At this point in the electric vehicle startup world, it feels a little bit like the buildup to some sort of pay-per-view wrestling cage match free-for-all extravaganza. There are some obvious frontrunners, but nobody really knows for sure how it's going to shake out or who will survive—which hasn’t stopped umpteen fighters from throwing their hats into the ring.
Nikola, the other EV brand named after the Serbian-American inventor, is definitely one of the stranger contenders. Its main focus has been electric and hydrogen-fueled semitrucks, but while we weren’t looking the company has been announcing electric off-road side-by-sides and … a personal watercraft?
And now it’s working on a civilian pickup, the Badger. It’s an electric vehicle with a twist: Nikola says that the Badger will be both a hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle and a battery-electric vehicle. A FCEV/BEV hybrid, if you will.
Aside from the lack of hydrogen fueling infrastructure (a challenge Nikola hopes to overcome by installing a network of H2 stations, much like Tesla did with its Superchargers), there’s a certain logic to this approach: Fuel cells produce electricity that is then used to drive electric motors, meaning that fuel-cell vehicles effectively are electric vehicles. Downsides here are added complexity, the need for onboard H2 storage and that lack of H2 availability.
But if it works, this mixed approach could be the best of both zero-emissions worlds. FCEV/BEV hybrids would get the benefit of gasoline-speed fill-ups when H2 stations are available, but they could always plug into the electrical grid to charge up at home or in some far-flung corner of the country.
Specs are, as is to be expected at this stage, both impressive and sparse. Per the company:
“The Badger was designed to handle 0-100-mph launches with minimal loss of performance and to operate on grades up to 40% through advanced software blending of batteries and fuel cell. With a fully loaded trailer and combined vehicle weight of 18,000 pounds, the Badger will be able to launch from a standstill on a 30% grade without motor stall.”
Nikola claims a 0-60-mph time of 2.9 seconds—which has become some sort of bizarre industry standard for as-of-yet-unrealized EV trucks—and a total system output of 906 hp peak (455 hp continuous) and 980 lb-ft of torque.
Renderings of the Badger show a truck that looks a little like a Rivian R1T with a Ram 1500 Rebel body kit. Overall, the truck does have an undeniably Rivian-esque feel to it, which may not be totally accidental: Nikola claims the Badger will be built in “conjunction with another OEM utilizing their certified parts and manufacturing facilities.” Could this as-of-yet-undisclosed OEM be Rivian? The company seems more than willing to license its tech, but as with so much of this project, we'll have to wait and see.
The Nikola's dimensions are larger than the Rivian's, however—232 inches long and 85 inches wide for the Badger vs. 217 long and 79 wide for the R1T. Fender flares and a more aggressive front and rear fascia could account for the extra bulk.
Aside from the FCEV/BEV combo, another thing that should set the Nikola Badger apart from the Tesla Cybertrucks, Rivian R1Ts and GMC Hummer EVs of the world is its publicity push: The company says it has partnered with the Diesel Brothers TV show's Dave Sparks, alias Heavy D, to build out and test the Badger. So we should be able to get an inside look at this truck's development leading up to a big reveal at Nikola World 2020, a technology showcase slated for later this year (perhaps September; no date has been confirmed).
Until then, all we have to go on is Nikola's word and a handful of ambitious specs. As we've been saying with some frequency as ever-more EV hopefuls jump into the fray, stay tuned. We should have a better idea of where, if anywhere, this field is headed in the next six to 12 months.
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