Nikola Motor gets $2.3B worth of preorders for electric semi-trailer truck

After announcing last month it is building a 2,000 horsepower, hybrid semitrailer, the Nikola Motor Co. revealed this week it has more than 7,000 paid reservations that would translate into $2.3 billion in truck sales when it ships.

Nikola Motor founder and CEO Trevor Milton also announced that the electric class 8 semi-truck, dubbed "Nikola One" will be unveiled Dec. 2 in Salt Lake City. The truck will retail for $375,000, which is nearly double the price for a standard diesel semi-trailer. The company said it will offer a leasing plan that will run from $4,000 to $5,000 per month, depending on the configuration and options a customer chooses.

The Nikola One semi-trailer will be capable of pulling a gross weight of 80,000 pounds and will have more than a 1,200-mile range between stops, the company said.

"The reason for the horsepower increase is that with electric motors you only use what you need unlike a diesel engine, so most of the time, you will only need 400 to 500 horsepower out of the 2,000 HP," a spokesperson for Nikola Motor Co. said in an email reply to Computerworld. "You don't waste any energy that you don't use with electric motors. But when going up a hill, a diesel is not safe operating at 35 mph or less, so with the extra horsepower, the electric allows you to climb to full speed limit."

The semi-trailer will sport a 320 kilowatt hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery pack, along with a 150-gallon fuel-agnostic turbine, which can be configured to run on various kinds of fuel, including diesel or petroleum. The standard model will have a natural gas tank.

Nikola claims the semi-trailer will cost half as much to operate as traditional diesel trucks. The company also said the truck's lithium-ion battery will never require recharging because the turbine will charge it as the vehicle drives, just like other consumer hybrid vehicles.

The Nikola One will also sport regenerative braking technology, an energy recovery mechanism that will slow the vehicle by converting kinetic energy into a form that can be stored until needed. Regenerative braking is more efficient than traditional braking, which uses friction to slow a vehicle and wears braking systems faster.

Nikola began taking $1,500 refundable reservations for the truck a month ago, offering 100,000 gallons of free natural gas to the first 5,000 trucks reserved. The natural gas can be retrieved through a network of compressed natural gas (CNG) stations throughout the U.S.

Combined with the electric motor, 100,000 gallons of natural gas is enough for a million work miles. "This offsets the entire cost of the truck, allowing for a return on the investment in first month," the spokesperson said.

"Our technology is 10-15 years ahead of any other [truck maker] in fuel efficiencies, MPG and emissions," Milton said in a statement. "We are the only [truck maker] to have a near zero emission truck and still outperform diesel trucks running at 80,000 pounds. To have over 7,000 reservations totaling more than 2.3 billion dollars, with five months remaining until our unveiling ceremony, is unprecedented."

Along with the Nikola One semi-trailer, the company also revealed plans to release a 520HP 4x4 utility vehicle (UTV) that will boast more than 480 foot pounds of torque with a 125-mile range. "You only use what [horsepower] you need, but when you need it, it comes in handy for safety and performance," the spokesperson said.

The UTV, dubbed "Nikola Zero," is a 100% electric-powered, zero-emission, four-passenger, side-by-side that has 20 inches  of suspension clearance on all four wheels and 14.5 inches of overall ground clearance.

The Nikola Zero will retail for $42,000. The first 5,000 vehicle reservations will get a $5,000 discount on the suggested retail price, the company said.


Lucas Mearian

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