Nikola Motor Company: The EV startup with the worst, most obvious name ever

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Nikola Motor Company
Nikola Motor Company

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, Elon Musk must be so happy to hear about the latest startup promising "electric vehicles, energy storage systems and electric-vehicle drivetrain components." It's called Nikola Motor Company, and it appears to want to do the exact same thing as Tesla, judging by the quoted phrase above.

However, whereas Tesla got its start with a diminutive, sporty roadster, Nikola (seriously, where's the originality?) is rolling out two products simultaneously -- the Nikola One and Nikola Zero.

The Nikola One is a 2,000-horsepower semi truck cab promising 1,200 miles of range from its 320-kWh battery, which you never have to plug in because a natural-gas-powered turbine allegedly charges batteries while driving, sort of similar to a Chevrolet Volt (minus the CNG turbine part). It will cost $375,000, but you can put down only $1,500 for a deposit.

The Nikola Zero is a 520-horsepower off-road vehicle (think Polaris RZR) with a 50-kWh battery, a 0-60mph time of 3 seconds, rear-wheel steering and three displays. This bad boy will set you back $42,000, but deposits are half that of the truck, at just $750. Neither vehicle actually exists yet -- prototypes won't be unveiled until later this year.

I'm all for new startups in the EV market, but this has all the makings of proper vaporware. First, the name is a clear cachet-grab -- at least Faraday Future had the foresight to use a different scientist. Second, this company is trying to market $375,000 trucks and $42,000 off-roaders side by side, with deposits that are a pittance compared with the eventual MSRP. Even with modest support, that's not going to raise enough capital to kick-start production of two wildly different vehicles.

Color me skeptical.

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