Gas Guzzling Gone: Electrified Transportation Debut at “Nikola World” 2019

Odometer (Legend):  565,345

On Wednesday morning, I took one of my 25-year-old Acuras to have its emissions checked, just like I had done 5 times prior – every couple of years since 2008 when I first bought it.  The numbers looked good, I paid $17 and received my certificate, and went on my way.

I’m now good to register for another 2 years in that car, now with over 160,000 miles on the odometer.  But after seeing a presentation earlier this week on alternative fuel – hydrogen / electric – vehicles, it made me start questioning the future of my my old gas-burners.

And what about my trusty Legend coupe with 565,000 miles on the odometer?  Even if it achieved the 26 mpg highway rating its entire life, it has burned 21,730 gallons of gas.  Chew on that for a minute!

We are living in an era when electrified transportation is catching on like wildfire.  There are electric cars that can outperform traditional supercars and muscle cars by quite a margin.  Advancements in battery life and corresponding range capability have opened the doors to many people who previously might not have ever considered shifting away from driving a vehicle with an internal combustion engine.

A company at the forefront of that shift in mindset is called Nikola Motors, and if you haven’t heard of it by now, you will soon.  Nikola has already taken deposits on $14 billion worth of semi trucks that are hydrogen & electric powered.  Clients like Anheuser-Busch, CAT, and Ryder have already pledged their intent to do business with Nikola, and the company is about to break ground on a new manufacturing facility here in Arizona that will employ 2,000 people and start cranking out trucks by 2021 or 2022.

Nikola’s product lineup, I learned, goes far beyond the big rigs.  A huge launch/media event at WestWorld in Scottsdale gave me, as well as about 70 other journalists and 2,000 other spectators, a first look at a few of the products that Nikola has been working on behind the scenes for the last few years, since the Salt Lake City-based startup began to pick up momentum.  Its CEO, Trevor Milton, took the stage and shared his passion for transportation innovation that has led him to this point.  “The world is ready,” he said.

I was seated in the 4th row back in the Media section soaking it all in.  Arizona governor Doug Ducey and other notable stakeholders in the initiative were present and expressed comments on why they support Nikola and its objectives.  Solar energy will power the manufacturing facility, and zero-emission transportation is just one of many things that people in Arizona and elsewhere will preserve the nature of our landscape for future generations.  I found it especially interesting to be introduced to some of the products we’ll see hit the streets and trails in the coming years.

The first was an all-terrain vehicle called the Reckless, which, unlike other side-by-side ATVs or UTVs in the powersports community, will be be fully electric — designed for use in military operations when stealthy movement is critical.  It can also be fully submerged, driven via remote control, and contains a landing pad for a drone at the tail end.  Another was the NZT, pictured above, which is a fully enclosed side-by-side for off-road use that provides full HVAC control as well as isolation from dusty trails.

Jordan Darling, VP of the Powersports arm of Nikola, discussed the merits of the company’s “Water Adventure Vehicle,” or WAV.  It looks like a traditional waverunner, but of course, it’s electric.  Imagine being able to access parts of our waterways and lakes that are currently forbidden to watercraft with internal combustion engines.  And did I mention it also has cruise control?  The design itself was inspired by super bikes.

And lastly, we got a look at two of the big rigs that Nikola has pioneered:  Its “Two” and “Tre.”  Both are said to outperform traditional diesel heavy haulers by a landslide (“2 to 3 times faster” we were told) and offer a suite of comfort and safety amenities that are industry firsts.  They are controlled from the driver’s seat via large flat screen panels on the interior, and due to having no engine nor transmission tunnel, offer expansive space within the cabin.  Anheuser-Busch has already puts its name down for 800 trucks.  Today, its current fleet travels over 350 million miles per year.

I’m anxious to see where this technology goes and to be honest, even though I’m a die hard for my old-school automotive technology, it’s fun to be living in an era where we have the capability to take our transportation to the next level.  I wonder how the staffers at the Arizona emissions check station would react if I showed up in an electric vehicle?  Sounds like a good opportunity for a hidden cam prank.

Thanks to the Nikola team for the invitation!  Here is a short video and a few photos below.

A gal on my shuttle bus to the venue clearly was a little behind the tech times, and I can’t help but say I was a little jealous.  Flip phones remind me of simpler times.

Refreshments being served prior to the product launch reveal program.

There were 45 countries represented at the event.  I was probably one of only a handful of people who only had to drive about 15 minutes to be there.

Nikola’s message about preservation and sustainability was well presented.

Nikola’s “Tre” will be a Europe-only truck.

14 Responses to “Gas Guzzling Gone: Electrified Transportation Debut at “Nikola World” 2019”

  1. Electrics trucks AND cars have fascinated me for a long time now, but i still think we’re decades away from being able to do a [legal] cross-country road trip averaging 65mph in a Tesla, Leaf, or Bolt.

