What will Elon Musk think of this?
There is now a second company named after inventor Nikola Tesla — and it too plans to build electric vehicles. Unlike Tesla Motors, though, the first products of the newly-revealed Nikola (pronounced Neek-oh-la) Motor Company won’t be a sports car or a luxury sedan.
The company will launch a natural gas-electric semi truck called the Nikola One, and an all-electric UTV called the Nikola Zero. Nikola was founded by Trevor Milton several years ago, and has apparently been operating in the “stealth mode” common among tech startups.
Milton was previously CEO of dHybrid Systems, which specialized in natural gas storage, so the use of natural-gas fuel for Nikola’s semi truck perhaps isn’t too surprising. The Nikola One has a turbine that is used to generate electricity for a 320-kilowatt-hour battery pack.
The turbine can actually run on a variety of fuels, but trucks will be equipped with natural-gas tanks from the factory. Turbine power and regenerative braking are the only charging methods, as the Nikola One does not come with a plug. Six electric motors produce a combined 2,000 horsepower and 3,700 pound-feet of torque, which is sent to the wheels via a two-speed transmission. With a full 150-gallon tank of fuel, Nikola claims the truck will be able to travel 1,200 miles between fill-ups. It also claims operating costs will be around half those of conventional diesel semi trucks.
First, though, operators will have to pay a base price of $375,000, including a refundable $1,500 deposit. To sweeten the deal, Nikola is offering 100,000 gallons of free natural gas with the first 5,000 reservations. Nikola is planning a network of 50 fueling stations, but says it will also credit customers for fuel they purchase at stations outside its network.
The new stations will be needed to provide adequate fueling infrastructure, which has been one of the main obstacles to wider adoption of natural-gas vehicles. Nikola’s second vehicle, meanwhile, will be all electric and likely reserved for off-road use.
The Nikola Zero is ostensibly a UTV, but it boasts car-like specifications, including 520 horsepower and a range of 100 to 150 miles from a 50-kWh battery pack. Nikola also claims it will do zero to 60 in under three seconds, and boast 14.5 inches of ground clearance.
A solar roof charges the 12-volt battery that powers accessories, taking some strain off the main lithium-ion battery pack. Nikola will also offer a generator that it claims can charge the battery pack in around two hours, along with a J1772 connector for 240-volt Level 2 AC charging.
The Nikola Zero will start at $42,000, with a $750 refundable deposit. Right now, though, both the UTV and the Nikola One semi exist only as renderings. The company plans to show the first “working prototypes” later this year, but hasn’t committed to a launch date.