Trucks

Nikola Motor Company's electric truck just became a lot harder to sell

The startup has abruptly changed course with its battery-electric truck, opting for a hydrogen fuel-cell power train, instead. Hmm.

Nikola Motor Company

I will say this -- the rendering looks pretty cool, even if the power train is a total bait-and-switch.

Nikola Motor Company

Remember Nikola Motor Company? The not-so-originally-named startup promised to break into the auto industry with a battery-electric semi truck cab, called the Nikola One. A number of folks put down deposits based on that information, but now, the company has changed the truck's method of propulsion, which is...worrisome.

Nikola announced today that its Nikola One would feature a hydrogen fuel-cell power train. It's still electric, although it appears to ditch the natural-gas range extender in favor of sweet lady H. The company claims this move makes its truck entirely emissions-free, which is good, but it's still a puzzling move.

Here's why it's weird. A number of folks put down deposits on a $375,000 semi cab that was marketed as being entirely electric -- as in, you can plug it into the wall and take power from the grid, all across the country. Now, the trucks will be powered by compressed hydrogen gas, which relies on an infrastructure that's so far into its infancy it's barely experienced cell mitosis. All of a sudden, your ability to fill up around the country has disappeared -- and with it, I imagine, more than a few of those deposits, which I hope are refundable.

To that end, Nikola's promised that it plans to produce its own hydrogen, via "zero-emission solar farms built by Nikola Motor Company," per its press release. The company said it will have over 50 filling stations in place by 2020. That's one per state. The truck's purported 1,200-mile range will help out there, because it may take hours to find a station, if you ever do.

It's all just very weird. I, and many of my colleagues, still don't know what to make of all this. Either way, we'll know more once the truck is unveiled to the world on December 1 in Salt Lake City.

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