About a month ago the Nikola Motor Company popped up out of nowhere claiming it will build an electric-natural gas turbine hybrid big rig that’s claimed to be faster and more efficient than any other truck. Now they say more than 7,000 people have plunked down deposits and given the company a tremendous amount of cash. What’s going on here?
Tesla racked up $115 million in pre-orders for the Model 3 before its reveal. Well, here’s a company with no brand equity or established history talking about picking up $2.3 billion for a vehicle based on concept and conjecture in a single month!
Update and clarification: $2.3 billion is the total value of orders Nikola Motor Company has received for the truck. The dollars in deposits the company has collected is hanging out at about $10,500,000.
The truck, called the Nikola One, is supposed to be the sexiest comfiest big rig ever with features including:
- One or two full sized beds
- Large 4K TV
- Full size fridge and freezer
- Large closet for hanging clothes
- Computer desk
- Apple TV integrated
- WiFi and 4GLTE Internet connectivity
- Electronic climate control
That, of course, is before we start talking about the drivetrain, which is nothing short of revolutionary—if it’s real. Six 800V AC electric motors, one mounted at each wheel, are supposed to provide a total of 2,000 horsepower and 3,700 lb-ft of torque. Those suck energy from a 320kWh lithium ion battery, which is recharged by a turbine engine that can burn gasoline, diesel, or natural gas.
That’s supposed to allow for 1,200 miles of range regardless of what fuel the turbine is guzzling, according to an email sent to me from Nikola founder and CEO Trevor Milton.
Milton answered a few more questions from me as well, like: “does this thing actually exist or what?”
“The truck does exist and is in final assembly,” he said in the email. “It will be unveiled later this year for the first 5,000 reservation holders, the press and media.” Now we’re hearing the reveal will indeed be December, 2016.
As for a timeline, Milton said he “anticipates in the next 36 months to be delivering trucks to first reservation holders.” He said the company was founded three years ago but development on the truck began “a few years” before that.
The company is apparently picking between two potential production facilities. All I’ve heard about a dealership and/or service network is that Nikola is hoping to set up a mix of standalone franchises and additions to existing shops that are already selling other Class 8 (typical big rig) trucks.
The Nikola One’s value proposition, according to Nikola, is spelled out in a press release:
“The Nikola One truck leasing program costs $4000 to $5000 per month, depending on which truck configuration and options the customer chooses. The first million miles of fuel is included with every truck sale, offsetting 100% of the monthly lease for every owner. An average diesel burns over $400,000 in fuel and racks up over $100,000 in maintenance costs over 1,000,000 miles. These costs are eliminated with the Nikola One lease.”
Obviously your usage has to fit into Nikola’s equation to make the truck a “good deal” for you, not including the costs and risks associated with switching from a well-known technology to bleeding-edge brand-new.
A Nikola One truck will cost “about $375,000" if purchased outright, which is more than twice what a nice conventional diesel-powered sleeper cab would set you back.
Between the suddenness of Nikola Motors’ arrival, extreme capability claims and complete absence of photos of a physical product or details on a distribution and service network, I was so skeptical of this project I wasn’t even sure it was worth watching.
But now that it’s claiming to have accepted refundable deposits of at least $1,500 a piece from “over 7,000 customers” totaling to what Nikola Motors values as $2.3 billion cash coming their way, the time has come to maximize public scrutiny on this outfit.
Nikola Motors also says it is currently “working on funding a $300 million A-round to be completed by December 2016,” in its latest press release.
Nobody had heard of this company before May. Now Nikola says it has $2.3 billion coming in from future customers based on an impressive hypothetical specification sheet and a few digital renders. And it’s chasing even more investment money half a year before showing the world its product and three years before delivering it.
I’ve reached out to representatives from mainstay outfits in the Class 8 trucking industry to hear their opinions on Nikola as it stands, and I’d love to hear from anyone who has plunked down a deposit on one of these hypothetical hypertrucks.
So far I’m seeing a lot of parallels to Faraday Future, which is still plugging away about how awesome it’s going to be though we’ve yet to see what the company is planning on selling.
If they didn’t have the means to build anything before, they sure should now.