Following the electric car trends in the passenger car world, and borrowing the first name of the inventor whose surname has already been made famous by Elon Musk’s automotive ventures, Nikola Motor Company is attempting to do the same thing in the world of semi-trucks and off-road vehicles.

The company is planning to come out with two products - the Nikola One, which will be a 2,000 horsepower semi-truck, and a little thing called the Nikola Zero, an off-road electric 4x4. Neither vehicle exists yet. Not even in prototype form, but that doesn’t stop them from asking for money. It seems the company is already accepting deposits on these vehicles. The One, which will cost a total of $375,000 (not a terribly outrageous sum if you consider current regular semi-trucks can easily reach six digits) will require a $1,500 deposit, while the Zero, a more modest $750 for a vehicle that’s set to sell for $42,000. Supposedly the prototypes will be unveiled this fall.

Nikola One

What will set the Nikola One apart from rest of the electric vehicles is its preferred power source. Yes its six wheels will all be driven by electric motors powered by batteries, but the batteries will be charged by natural gas burning turbines as well as regenerative braking, with an option of diesel powered turbine available. This will supposedly give the Nikola One an effective 10-15 MPG and a similar 1200 mile range, compared to that of 4-6 MPG for traditional semi-trucks. With that, Nikola is also planning to roll out its own 50+ Natural Gas filling stations (fed by their own Natural Gas wells and liquefaction facilities) to supplement the already existing CNG stations. Nikola is also estimating that their One truck will weigh less than a traditional diesel truck, be able to maintain speeds better in inclines, as well as accelerate and stop faster than traditional diesel trucks.

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And they are rolling all this out with a $5000/month lease program that will also include free CNG fuel for the first million miles (built into the price of the lease) for the first 5000 people that sign up. The lease will also include scheduled maintenance and unlimited miles. Compare that to the maintenance and fuel costs of a traditional diesel truck that can easily surpass $10,000/month.

Nikola Zero

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The other model they are planning on rolling out is 520 horsepower, fully electric, off-road oriented 4x4, called a Nikola Zero. Besides plug-in power, it will also come with a solar panel on the roof to reduce drain from the batteries. This supposedly gives the Zero a 100-150 mile range. Beyond that, the Nikola Zero can be compared to a Polaris RZR 1000, albeit with more power, longer suspension travel, higher ground clearance, water-proofing, etc..

More info can be found here.


Personal opinion time.

The Nikola Zero to me looks essentially like a lifted golf cart. Maybe with more power and better suspension travel, etc.. I can’t get excited about it, but that may be because I’m not much into off-road stuff in general.

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The Nikola One however, assuming they actually deliver a product, could be interesting. It’s about time technologies familiar in the passenger car world move on to commercial vehicle realms as well.

Thoughts?