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Hydrogen Truckmaker Nikola Opens Badger Pickup Reservations–Ahead Of Production Plans

Nikola Motor, the upstart truckmaker that intends to commercialize hydrogen-powered semis, is amping up a rivalry with Tesla
and Rivian in an emerging market for electric pickups by taking reservations for its Badger model starting today–ahead of announcing details on which automotive partner will help produce it.  

Reserving a Badger requires deposits that range from $250 to $5,000 depending on which of three packages is selected and will be applied directly to the final purchase cost, Nikola says. Truck base prices range from $60,000 for a battery-only version that travels up to 300 miles on a full charge to more than $80,000 for a truck that uses both batteries and a hydrogen fuel cell system with a range of up to 600 miles. Deposits include admission to the company’s “Nikola World” event in Phoenix in December and are fully refundable through Nov. 1 (after which all but $250, the cost of attending the event, is refundable). 

The lower-priced battery-only version is “for those people that don’t need to go over 300 miles,” Trevor Milton, the Phoenix-based company’s founder and executive chairman, said in a recent interview on Autoline.tv. “For all those people that are going to pull trailers and go over 300 miles you, can add a fuel cell to it that’ll give you another 300 miles.”

Like Tesla, Nikola is a young company with massive ambitions that require massive amounts of capital and a strategy shaped by a brash billionaire. Unlike Elon Musk’s electric-car maker, however, which pushes to vertically integrate as much of its technology and production in house, Nikola intends to work with numerous industrial partners to bring its vehicles to market and keep them fueled. Those include Bosch for key components and European commercial vehicle maker CNH Industrial
to build Nikola’s battery-electric Tre semi next year in Germany, prior to the opening of Nikola’s factory in Arizona. 

Milton has said his company, which won’t begin generating significant revenue until 2023, is in talks to outsource Badger production to one of three manufacturers and that that partner will be named prior to the start of Nikola World on Dec. 3. A driveable Badger prototype is to be on display at the event.  

Unlike Tesla’s geometrically severe Cybertruck pickup, with a polarizing design that seems to inspire either love or repulsion, Nikola, like Amazon
-backed Rivian, opted for more conventional pickup styling for their electric trucks. Musk has touted receiving hundreds of thousands of reservations for his model, which requires just $100, and is in talks with states including Texas over incentives for a new plant to build it. That’s something of a gamble, however, as the truck’s appeal beyond Tesla’s loyal fanbase isn’t at all clear.

Likewise, it’s also unclear if buyers of pickups, typically loyal to Ford, General Motors
and Fiat Chrysler’s Dodge, are ready to abandon gasoline and diesel models for electric powertrains. To entice them with the high performance that electric drivetrains can deliver, Nikola says Badger will accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in about 2.9 seconds, with over 906 horsepower and 980 ft. lbs. of torque

Milton appeared to take aim at Tesla, a company he often praises, with a June 28 tweet noting, “Unlike our competitors, we don’t use your money to fund our development. @nikolamotor is guaranteeing and vouching to leave your paid deposits for all vehicles in an account and not consume the funds. You have a guaranteed ability to get your deposits back until you choose your final colors, specs and your truck enters the assembly line. Without penalty.”

He clarified in a response to Tesla fans that the tweet wasn’t a dig at Tesla. “This was a shot at all the people that are calling us a fraud for using the money that we get in deposit. Most of them in forums within that fan club. I have no problem paying a deposit for a vehicle or Tesla,” he said.

Nikola shares rose 6.3% to $67.57 in Nasdaq
trading on Monday.

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