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This Electric Car Company Wants to Blow Tesla’s CyberTruck Away


February 13, 2020 Cars By

The currently-all-but-nonexistant electric pickup truck market is about to become incredibly competitive. In the next couple years, EV-specific manufacturers will serve up offerings such as the Tesla Cybertruck, the Rivian R1T, and the Bollinger B2; mainstream carmakers will be there too, with GM’s electric Hummer and Ford’s upcoming electric F-150 fighting for attention and sales.

One upstart company looking to equal them on capability (and best them all on range) is Nikola Corporation. (Yes, it’s named after the same guy as Tesla.) Its Badger pickup truck, which will formally debut at some sort of mysterious event called “Nikola World 2020” in Phoenix, will be available with up to 906 horsepower and 980 lb-ft of torque; it’ll also offer up to 600 miles of range.

Video: Everything You Need to Know About the Tesla Cybertruck

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It achieves this range with a strange hybrid setup: a combination of a 160-kWh electric battery and a 120-kW hydrogen fuel cell, each contributing about 300 miles of range and sending power through the electric motors. Nikola claims the Badger will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 2.9 seconds and tow up to 8,000 pounds, on par with its pure electric competitors.

(On a side note: reality TV “star” Heavy D from the Diesel Brothers collaborated with Nikola on the design, building and testing of the Badger, if that adds to the appeal for you.)

In theory, using hydrogen fuel cells to add range to an EV makes sense. Hydrogen can be quickly pumped into a vehicle, much like gasoline; in theory, this method could eliminate range anxiety without loading the vehicle with a ton of extra weight in the form of more battery packs, but without adding polluting internal-combustion power.

But there’s one not-so-small issue: infrastructure. Hydrogen filling stations are currently only readily available in California, and even there, they’re nowhere as common as gas stations. (Nikola has plans to build 700 new hydrogen filling stations, for what it’s worth.)

The big question — beyond, of course, whether Nikola can actually make a production vehicle that can match its claims — will be how much it costs. Battery-electric cars aren’t cheap, or profitable yet. Hydrogen vehicle technology at present may prove even less cost-effective. Even factoring in subsidies, the 151-horsepower Toyota Mirai still costs nearly three times the amount of an equivalent gasoline car. Selling the Badger at a price that seems affordable to anyone who doesn’t go by “crown prince” may prove problematic.

That said, if Tesla is anything to judge by, being named after a certain Serbian-American inventor and making bold promises at splashy reveals then not worrying about delivering on them seems like a sound strategy for growth in today’s automotive market.

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Tyler Duffy

Tyler Duffy is Gear Patrol's Motoring Staff Writer. He used to write about sports for The Big Lead and The Athletic. He has a black belt in toddler wrangling. He's based outside Detroit.

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