Nikola Heads for Hills with Powerful Electric ‘UTV’

August 15, 2017 by John O'Dell

Not satisfied with bringing the world’s first fuel-cell electric Class 8 truck to market, Nikola Motor Co. is adding a powerful all-electric off-roading vehicle to its portfolio.

The Utah-based company said it has completed design and specifications for the Nikola Zero, a four-seat, four-motor, 400-volt plug-in electric all-terrain vehicle dubbed a “UTV,” for utility “task” or “terrain” vehicle.

The open top, roll-cage protected vehicle will start at $35,000 before any applicable incentives. A prototype is ready to begin testing for the military and Nikola said prospective retail dealerships can reserve production units for $750 beginning January 2018.

The Zero is being marketed through a Nikola Motors Co. unit called Nikola Powersports – indicating the company may have plans for more than one sporty vehicle.

Although aimed primarily at the off-road market, Nikola said the Zero will be equipped with numerous safety features and is intended to be street-legal – although apparently not everywhere. The vehicle will not undergo government standard crash testing, which will limit its on-street marketability.

Nikola Zero UTV interior

Nikola Zero UTV interior. (Photo: Nikola Motor)

Users “may be able to drive the Nikola Zero to work” in many states, Nikola CEO Trevor Milton said in a statement. He did not specify where the UTV would not be welcome on asphalt.

The Zero is a buggy-like vehicle with no roof or cargo area. Enclosures, roofing, side windows, A/C, heating and other weather proofing will also be available as optional equipment. Competitors likely would be other ATVs and dedicated off-road vehicles rather than factory Jeeps or electric trucks such as the Bollinger B1 off-road and work truck.

Nikola is hoping to capture a leadership role in providing powerful, zero-tailpipe emissions transportation that appeals to off-roading enthusiasts who see themselves as environmentally concerned and don’t want to be dependent on fossil fuels.

The UTV will come with three battery options and two performance levels. The base unit will have a 75 kiloWatt-hour battery with a 100 mile range has 415 horsepower and a claimed 3,675 pound-feet of torque from all four of its electric motors – one for each wheel.

Other battery options are for 100 kWh and 125 kWh packs, and the company said the largest battery will provide sufficient power for up to 200 miles of range while operating in off-road 4×4 mode. The range for the 100 kWk pack is 150 miles. Pricing for models with the larger batteries has not been disclosed.

A super-performance option will boost power to 555 horsepower and a claimed 4,900 pound-feet of torque.  “That’s good for speeds up to 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds with four passengers inside,” Milton said.

Nikola Zero UTV side

Nikola Zero UTV. (Photo: Nikola Motor)

If the torque numbers seem outrageously high, that’s because they are measured post-grear reduction. Typically, torque is measured directly at the motor.

Standard features for the Nikola Zero will include electric power steering, 20-inch suspension travel front and rear, 14 inches of ground clearance, a 10-inch infotainment screen, over-the-air software updates, LED lighting and a tow hitch.

Optional features will include a “street-legal” equipment package, anti-lock braking, stability control, traction control, anti-roll protection, 4×4 torque vectoring and 4,500-pound winches front and rear. A front windshield, mirrors and factory audio also are options.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with information provided by Nikola after publication time.

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