Nikola Motor to open pre-orders for fuel cell pickup truck to compete with Ford, Tesla

Nikola Motor Company, the Arizona startup that made its debut as a publicly traded company June 4, will open reservations later this month for a hydrogen fuel cell electric pickup truck that was designed to compete with the Ford F-150.

Reservations, or pre-orders, will open June 29 for the hydrogen-electric pickup truck known as the Badger, Nikola Motor founder and chairman Trevor Milton tweeted Tuesday.

The company’s initial focus has been to design, develop and eventually produce hydrogen-electric Class 8 trucks and build out hydrogen station infrastructure throughout North America. Since its founding in 2014, the company has expanded its hydrogen-electric vision to powersports and more recently to pickup trucks. The company shared in February the first details about the Badger pickup truck, which will be available as a battery electric or fuel cell vehicle.

Nikola Motor has not produced any products yet. It doesn’t even have a factory. The company is building a factory in Coolidge, Ariz. The site has been cleared and construction will begin in 2020, Milton told TechCrunch in a recent interview, adding that he hoped for it to start this summer.

Against that backdrop of bold vision but no products — or even revenue — Nikola Motor is valued at $28.63 billion as of market close Tuesday. Nikola’s market capitalization eclipsed Ford at one point Tuesday.

Nikola became a publicly traded company through a reverse merger with VectoIQ, a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company led by GM’s former vice chairman Stephen Girsky. Since its June 4 debut, the stock has had a short volatile ride, trading at more than 112% higher than its debut price of $37.55. Shares closed Tuesday at $79.73.

Badger takes aim at Ford, Tesla

“We went directly after the Ford F-150 market and it’ll be a direct competitor to the Tesla Cybertruck as well,” Milton told TechCrunch.

Milton said the pickup truck won’t compete with Rivian, which is also planning to produce an electric pickup truck.

“The Rivian is a small truck like a Toyota Tacoma and will not compete in the construction world nor the Ford F-150, bigger pickup market that’s focused on home businesses, construction and things like that. The Rivian is more of a consumer model that is used for outdoor recreational activities.”

The Badger has some eye-popping specs, including up to a 600-mile range, 906 horsepower and 980 pound-feet of torque, according to Nikola Motor. The battery electric version will be able to travel 300 miles on a single charge and can be upgraded with fuel cells to double the range. The company expects the Badger to go into production in 2022.

But Nikola doesn’t plan to produce the Badger on its own, according to Milton. Instead, the company plans to partner with an OEM, which Milton said will be revealed later this year.