We Finally Know How Nikola Will Distribute Its Mysterious Electric Big Rigs

Those are some big LED accents alright. (Photo Credit: Nikola)
Truck YeahThe trucks are good!

We’ve been watching the Nikola Motor Company like a weird egg we found in a swamp (what’s coming out of this?) and today it might actually hatch. The outfit’s revealing physical photos of its product for the first time and more importantly: describing its distribution system.

At 9 p.m. EST on December 1st, Nikola will kick off its big unveiling event you can livestream. Or just catch up with us afterwards.


If this is the first time you’re hearing about Nikola:

  • The company appeared out of nowhere about six months ago, claiming it has created an electric/natural gas powered big rig that will have all the pulling power of a regular Class 8 diesel truck plus quiet, zero-emission operation and better performance.
  • As of November 30th, we’ve seen teasers and pictures of parts but no comprehensive explainer of how the vehicle will be built, sold and supported.
  • The company says it has been taking fully-refundable $1,500 pre-orders for people to lock down a lease on one.
  • “Reservations for the Nikola One totaled nearly $3 billion in the first 30 days of availability,” states a press release, which can only mean the company is counting the entire value of each vehicle as an “order” and does not indicate how much money the company has on hand.
  • I have been and remain skeptical of the company’s viability and financial situation.
  • And no, the Nikola Motor Company is not related to Tesla.

The big news today is that a non-digitally rendered image of the actual truck seems to exist, production has been promised for 2020, and Nikola announced it’s partnering with well-established trucking logistics company Ryder.

If you’ve ever driven a few hundred miles on an American highway you’ve probably seen a Ryder truck. This company operates about 230,000 vehicles and hundreds of warehousing facilities to, simply put, move people’s shit around.

I’m not talking about mom’s attic, though. Ryder leases entire fleets of large trucks and manages supply chains for companies. Dennis Cooke, Ryder’s President of Global Fleet Management Solutions, explained his interest in Nikola in a press release:

“We commend Nikola for its leadership in zero emission vehicles, and for its decision to partner with Ryder as their exclusive nationwide distribution and maintenance provider. This relationship is key to expanding our advanced vehicle technology portfolio of innovative solutions. Ryder continually monitors emerging fleet technologies and seeks to establish relationships with companies that are leading innovation within the commercial transportation industry.”


While more details are expected to be laid out tonight, I expect that Ryder will effectively serve as Nikola’s dealership base, setting consumers up with leases on these vehicles and catching some kind of commission in between Nikola and companies wanting to use the One.

Nikola also stated that a Caterpillar dealer called Thompson Machinery, apparently an early investor in Nikola Motor Company, will offer sales and service of the electric semi-trucks in Tennessee and Mississippi.


A large and well-established company like Ryder taking Nikola seriously adds substantial credibility to the startup, which still has three years to deliver an actual product but has promised to reveal a real-live prototype by the end of today.

The simply-named Nikola “One” is promised to have 800 to 1,200 miles of range, 1,000 horsepower, 2,000 lb-ft of torque, and operate at “half the cost” of an equivalent diesel truck. Nikola has also promised it will have an infrastructure of hydrogen charging stations ready by the time the truck is put into production.


Ryder solves Nikola’s sales and service problem, which was huge, but the company still has to figure out where to build its trucks. “The location of the Nikola Motor manufacturing facility will be determined in the first half of 2017,” says the press release which only details that “Nikola is currently in discussions with several states” to set something up.

My skepticism about Nikola is still on par with the ambition of their claims, but I won’t deny I’m excited to see what the company will trot out tonight. How do you like Nikola’s odds now?

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About the author

Andrew P. Collins

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL