Nikola goes pub­lic…. and goes HUUUUGE

New Zealand Truck & Driver - - Front Page -

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

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