi truck cab promising 1,200 miles of range from its 320-kWh battery, which you never have to plug in because a natural-gas-powered turbine allegedly charges batteries while driving, sort of similar to a Chevrolet Volt (minus the CNG turbine part). It will cost $375,000, but you can put down only $1,500 for a deposit.
The Nikola Zero is a 520-horsepower off-road vehicle (think Polaris RZR) with a 50-kWh battery, a 0-60mph time of 3 seconds, rear-wheel steering and three displays. This bad boy will set you back $42,000, but deposits are half that of the truck, at just $750. Neither vehicle actually exists yet — prototypes won’t be unveiled until later this year.
I’m all for new startups in the EV market, but this has all the makings of proper vaporware. First, the name is a clear cachet-grab — at least Faraday Future had the foresight to use a different scientist. Second, this company is trying to market $375,000 trucks and $42,000 off-roaders side by side, with deposits that are a pittance compared with the eventual MSRP. Even with modest support, that’s not going to raise enough capital to kick-start production of two wildly different vehicles.
Color me skeptical.
Tesla, a Serbian American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.
Tesla gained experience in telephony and electrical engineering before emigrating to the United States in 1884 to work for Thomas Edison in New York City. He also built a wireless controlled boat, one of the first ever exhibited.
Tesla was renowned for his achievements and showmanship, eventually earning him a reputation in popular culture as an archetypal “mad scientist”. His patents earned him a considerable amount of money, much of which was used to finance his own projects with varying degrees of success.
Nikola trucks can take natural gas from any CNG station, or can fill at one of the 50+ planned Nikola CNG stations. For the first 5,000 reservations, Nikola will provide *free fuel for the first 1,000,000 miles. Trucks not part of the first 5,000 trucks can fill up at any Nikola station for the low price of $1.50 per DGE of natural gas.
How can You Guarantee Free Fuel for the First 5,000?
There is currently a $.50 per gallon federal credit to the station owner (Nikola), so Nikola is able to build that into the price of the truck when purchased and can then realize those savings and give customers the pre-purchased fuel for the first 1,000,000 miles. Moving forward, taxes may go up. In that scenario, anyone after the first 5,000 trucks will have to deal with fluctuations in fuel prices due to those taxes. Nikola believes in clean burning natural gas and hopes to transfer America off of diesel as soon as possible.
How Can You Guarantee $1.50 Per Gallon After That?
At Nikola Motor Company, we’ve decided to invest in American energy. Nikola owns the rights to its own natural gas wells along with the Nikola One fleet that transports the natural gas from the wells to the stations. With 7 wells on a single property, Nikola can pump out millions of gallons of clean natural gas each day. Nikola plans on having more than 5 well sites for redundancy throughout the United States. Complete vertical integration removes market uncertainties and allows Nikola Motor to control its own prices and keep them that way for Nikola customers. Nikola bypasses all the gas companies, liquifies the gas on site, then delivers it to the station through its fleet of electric trucks.
By storing in liquid and dispensing in compressed form, Nikola eliminates the need of natural gas pipelines. The end result is nice cold CNG at Nikola stations, which fill faster than regular CNG stations using compressors, giving customers a faster and better fill on board.
How Do I Recharge My Batteries?
You don’t! It is all done automatically. Nikola One trucks charge on their own primarily through the sophisticated, hi-tech natural gas turbine. The turbine kicks on whenever energy is needed and shuts off automatically. Drivers never need to worry about plugging in or waiting!
In addition to the turbine, the batteries are also constantly receiving power through rotational energy via Nikola’s regenerative braking technology. With Nikola Motor, drivers receive the most efficient vehicle power system in the world.
No Carbon Tax Needed
This all sounds great, and it is, regardless of who the eventual winners are in this space.
Technological advances prove we do not need ridiculous government policies to save us from emissions.
I gave Nikola One a call after reading the Supply Chain article.
I asked “How does autonomous driving fit in?”
The unexpected answer was “It doesn’t“.
My followup question was “In what timeframe will you have it?”
The answer once again was lacking “We will announce that when we are ready.”
Based on the answers above, “Nikola One” could have an announcement in a few months or a few years.
A few years is certainly not fast enough. The future of trucking is driverless.
Nikola desperately needs a driverless partner. This lends credence to the vaporware theory, but for now I am willing to give Nikola the benefit of the doubt.
Their plan of CNG centers while owning their own gas wells seems well thought out.
Regardless, such technology will catch on. CNG is poised to be a low cost solution, at least for trucks, as long as natural gas supply is readily available.
US dependence on foreign oil is waning every year. That too is a good thing.
Any truckers care to chime in?
Mike “Mish” Shedlock