Car Industry

Nikola Motor Company picks up 7,000 reservations for turbine-equipped electric semi truck cab

Maybe some of that money should go toward picking a more original company name.

Nikola Motor Company

It's not an ugly truck, it's just going to take more than flashy specs and pics to win over somebody who's seen plenty of automotive startups disappear into the ether.

Nikola Motor Company

Last month, I wrote about Nikola Motor Company, a startup with a too-obvious name that is hoping to make its mark in the auto industry with a 1,200-mile, range-extended electric semi truck cab. It's hard to give a company with nothing but renderings the benefit of the doubt, but it appears at least 7,000 members of the public have enough faith in the company to plunk down a $1,500 deposit.

NMC claims that it generated "$2.3 billion in presales," but that takes into account the full $375,000-ish MSRP of the truck, named Nikola One. It's really only sitting on about $10.5 million in cash from these reservations.

Thankfully, NMC's finished a round of seed funding and is hoping to pick up another $300 million in Series A funding by the end of the calendar year.

That's a lot of money, but it's barely scraping the surface of vehicle production costs in the US. Years ago, development costs for a brand new, from-the-ground-up vehicle were estimated at about $1 billion. While it appears NMC is going light on overhead compared to, say, a gargantuan auto-manufacturing conglomerate, it's still going to have to shell out big time for the same stuff as everyone else -- meeting regulations, giving up units for crash testing, things of that ilk.

While the MSRP is high for the truck, NMC is hoping its lease rates will be a bit more attractive. It should run between $4,000 and $5,000 per month, and the first million miles of "fuel" is paid for. Its 320-kWh battery will feature a range-extending natural gas turbine, so I'm assuming that's the fuel NMC is describing. By NMC's own math (which, ironically, is similar to Tesla's), each lease payment is offset by 100 percent, based on maintenance and diesel fuel that won't be required here.

Expect plenty more hype-building between now and the end of the year, because that's all NMC will be operating on in that time. It's not expected to furnish a prototype of its truck until the end of this year, right about the same time that Series A funding round is expected to wrap up.