Another competitor has just jumped into the already-crowded electric pickup truck pool. But at least Nikola Motors is bringing something new to fight against GMC, Tesla, Rivian, and Bollinger. That ‘something new’ is a different approach to extended EV range.
Simply building larger batteries won’t cut it. But fast-charging infrastructure isn’t quite extensive enough, and quick-charging supercapacitors aren’t ready for full-scale production. But Nikola Motors has extensive experience with another battery alternative: hydrogen fuel cells. The company’s hydrogen-powered semi-trucks are already up and running. And now, Nikola Motors has made an electric truck with the tech.
The Nikola Motors Badger truck
The Nikola Motors Badger electric truck actually uses a combination of batteries and hydrogen fuel cells. It’s claimed to be able to run on either hydrogen or battery-power alone if the driver doesn’t have access to a charge point or hydrogen station. The battery-only range is a claimed 300 miles. But, for those who have both, Nikola claims the Badger can go for up to 600 miles, even in temperatures as low as -20°F. And, presumably, to improve access to the latter, Nikola Motors also announced it would be building 700 hydrogen stations across the US.
Nikola Motors claims the Badger will deliver 906 hp and 980 lb-ft. And unlike the Hummer, that’s motor torque, not wheel torque. Nikola also claims the Badger will seat up to 5 and have a towing capacity of over 8000 pounds. Perhaps to alleviate electric truck towing concerns, the Badger will allegedly be able to climb 50% grades without motor stall or launch up a 30% grade while fully-loaded. It will also come with a 15-kW power outlet that can assist at a construction site for 12 hours, according to The Drive.
To help develop the Badger, Nikola Motors has enlisted the help of Dave Sparks, aka “Heavy D” from the Diesel Brothers. In addition, Nikola announced its electric truck “will be built in conjunction with another OEM utilizing their certified parts and manufacturing facilities.”
The exact OEM has not been revealed, although Autoweek pointed out Nikola has licensed its technology to OEMs before. InsideEVs named FCA as the likeliest candidate, as it is partially-controlled by a holding company, Exor, that also controls IVECO, an Italian company that’s building Nikola’s electric Tre semi-truck.
Nikola Motors truck vs. the competition
A 600-mile range is more than any other announced electric truck offers. The most-expensive tri-motor Tesla Cybertruck tops out at 500 miles. The 180-kWh Rivian R1T can go up to 400, and the Bollinger B2 can only go 200. GM has not released the electric Hummer’s range.
In terms of speed, the Badger also appears to be fairly competitive. Nikola claims it will be able to do 0-60 in 2.9 seconds. That matches the tri-motor Cybertruck and slightly edges out the R1T’s time of 3 seconds. The Badger blitzes the B2, which has a 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds. However, Nikola has not announced the Badger’s predicted top speed, although it will have four-wheel drive.
Also, these claims, just like Ford’s electric F-150’s towing demo, matter little until it’s actually built.
Is the Badger worth considering?
As of this writing, Nikola Motors has not released pricing or availability information on the Badger electric truck. The truck is expected to make an appearance at Nikola World 2020 in Phoenix, though. But until we know more, it’s difficult to determine how the Badger stacks up to the competition.
Unfortunately, that’s a statement that we have to level against basically every single announced electric truck. Bar the Ecotuned F-150, production electric trucks are still at least 1-2 years away. Jay Leno may have been spotted driving a Cybertruck, but it’s not known if that was an actual production car or a prototype. The cheapest Cybertruck’s already been delayed. Rivian’s R1T has been seen on the road, but no journalist has driven one. Ditto the B2.
Still, seeing a full-scale production hydrogen-electric truck is incredibly exciting. It might actually help make hydrogen powertrains and infrastructure financially-feasible, which could have huge impacts on the EV market and air pollution. If Nikola Motors can follow through—which, based on their semi-truck business, seems a realistic assumption—the Badger might be the start of something big.
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