Nikola goes public…. and goes HUUUUGE
IN A SENSATIONAL LAUNCH ON THE STOCK exchange, electric truck startup Nikola last month instantly became a giant of the automotive industry – worth more than Ford or Fiat Chrysler!
It’s first day listed on the Nasdaq stock market saw Nikola’s worth balloon out to around $US12billion – making founder Trevor Milton an instant billionaire. He’s the biggest shareholder, with a stake worth $US3.7bn.
By day three of its Nasdaq listing, Nikola’s market valuation was up to $US26.3bn, and Milton’s fortune stood at $9bn.
All of this without the company having put anything other than preproduction prototypes of its futuristic battery-electric or fuel cell electric trucks on the road. It says it has truck orders worth $US10bn...but hasn’t actually sold any yet.
The launch brought conflicting reactions from market commentators, some predicting that its true potential had been over-hyped – a charge that’s often been levelled at electric truck arch-rival Elon Musk and his planned Tesla Semi etruck.
Some pointed out bluntly that at least Musk does have a track record of having sold electric vehicles – Tesla falling short of making a profit last year, but still generating $US24bn.
Tesla announced the Semi in 2017, but has missed its proposed 2020 start of production. US reports last month said Musk has been telling Tesla staff to gear-up for a start to production next year.
And on the same week that Nikola went public on the stock market,Tesla’s shares went past $US1000 – seeing it overtake Toyota as the world’s most highly-valued carmaker.
Nikola has said that it will begin to generate revenue next year, as it starts to produce the Nikola Tre heavy-duty battery-electric truck. Its Nikola Two HD hydrogen fuel cell electric truck is scheduled for a production startup in 2023.
Sceptics have pointed out that Nikola has the huge task of building a network of hydrogen fuelling stations in the US, in order to make the Nikola Two commercially viable.
That is a process it has begun, Nikola announcing the day before its Nasdaq launch that it has placed a $US30million order with Norwegian supplier Nel for alkaline electrolysers to equip its first five US hydrogen fuelling stations – together capable of producing over 40,000 kilograms of hydrogen daily.
“We are building the largest hydrogen network in the world and I couldn’t be prouder to have Nel part of it,” said Nikola boss Milton.
The five stations, he said, will cover multiple states and trucking routes: “The future of clean transportation is here, and fleets are lining up to be part of the transition with Nikola.”
Nikola also seems well-positioned to achieve its 2021 electric truck launch in Europe, given its partnership in that venture with commercial vehicle giant CNH, Iveco’s parent company. Iveco will build the battery electric trucks.
And in terms of matching Tesla and expanding its vehicle range beyond heavy trucks, Nikola announced in February that it will build an electric pickup truck – the Badger using either battery electric or fuel cell electric power.
The light truck, which will have an estimated 1000-kilometre range, will be manufactured with a yet-to-be-revealed OEM partner, it said.
“Nikola has billions worth of technology in our semi-truck programme, so why not build it into a pickup truck?” reasoned Milton.
Nikola president Mark Russell added: “The Nikola Badger is a game changer. The programme will help drive down the cost of the fuel-cell components on our semi-truck, while accelerating the hydrogen station rollout. Giving customers the option to order a fuel-cell or battery electric version will ensure we drive the cost down for everyone across our lineup.”
A Nikola Two hydrogen fuel cell electric prototype has been undergoing trials with American brewer Anheuser-Busch