In February, Nikola surprised us twice — first by announcing an electric pickup called Badger, second by disclosing specs for two powertrains, one of them pure battery-electric, the other a BEV with a hydrogen fuel cell range extender, both fitted with a supercapacitor launch system to help deliver repeatable acceleration performance. Nikola CEO Trevor Milton has imparted more Badger news this week on Twitter, and again, a few surprises come in tow. The most important bit is that pre-orders for the truck open on June 29. Milton didn't open up about pre-order details like the amount of the deposit, but those who pre-order will get something concrete for their money: Priority access to tickets for Nikola World 2020. The event was scheduled to take place in Phoenix in September, but the date might have changed; Milton said he'll announce this year's Nikola World date on June 29. According the tweet, the company will bring a "a real operating truck, not a fake show truck" to Phoenix, and the crowd that will crawl all over the Badger can "Expect stamped metal panels, functioning interior w/ hvac, 4x4, etc."
Yet another tweet showed a CAD-rendered image of the Badger's interior with a wider angle than before. There are small detail changes from the first image from February that make the interior look more production-ready, if less fancy, and we can see useful inclusions like the four USB ports and two 110-volt outlets on the back of the center console. Milton wrote that there will be a cargo retention system in the floor to secure loads in the cab, plus a hidden fridge, and "waterproof" quality.
@nikolamotor Badger in person at #nikolaworld2020 this year. You'll get to see a real operating truck, not a fake show truck. Expect stamped metal panels, functioning interior w/ hvac, 4x4, etc pic.twitter.com/SkY9zV0bbs — Trevor Milton (@nikolatrevor) June 8, 2020
I wanted to post something no one has seen. @nikolamotor badger pre-production interior CAD. Notice the floor mounting system? It's throughout the truck and made to secure any loads within the vehicle safely. See quality of everything - waterproof. Hidden Fridge too:) pic.twitter.com/EttmrOuqA4— Trevor Milton (@nikolatrevor) June 8, 2020
When we lined up the Badger's stated dimensions against a Ford F-150 Lariat 4x4 with an eight-foot bed in February, the math showed the Badger to be 1.5 inches wider and four inches longer, even though the Badger's bed is only a shade over five feet. Our comparison holds up based on an interview Milton gave to TechCrunch. When discussing the Badger's segment and comparing his truck to the Rivian R1T, he told the outlet, "We went directly after the Ford F-150 market and it’ll be a direct competitor to the Tesla Cybertruck as well,” and, "The Rivian is a small truck like a Toyota Tacoma and will not compete in the construction world nor the Ford F-150, bigger pickup market that’s focused on home businesses, construction and things like that. The Rivian is more of a consumer model that is used for outdoor recreational activities."
One of Nikola's Instagram posts said the Badger would be priced from $60,000 to $90,000. That's a wide middle ground to the estimated starting prices of the others: $39,000 Cybertruck, $52,000 Lordstown Motors Endurance, $69,000 Rivian R1T, and $125,000 Bollinger B1.
For that money, the Badger offers a wide spec bracket. The battery-only model gets a 160-kWh pack that powers a 300-mile range. The electric motors provide a continuous 455 horsepower that maxes out at 906 hp, and 908 pound-feet of torque. The trim with the 120-kW FCEV extender can run for 600 miles between top-ups. Ready for another surprise? Car and Driver writes that if a buyer gets the pure battery model, he can upgrade the powertrain with the FCEV unit at a later date. A 0-60 time of 2.9 seconds makes a nice counterpoint to 8,000 pounds of towing capacity. A 15-kW on-board power supply is said to be able to run equipment "for approximately 12 hours without a generator."
At one point, Nikola said it was working with Dave Sparks, otherwise known as Heavy D from the Discovery Channel show "Diesel Brothers," to help with the design and development "in real-world environments." Sparks' involvement was also going to be part of a video series documenting the Badger's birth and progress, but that might be in limbo after a U.S. District Court hit the Diesel Brothers with an $845,451 fine in March for violating the Clean Air Act.
That's about the only high-profile hiccup to be even distantly associated with Nikola Motors. Investors are already so bullish on the six-year-old company that the Twitter announcement about pre-orders sent Nikola stock soaring — doubling in value since Monday. Mind you, the stock debuted on June 4 after Nikola entered a reverse merger with VectoIQ, a company headed by ex-GM vice chairman Stephen Girsky. As TechCrunch distilled the facts of this week's hubbub, "Against that backdrop of bold vision but no products — or even revenue — Nikola Motor is valued at $28.63 billion as of market close Tuesday. Nikola’s market capitalization eclipsed Ford at one point Tuesday."
Nor does Nikola have a factory yet; a facility in Coolidge, Airzona, should begin construction this year, but Bloomberg writes that Nikola doesn't expect to use the plant's full capacity until 2028.
Before then, Milton said the "Badger will be built in conjunction with another OEM utilizing their certified parts and manufacturing facilities." Nikola has a truck headed to production in Europe, developed in conjunction with Iveco. As Autoblog commenters pointed out in February, the Agnelli family owns Iveco, and Fiat Chrysler. Purely speculatively, it's possible Nikola plans to work with FCA here to get the Badger to market for a 2022 launch. We'll know more soon.
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