Like Tesla and other manufacturers, Nikola Motor started building trucks and pickups. The young company, which also produces hydrogen, is, like its creator Trevor Milton, very ambitious. We will now look at how the billionaire intends to make his company a major player in this sector and whether this seems feasible with his first vehicles.
A PICKUP TRUCK THAT WANTS TO BE COMPETITIVE
Just like Tesla or Rivian, its two main competitors, Nikola Motor has unveiled a clean pickup model. However, unlike the other two, Trevor Milton’s company has chosen to use hydrogen fuel-cells and not just electric batteries. For this, the Badger will be able to be chosen with its 600 mile range version that combines battery and hydrogen fuel-cells rather than just with its classic battery that only allows 300 miles. On the purchase price side, Nikola Motor seems to be ahead of the pack with its estimated $60,000 to $90,000 pickup and 600 miles of range compared to Tesla’s $87,000 cybertruck with 500 miles of range. The driving performance of both vehicles has yet to be evaluated, but Nikola Motor is a serious candidate.
Nikola Badger, Nikola Motor’s new pickup. ©Nikola
DIFFERENT STRATEGIES FOR TRUCKS
Trevor Milton has recently unveiled his BEV and FCEV Class 8 heavy-duty trucks.The Nikola Tre and the Nikola Two BEV trucks will be tested this year in a limited run. For consumers (fleet partners), projected delivery for the BEV trucks is 2021 with FCEV slated for 2023. By surrounding itself with partners such as Bosh for key components and CNH Industrial/IVECO for manufacturing, Nikola’s strategy seems quite different from Tesla, which is making its own way. While remaining cautious by estimating sales will jump from $150 million in 2021 to $3.2 billion by 2024 as it ramps up productions, in 2024 it expects to sell or lease 7,000 battery-powered units and 5,000 hydrogen fuel cell trucks, according to its filing.Indeed, with its order for 800 trucks from Anheusen-Bush and its contacts with Europe being confirmed, when production is at capacity Nikola Motor expects to have a production capability of 35,000 units per year along with its
700 hydrogen stations in the United States by 2028.
NikolaTwo, the new hydrogen truck from Nikola Motor. ©Nikola
HYDROGEN TO COMPETE WITH OR COMPLEMENT ELECTRICITY?
The logic might be that electric trucks and hydrogen fuel-cell trucks are competing to replace diesel vehicles as they go, but Trevor Milton doesn’t think so. Indeed, on Linkedin and on other occasions, he has reiterated that these two clean forms of transportation can complement each other in view of their different advantages. He says that hydrogen fuel-cells are best suited for long distances of more than 300 miles, while batteries can appeal to the market for shorter trips.
Firstly, the reduced weight of the cells compared to batteries would make it possible to carry more goods and thus reduce the cost/km. Secondly, recharging at hydrogen stations on motorways would be cheaper than batteries. Indeed, superchargers on motorways have several disadvantages. Batteries are not designed to be recharged only on fast charge and therefore, as Tesla advises, they should be limited. For long journeys, however, drivers have no alternative but to recharge their batteries. They have the choice between fast charging, which wears out the battery, and slower charging, which wastes time and money for the company.
A Nikola Motor truck in a hydrogen station.©Nikola
The solution would then be to favour hydrogen fuel-cells for long journeys, especially since federal agreements have been signed to fix the price of hydrogen in the United States for 20 years. Contrary to batteries that would be unusable after three years of service, Nikola Motor explains that these batteries can work for 20 years with required maintenance every 2 years for vehicles running continuously.
Nikola Motor, which is quickly becoming a household name, is putting forward arguments for opening up the market for clean trucks and not letting Tesla take it over.