Does Nikola Motors stand a fighting chance against Tesla?

Author: Kevin Stillerman

Electric Vehicle Content Writer

Nikola Motors stares directly into the eyes of Tesla as it develops its all electric pickup truck, Badger, attempting to claim a portion of the EV market.

Nikola Motors has entered the electric vehicle race and is keeping a close eye on its established competition, Tesla Motors.

Founded in 2014 in Salt Lake City Utah by Trevor Milton (Founder and Executive Chairman) and Mark Russell (President and CEO), Nikola Motors hopes to claim a large slice in the electric vehicle market by going after the pickup truck and semi truck sub markets. 

Similar to Tesla Motors, Nikola Motors has adopted their company named based on Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla, who is most famous for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.

Nikola Tesla, Getty Images

Unlike Tesla, Nikola Motors is developing hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles in addition to pure lithium ion powered EVs.

While Nikola Motors continues to make progress on their hydrogen powered semi trucks, the largest buzz around the company stems from is highly anticipated Nikola Badger all electric pickup truck (which will also have a hydrogen variant). 

Badger all electric pickup truck, Nikola Motors

But the question remains, does Nikola Motors truly stand a fighting chance going head to head against Tesla Motors, the so-far dominant EV automaker that has established itself as the early favorite?

While Elon Musk has established himself as someone with strong opinions (as seen in his frequent polarizing media comments and tweets), he has also developed a proven track record of success. 

Elon’s mission to create a more sustainable planet has guided his business to develop all electric, zero emission sedans, SUVs, and sports cars that will rival any gas powered vehicle in performance. 

Model Y, Tesla

Since they were founded in 2003, Tesla has continuously improved the battery range, speed, aesthetics, and functionality of its vehicles all while driving down cost. 

In addition Tesla is constantly expanding their charging network to reduce range anxiety, a common downside highlighted by critics. 

Tesla is leading the pack in autonomous driving. The EV market has shown a demand for this technology and Tesla  has been able gather valuable data from all of its vehicles currently out in the field. 

It seems very clear that for these reasons Nikola Motors has quite a steep uphill battle to face as they take on Tesla. So what are the factors that give Nikola Motors a chance?

Badger, Electric Pickup Truck, Nikola Motors

The largest factor which may contribute to Nikola’s future success is their target market.

By focusing on pickup trucks and semi trucks, Nikola may be able to claim a segment of the EV market that Tesla is not currently pursuing. 

While it currently appears that hydrogen powered cars are trailing electric cars in the race to zero emission vehicles, hydrogen powered technology has the potential to be a better source of power. 

A fuel cell works by harnessing chemical reactions from oxygen and hydrogen to generate energy in the form of electricity while leaving behind the clean byproduct of water.

Furthermore hydrogen power it is much more efficient than lithium-ion batteries due to hydrogen’s high energy-to-weight ratio.

Nikola Hydrogen Fuel Cell Diagram, Power Technology

While hydrogen is the most abundant element on earth, it rarely exists on it’s own, is difficult to store, and is therefore currently expensive to generate and capture. These are other challenges that Nikola will have to overcome. 

The reality is that Tesla has already laid much of the groundwork for other companies trying to enter the EV industry. 

Tesla has validated the demand for alternative energy transportation, and therefore this is a risk that is minimized for Nikola.

In addition, Tesla’s success has sparked numerous EV charging companies to pop up as they all fight to gain market share of the growing industry.

As third party charging networks continue to expand their presence, Nikola will benefit from the growing charging infrastructure that Tesla has ignited. 

The Nikola Badger boasts a 0-60 mph of 2.9 seconds, up to 906 horsepower, up to 980 ft-lbs of torque, and up to 600 miles of range. While these specifications are yet to be confirmed, if true, for the first time Tesla may be facing a serious competitor. 

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