If you spend a few weekends off-roading in the desert you'll start to notice a trend. Instead of the air-cooled dune buggies of yesteryear, people are now scrambling over rocks and roosting in the dunes in UTVs. These souped-up little golf carts can make close to 200 horsepower and fly over the desert floor like Superman.
Enter the Nikola Zero, an all-electric UTV that trounces the competition with the equivalent of 555 horsepower and, get this, 4,900 pound-feet of torque. Let me spell that out for you: four thousand nine hundred pound-feet of twist. The manufacturer claims that can send a Zero loaded with four passengers from a dead stop to 60 miles per hour in 3.9 seconds. Great googly moogly, what is this world coming to?
If that all sounds like a bit much, the base-model Zero gets 415 horsepower and 3,675 pound-feet of torque. Both models feature four independent motors pulling power from three battery options: 75kWh, 100kWh and 125kWh. The largest battery can store enough juice for 200 miles of range even while in 4x4 off-road mode.
You might remember Nikola as the company that showed off a hydrogen-electric semi-truck concept in December 2016. CEO Trevor Milton is obviously a fan of twisting power, although that 4,900 rating takes a bit of engineering. The Zero has a single-speed reduction gearbox. Before gear reduction each motor produces 490 pound-feet of torque. After the reduction at the wheel hub, you're looking at 1,222 pound-feet of torque at each wheel. Multiply that by four to get 4,888 pound-feet, which the company has rounded up to 4,900. That is the number that will register on the dyno. All that torque is available as soon as the driver touches the throttle.
The Zero's geometry looks pretty good, with 20 inches of travel and 14 inches of ground clearance. LED headlights and taillights are standard, as is a 10-inch infotainment display. No word on if it will run Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
You'll have to pay a bit extra for some cool options like torque vectoring, ABS, traction control and a street-legal package that makes the Zero compatible with local laws, although only in some states. Also extra are front and rear winches, vital for getting yourself or others unstuck, and a camera system.
I haven't driven the Zero yet so I have no idea if it will live up to its spec sheet. Dirt driving often requires quick throttle inputs and spinning wheels are inevitable, both of which will decrease range. 200 miles seems pretty optimistic, but I'll reserve judgement until I get behind the wheel.
The Nikola Zero starts at $35,000, a pretty impressive price tag when you consider a kitted-out Polaris RZR, long considered to be the gold standard of UTVs, starts at $10,000 less. Reservations will be taken starting in January 2018.