Nikola Motor Co. is set to debut its Nikola One electric semi-truck Thursday after months of curiosity and skepticism from the long-haul freight industry.
Nikola reiterated official specifications for the electric semi-truck early Thursday but will wait until the evening to unveil the truck itself in Salt Lake City, where the company is headquartered.
To build the vehicle, chief executive Trevor Milton said in a statement that Nikola will construct an advanced manufacturing plant supporting thousands of new jobs. The company is in talks with several state governments about the facility and will determine its location in the first half of 2017.
Nikola also said that Miami-based fleet management firm Ryder System, Inc., with more than 800 service locations, will be its exclusive provider for distribution and maintenance nationwide. In Tennessee and Mississippi, Caterpillar dealer and early Nikola investor Thompson Machinery will supplement Ryder’s sales and services.
“It’s exciting to see a small newcomer with a completely new concept that’s not just pie-in-the-sky,” said Antti Lindstrom, truck market analyst for IHS Markit. “What is impressive to me is that people you talk to in the business seem to look at this company seriously. They’re not laughing — it could be a game-changer.”
Lindstrom called Nikola’s plans “bold” and “commendable,” especially given the “tough environment” for new vehicle manufacturers in the U.S.
But he would like to know more about how the company will finance its ambitious plans. Details about the company’s financing process have been sparse.
“They need to be more upfront about that and what the future is going to look like realistically,” Lindstrom said. “It’s hard to put a value on a company that hasn’t shown a product yet. Nikola needs to convince people that they’ll be here for the long haul and that they have the financial stability to stay in business.”
Milton said he has personally invested nearly $20 million in Nikola during its development stage.
The Nikola One’s reveal is preceded by a litany of impressive specifications — most unprecedented for a truck of its kind — but few technical details.
The emissions-free vehicle, technically a heavy-duty truck in the Class 8 weight segment, will be powered by high-density lithium batteries as well as an 800v hydrogen fuel cell, the privately-held company said. The powertrain will produce 1,000 horsepower and generate 2,000 pound-feet of torque. It will travel 800 to 1,200 miles while carrying a full load of 65,000 pounds without stopping at a hydrogen fueling station, Nikola said.
The vehicle’s fuel efficiency is designed to exceed all greenhouse gas mandates from the Environmental Protection Agency and other government departments for the next decade.
Nikola One will be road-ready by 2019, the company said. So far, Nikola has received refundable reservations for sales that would be worth nearly $3 billion. The company is collecting $1,500 per reservation.
Customers will be able to lease the electric semi-truck for between $5,000 to $7,000 a month, with unlimited hydrogen fuel and scheduled maintenance included during a 72-month term.
The Nikola One will only be available in North America. Nikola originally intended for the vehicle to run using turbines fueled by natural gas, but pivoted abruptly to its current hydrogen fuel technology in August to sidestep difficult domestic emissions testing.
On Thursday night, Nikola also intends to detail plans for a North American network of hydrogen fueling stations to support the Nikola One trucks. The web of stations — 56 are planned initially — will eventually balloon to more than 300 stations. The first stations will start construction in January 2018.
Hydrogen fuel for the stations will come from solar hydrogen farms owned by Nikola, the company said. The farms are each expected to produce more than 100 megawatts of power using electrolysis.
Later Thursday, Nikola will also exhibit its 107-kilowatt-hour lithium battery pack, which is designed to give its Nikola Zero electric utility task vehicle more than 300 miles of range on a single charge. The company said the 1,000-pound, patent-pending battery can also be inserted into other vehicles starting next year.
Nikola, named for the Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla, was launched several years ago by Milton. He sold his previous company dHybrid Systems, which developed natural gas storage systems for large vehicles, to Worthington Industries in 2014.
“There are many out there that wondered if we would deliver,” Milton said. “But today we proudly show off the most advanced semi-truck ever built.”