Nikola Motors was established in 2014 to create vehicles powered by alternative energy. Most of their designs have been heavy-duty trucks with hydrogen and/or electric powertrains. Nikola has also poised themselves as a Tesla rival, not only does their name hint at the company, but they have also released their first electric pickup amidst the rising popularity of the Cybertruck.
The Nikola Badger differs from most electric pickups because it offers two systems to power the vehicle. Both a battery-electric system and hydrogen fuel cell are available. These powerplants can work simultaneously to provide energy and when combined, result in double the base range.
Let’s look into more of the projected details that may be featured in Nikola’s first electric pickup.
The Badger has a unique FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle)/BEV (battery electric vehicle) design. The battery-electric system is comprised of a 160kWh battery pack that can give the Badger up to 300 miles of range on a single charge. The fuel cell system, implemented in many of Nikola's heavy-duty semi-trucks, includes an 8kg hydrogen tank that can provide up to 300 miles of range as well. Since hydrogen only produces water as a byproduct, the company is able to market these pickups as zero emissions.
Customers who choose the battery-electric model can add the hydrogen system later if desired. Although the prevalence of hydrogen fuel cell technology has not quite caught hold on the market, Nikola plans to implement significant infrastructure to handle the demands of hydrogen-powered models. The Badger may also implement a 15kW power outlet in the bed for tools or other equipment. It has been said that the water produced by the hydrogen system will be harnessed into a water fountain feature for fresh drinking water.
Power & Performance
According to Nikola, the Badger will have a peak horsepower of 906 and a surprising 980 lb-ft of torque. The continuous horsepower rating is set at 455. Its electric drive will allow it to go from 0-60mph in approximately 2.9 seconds. 4x4 independent wheel drive provides dynamic handling for the truck, which has a 16" ground clearance and 35º approach angle for off-road maneuverability. The proposed dimensions of the Badger are 231.89" x 85.83" x 73.62". Nikola claims that it will have a water fording depth of 48" as well.
Range & Efficiency
The FCEV and BEV systems, when combined, provide a range of 600 miles. This is higher than the claimed range of the Cybertruck and Rivian R1T. The truck is said to have an 8,000lb towing capacity. Nikola typically creates heavy-duty fuel cell vehicles such as semis, so it is likely that the Badger will benefit from some reinforced construction. Of course, the company reminds us in a disclaimer that "specs can change due to weather, altitude, hydrogen output, battery state of charge, thermal needs and customer requirements".
Future Of Nikola
These remain projected statistics until later this year. Nikola will host a "Nikola World" event from December 3-5 where they will most likely reveal more concrete information about the upcoming truck. Trevor Milton, CEO of Nikola, said “I have been working on this pickup program for years and believe the market is now ready for something that can handle a full day’s worth of work without running out of energy.”
Significant funds have been provided to the company to fuel their efforts. The U.S. Department of Energy granted them $1.7 million for their work on fuel cell membrane electrode assembly technology. We might see more of Nikola's utility vehicles such as the electric waste truck "Refuse" appearing on the streets. They have also developed multiple fuel cell/electric semi concepts that will most likely release around the same time as Tesla's electric semi.
The feasibility of mass-produced hydrogen vehicles is limited by the amount of hydrogen stations available in the U.S. Nikola has devoted approximately $30 million to the purchase of electrolysis equipment which is said to be capable of 44 tons of H2 per day. They plan on opening 700 hydrogen stations as well. Nikola's heavy-duty fuel cell vehicles are set to operate via stations powered by renewable energy. These stations are capable of conducting electrolysis on-site, storing the hydrogen, and processing it through a 70mPa fueling station.
Customers who placed a deposit on the Nikola Badger will receive a full refund for their deposit in the form of a discounted purchase price. Mark Russell, president of Nikola Corporation, explained “The Nikola Badger is a game-changer". The program will help drive down the cost of the fuel-cell components on our semi-truck while accelerating the hydrogen station rollout”. Along with the grants provided to them, it is possible for Nikola to play a part in establishing the growing hydrogen network.
Sources: Nikola Motors, Car & Driver, Popular Mechanics, Electrek