    9000 miles in the GS in 2 years? Awwwww, the sedan needs more love than that!

    • It would be a lot lower mileage accumulation than that, but Alex Alperovich put 3,000 miles on it in 2017 on a trip to Portland and back, as part of NALM in Sacramento!

  2. Funny you should post this…

    I was having a discussion recently about some distopian future when older cars like ours may no longer be allowed access to public roads. This led to inevitable dialogue on how these cars may be either be banned completely (hope not), given waivers to drive only to special events (possibly) or relegated to museums (who knows).

    But then I recall reading about how either Jaguar or an independent supplier was retrofitting electric power trains to vintage XKE’s. These cars looked completely stock except of course for their lack of engine noise or if you popped the hood.

    This got me thinking…. I could see a day when perhaps some cottage industry emerged that supplied electric power trains to fit most if not all of the most popular vintage cars. Given time I think this might actually happen. More strangely I’m beginning to warm up to the idea.

    But in the meantime… I hear that Honda is offering a crate motor for the Civic Type-R. Now if I can get my hands on enough $$$$ I could see doing a restomod on the 93SE. Upgrade the drivetrain, suspension, brakes, etc. and keep the body and interior stock. Might be fun blowing the doors off some unsuspecting hooners… hmm

    • Haha, that would make quite the sleeper! Yeah, I mean, if someone can shoehorn a GM LS V8 motor into a Mazda Miata, who’s to say they can’t also develop an electric motor for it? I think the opportunities are out there. I’ll drive my gas engines until the parts and resources for them dry up completely or become too costly to procure, then I’ll do a retrofit like you mentioned or archive the cars as museum pieces and move on.

  3. $14 Billion! I bet Nikola can’t wait to start cranking out those trucks. Electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will almost certainly dominate the future, but ICE cars and trucks won’t go away anytime soon. If this country gets its act together, it’ll invest heavily in a new smart grid (maybe in partnership with China) that will utilize renewable energy and be up to the task of supplying the juice needed for all the electrified transport to come. Or perhaps Elon Musk will solve it for us! 😀

    • Haha, now you’re on the right track! Agreed – and I certainly don’t want to see ICE cars be relegated to backyards or crushed like a “cash for clunkers” program. But for daily use – I could see myself driving a plug-in something or other someday.

  4. Fasctinating write-up. Thanks for sharing your experiences at this event! I attended a lecture the other day with a similar topic. What I haven’t wrapped my head around, though, is which clean energy is going to replace fossil fuels. Electric cars are all well and good, but the current design still requires charging, which still requires an electrical grid, which still means fossil fuels (I think around 60% of our electricity still comes from fossil fuels). Nuclear power is a non-starter, for all the obvious reasons, so what then? I think there are some big questions we need to answer as we look for what fuel replaces dinosaur bones.

    The other factor will be an increase in gas prices as fossil fuel becomes more scare. I could realistically see a day when filling up a tank takes $100 or more, at which point cars with ICE probably will be used for special occasions.

    All fascinating stuff. Thanks again- lots of food for thought with this one.

    • Definitely makes you consider all aspects of the situation. I remember that CEO Trevor specifically mentioned that the Arizona factory will be 100% no-emissions, no-impact. As in, even the power supplying the operations there will be completely solar generated.

  5. This is some fascinating stuff. Seeing our future change so rapidly. What will it even hold for us. This will change the truck driving community along with the petrol industry greatly. Just think how much money semi-trucks spend on fuel and support that market.

    On another note, we need to get Kyle B on the ground floor testing semi-trucks! We can create a site – KeepOnTrucking, haha

    • Oh I like it! Kyle is totally a candidate for a press truck or two. Interestingly, the topic of Nikola came up last night at dinner. My brother knows Trevor the CEO and has had some business dealings with him in the past – some not so positive. He’s skeptical about whether this technology will actually see the light of day in a mass production sense. It remains to be seen!

  6. Very interesting write up Tyson. I’m finding the idea of the electric trucks interesting – I wouldn’t have thought they’d have the range yet to be a practical alternative. I’d also be interested to know the life of the batteries. I’ve known some rigs that clocked and wound back to zero. I wonder what the possibility of that is if you have to replace the batteries every 100,000 miles…? Still interesting concept and I’m sure it’ll go that way eventually.

    I still this this electric car movement is a red herring though – where do people think all of the electricity to power them is going to be generated and how? Certainly not all by alternative energy. Electric cars aren’t going to reduce the amounts of fossil fuels being used – they’re just moving it downstream. instead of the cars it’ll be the power-stations.

    What we need is something more self contained. Hopefully there was that kind of technology on display.

    Glad to hear you enjoyed your mum’s car!

  7. um sorry – your mum’s car was the previous post… I think I need a drink 😀

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