Nikola Corporation (NASDAQ: NKLA) is an American hybrid truck design and manufacturing company. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Nikola designs and manufactures battery-electric and hydrogen-electric vehicles, electric vehicle drivetrains, vehicle components, energy storage systems, and hydrogen fueling station infrastructure.
The company was founded in 2015 by Trevor Milton, who named it after famous inventor Nikola Tesla. The inventor’s last name, of course, had already been taken by electric carmaker Tesla Inc. Unlike Tesla, whose cars recharge by being plugged in, Nikola builds vehicles that use hydrogen fuel cell technology. Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) produce electricity by combining hydrogen stored in their tanks with oxygen from the air. Water vapor is the only byproduct.
To date, the company has been primarily focused on delivering zero emission class 8 semi-trucks to the commercial transportation sector in the U.S. and Europe. The company’s core product offerings include battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric trucks and hydrogen fuel.
In 2019, Nikola partnered with Iveco S.p.A., a subsidiary of a leading European industrial vehicle manufacturing company. Together, the company and Iveco are jointly developing cab over battery-electric vehicles (BEV) and FCEV trucks for sale in the European market, which will be manufactured through an equally owned joint venture in Europe. In April 2020, the two companies entered into a series of agreements establishing the joint venture, called Nikola Iveco Europe B.V., which provides Nikola with the manufacturing infrastructure to build BEV trucks for the North American market prior to the completion of the company’s greenfield manufacturing facility in Coolidge, Arizona. The operations of the joint venture are expected to commence in the third quarter of fiscal 2020.
On June 3, 2020, Nikola announced the completion of its previously detailed business combination with VectoIQ Acquisition Corp., a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company, and Nikola’s listing on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. The business combination, which was approved on June 2, 2020, by VectoIQ stockholders, further solidified Nikola as a global leader in zero-emissions transportation and infrastructure solutions. On June 4, 2020, the combined company’s shares began trading on Nasdaq under new ticker symbol ‘NKLA’.
Nikola operates in three business units: Truck, Energy and Powersports.
- The Truck business unit is a pioneer in developing and commercializing BEVs and FCEV class 8 trucks that provide environmentally friendly, cost-effective solutions to the short-haul and long-haul trucking sectors.
- The Energy business unit is developing and constructing a network of hydrogen fueling stations to meet hydrogen fuel demand for FCEV customers.
- The Powersports business unit, a change-maker in electric off-road and powersport applications, is developing electric vehicle solutions for military and outdoor recreational applications, including off-highway vehicles and personal watercrafts.
Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have benefits similar to those of pure electric vehicles, as they both use the same electric motors. The benefits include horsepower, instant torque and zero emissions. It is important to note, however, that FCEVs require less time to recharge and have longer range. They also address other issues experienced by electric vehicles, including cold starts and added weight. Long range electric truck batteries are heavy and don’t start at low temperatures. Hydrogen offers a significant weight advantage over comparable battery-electric vehicles.
With an estimated range of 500-750 miles (1,200+ km) between fill ups, the Nikola Truck can travel as far as diesels and more than twice the distance of comparable battery-only vehicles.
Many senior auto executives believe that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have a better long-term future than pure electric cars. A 2017 survey of 1,000 senior auto executives conducted by KPMG found that 78 percent believe hydrogen fuel cells have a better long-term future than electric cars and will represent the real breakthrough, with the auto executives citing the short refueling time of just a few minutes as a major advantage. Sixty-two percent told KPMG that infrastructure challenges will hinder growth in the battery-powered electric vehicle market (http://nnw.fm/E5ojs).
One of Nikola’s major initiatives is the rollout of its hydrogen station infrastructure throughout North America. The stations will use solar power supplemented with grid power.
Heavy duty fast fueling with hydrogen is being developed by Nikola with an industry consortium, with unique HD Hardware, standardized to fill in less than 15 minutes, similar to diesel today.
On June 3, 2020, the company signed a purchase order with Nel ASA for 85-megawatt alkaline electrolyzers supporting five of the world’s first 8 ton per day hydrogen fueling stations. Together, these electrolyzers may produce over 40,000 kg of hydrogen each day. This purchase order will support Nikola’s five initial stations with 8 tons of hydrogen production capacity per day.
“We are building the largest hydrogen network in the world and I couldn’t be prouder to have Nel part of it,” Trevor Milton, Nikola Corporation’s founder and executive chairman, stated in a news release (http://nnw.fm/M2dBv). “These electrolyzers will support five heavy duty hydrogen stations which will cover multiple states and trucking routes.”
Safety, Sales and Service
Nikola engineers vehicles to have hydrogen safety on par with or better than gasoline or natural gas. The vehicles are developed using simulation and testing of extreme conditions for crash, fire and environment and have sensors and automated safety shutdowns that consider these scenarios. Nikola is an active member of the international standards community (in ISO, GTR, SAE, etc.) for hydrogen fueling and safety standards.
Nikola has partnered with Thompson Machinery, a Caterpillar dealer and early investor in Nikola Motor Company, to provide sales and service for Nikola trucks in Tennessee and Mississippi.
The company is currently exploring options with major truck dealerships to sell and service Nikola trucks nationwide. Costs of all service and warranty work done on Nikola vehicles purchased via the Nikola Complete Leasing Program will be covered and included in the price of the lease.
Trevor Milton oversees the day-to-day operations of the company as its executive chairman. Milton has led Nikola Motor Company from startup to over $14 billion in preorder reservations for the Nikola Hydrogen Electric Truck. He has authored several patents and is dedicated to advancing green technologies.
Mark Russell joined Nikola as president and CEO in February 2019. He has been building and managing companies in the manufacturing industry for over 20 years, helping them grow profitably while building significant value for investors.
Kim Brady serves as Nikola’s chief financial officer and brings over 20 years of experience in investment banking, private equity and corporate restructuring. During the past decade, Brady has consummated over $4 billion in transactions and recapitalizations and has overseen successful performance improvements and reorganizations in over 100 businesses.
- Nikola designs and manufactures battery-electric and hydrogen-electric vehicles, electric vehicle drivetrains, vehicle components, energy storage systems and hydrogen fueling station infrastructure.
- Nikola operates in three business units: Truck, Energy and Powersports.
- On June 4, 2020, the company’s shares began trading on Nasdaq under new ticker symbol ‘NKLA’ following a business combination agreement with VectoIQ Acquisition Corp.
- Many senior auto executives believe that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, like Nikola’s, represent a better long-term prospect than pure electric cars.
- The company has $14 billion in preorder reservations for the Nikola Hydrogen Electric Truck.