Nikola Corporation, an Arizona-based start-up working on large emission-free installations, has just announced that it will follow Tesla, Rivian, Ford and General Motors on the electric pickup market with a truck called the Badger.
The tie is primarily a fuel cell vehicle, which means that it extracts hydrogen from a refillable tank and converts it into electricity to feed the engines. But the tie also comes with an on-board help package that, according to Nikola, will be large enough to drive the pick-up on its own.
That is comparable to the approach that Nikola uses with its large rigs; This gives the company priority to hydrogen-powered trucks, but it will also sell versions with only batteries with less general reach for short-haul trucks. The pick-up is apparently driven by a reduced version of the technology that Nikola developed for its large commercial trucks.
“Nikola has billions in technology in our semi-truck program, so why not build it into a pick-up truck?” Said Trevor Milton, CEO and founder of Nikola, in a statement. “I have been working for years on this collection program and believe that the market is now ready for something that can handle a full day’s work without losing energy.”
This is not the first time that Nikola has expanded to more than commercial trucks. Last year the company announced an electric water scooter and an off-road utility vehicle. Milton promises a number of striking specifications for the tie, including up to 600 miles with a full tank of hydrogen and up to 300 miles only on battery power. The tie could generate more than 900 hp and go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.9 seconds.
A hydrogen-powered truck with such a large battery would help to tackle the most pressing problem of fuel cell vehicles: there is almost no supporting infrastructure at the moment. Hydrogen filling stations are extremely rare; in the US they are almost exclusively in California. Having a battery that can last 300 miles would help an owner make ends meet if they are not near a hydrogen gas station or, in the worst case, until there are more gas stations.
It is not surprising that Nikola is planning to build hundreds of hydrogen stations itself to support its large installation. By the time the tie comes on the road, the infrastructure portion of the comparison may not look so bleak.
But there are many “ifs” here. First, Nikola did not really say when it was intended to put the tie on sale. And while booting has signed a deal with a European transport company to build emission-free trucks for the continent, the company still has a long way to go before it becomes a self-sufficient company. Even then, it will probably take much more money to launch a customer-focused vehicle such as the tie.
Nikola said in his announcement that the tie “will be built in collaboration with another OEM that uses its certified parts and production facilities,” but it would not say who that manufacturer is. It also mentioned no costs, which could be a concern. Battery-powered vehicles still cost thousands of dollars more than their gas counterparts, and adding hydrogen cell technology to the mix will only widen that gap.
Although there are currently no mass-produced electric pick-up trucks for sale, that will not be the case for long. The Michigan startup, Rivian, should deliver its first electric pickups and SUVs by the end of this year. Ford has a fully electric F-150 en route and General Motors is working on an electric Hummer pickup that will be released at the end of 2021. Tesla’s fancy Cybertruck should also hit the road by that time, and a few other Dark Horse startups also focus on space.
If and when we ever see the Badger coming onto the market, it is likely to get a lot of serious competition. That has not prevented Nikola from making large claims about the potential of the truck.
“The [Badger] is designed to handle what a construction company could throw at it and is designed to outperform all electric pickup trucks on the market, both in continuous towing, HP and range, “the company wrote in its announcement.