Nikola Pushes Electric Power Into Off-Road, Water Sports

April 23, 2019 by Alan Adler, @AlanAdler

While most attention Nikola Motor receives focuses on its fuel cell electric heavy-duty truck, the 5-year-old startup is chasing power sports enthusiasts with the electric-powered the NZT utility terrain vehicle and an early prototype of an electrified personal watercraft.

Both use the modular battery pack design and controls from the company’s semi-truck.

“We’re leveraging that technology to build a vehicle superior to anything else,” said Jordan Darling, Nikola vice president of motor sports.

The NZT will go on sale in limited production in 2021, a year ahead of the Nikola Two semi. High-end models come first, starting at $80,000.

“As volumes increase, we will bring in other models at lower prices,” Darling said.


The NZT is powered by a 400-volt battery pack, half the voltage of the semi-truck. Like the Nikola One, Two and Tre tractors, the NZT has e-axle technology from Robert Bosch with embedded power electronics and four independent electric wheel motors.

A single-speed gearbox generates 440 kilowatts to create 550 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque. The battery pack is located in the floor to provide more room for the vehicle’s four occupants.

At 5,250 pounds, the NZT has a power-to-weight ratio of 11:1. It rides on 35-inch tires because the torque, power and acceleration “would shred traditional tires,” Darling said.

The NZT has antilock brakes and electronic stability control. It is capable of towing 3,000 pounds with a 400-pound payload. It is equipped with Fox 3.0 internal bypass shocks, has a 72-inch track width with 18 inches of wheel travel, the maximum amount of movement the suspension can move vertically. It compares to the wheel travel of the gasoline-powered Polaris RZR XP4 Turbo.

A single charge provides a 150-mile range. DC direct charging takes two hours. The standard 240-volt charger takes 15 hours. A 110-volt charger needs more than a day to fully charge the battery, said Umran Ashraf, Nikola head of vehicle engineering.

With no internal combustion engine, transmission or continuously variable transmission belt, the NZT runs with practically no noise and has no exhaust fumes or emissions. Noise and vibration common to off-road machines are all but eliminated.

Nikola added a high level of “ingress protection” against the dust common to off-roading and water intrusion from fording creeks and other submersion.

Nikola WAV, water activity vehicle, prototype

The WAV, or water adventure vehicle, is a prototype that’s been in the works for three years. (Photo: Alan Adler/Trucks.com)


Protection from water getting inside the power center is a critical element of Nikola’s concept WAV, which stands for “water adventure vehicle.” Nikola has been working on the WAV for three years and showed the concept vehicle last week at Nikola World in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Using what it calls a “wakeboard architecture,” Nikola is out “to change how personal watercraft look, float, ride and perform,” Darling said. “When you’re out on the lakes, no personal watercraft is going to beat you.”

The WAV is a scaled-down submersible version of the NZT. Its vehicle controls carry over from the NZT’s, including the power controls, 400-volt battery pack and automotive-grade hardware and software to protect the rider and the environment from electricity.

“We’re no longer designing the ergonomics around the powertrain,” Darling said. “We’re designing the ergonomics and making the powertrain fit within.”

Nikola is gauging public reaction before deciding whether the produce the WAV.

“It’s no longer like riding a horse,” Darling said of the electrified craft. “It’s like riding a sport bike.”

John O'Dell April 17, 2019
Fuel cell-truck developer Nikola Motor hopes to convince investors of its credibility with a display of products as it launches a $1.5 billion investment drive.

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