The Truth about Nikola

Published on September 15, 2020

A lot of people think Nikola is some kind of ripoff, but that isn’t the case. In this video, Brian from Real Engineering explains the Truth about Nikola.

The truth about Nikola

Hydrogen fuel-cell trucks will determine Nikola’s success. Right now, Hydrogen’s two biggest challenges are the cost of the fuel and the lack of a fuel distribution network.

Specific Energy

Nikola's advantage is specific energy.

Tesla’s lithium-ion batteries have a specific energy of 250 Watt-hours per kilogram. Hydrogen is much more mass-efficient, with a specific energy of 40,000 Watt-hours per kilogram. Another thing to consider is the fact that, unlike liquid-fueled vehicles, batteries do not get lighter as they expend their energy.

Batteries take up a lot more space than Nikola's hydrogren.

Hydrogen fuel’s major challenge

The truth about Nikola is about distribution networks.

For every 100 kilowatt-hours put into a battery, you are able to get 85.74 kilowatt-hours out to the motors. In contrast, for every 100 kilowatt-hours put into hydrogen, only provide 34.7 kilowatt-hours ends up going to the motors.

Also, there is a ‘sweet spot’ where hydrogen’s extra fuel cost is offset by hydrogen’s increased range. So, hydrogen trucks are best for long-haul, heavy loads that run along dedicated routes. Nikola has found a solution to hydrogen’s lack of distribution infrastructure.

There is a sweet spot where hydrogen vehicles are economical.

Nikola is starting small

First, Nikola has to go after a market that it can feasibly service. Currently, there are 1.8 million trucks on the road, and 25% of them drive dedicated routes. Although Nikola is a small company and has only a small portion of the market to work with, its first was the major American alcoholic beverage producer and distributor, Anheuser-Busch. In November 2019, Busch ran its first route using a Nikola hydrogen-powered truck.

The truth about Nikola is that they have to start small.

The truth about Nikola is that it can use these small routes to gain capital, then they can expand to other routes. Also, if Nikola can drive the cost of fuel down it can increase the size of its market, and its share of it.

Nikola trucks have a lower TCO

Nikola provides a lower total cost of ownership.

A diesel-powered semi-truck has a TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of 98 cents per mile. Nikola has, however, created a leasing model that bundles the cost of the truck, maintenance, repairs, and fuel. The lease costs 95 cents per mile. So, this completely eliminates the costs and risks of the early adoption of hydrogen vehicles.

The truth about Nikola is that it has the potential to make a lot of money.

Nikola stands to gain a billion dollars

Each one of these lease agreements will earn Nokoli a profit of $173,064, therefore, if Nikola can sell just 6000 of its trucks it can generate a profit of $1,038,384,000 every seven years. The truth about Nikola is that its next challenge is the ramping up of manufacturing. Nikola is partnering with an existing truck manufacturer to overcome this challenge. In September 2019, Iveco invested $250 million in Nikola. $100 million in cash and $150 million in engineering and production services. Nikola is also making a battery-powered pick-up truck.

Other Nikola projects

The new EV company has a battery-electric truck coming out.

Nikola is making a ‘Badger’ pickup truck that has a range of 300 miles. The company also makes a battery-electric garbage truck. Nikola is a new company, but they have, however, received a substantial order of 2,500 trucks from Republic Services.

The company has already sold thousands of electric garbage trucks.

Republic Services is one of the largest trash removal companies in the United States.

YouTube Video Description

The truth about Nikola

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Writer/Narrator: Brian McManus
Editor: Stephanie Sammann (
Animator: Mike Ridolfi (
Sound: Graham Haerther (
Thumbnail: Simon Buckmaster

Additional References

Thank you to AP Archive for access to their archival footage.

Music by Epidemic Sound:

Songs: Thank you to my patreon supporters: Adam Flohr, Henning Basma, Hank Green, William Leu, Tristan Edwards, Ian Dundore, John & Becki Johnston. Nevin Spoljaric, Jason Clark, Thomas Barth, Johnny MacDonald, Stephen Foland, Alfred Holzheu, Abdulrahman Abdulaziz Binghaith, Brent Higgins, Dexter Appleberry, Alex Pavek, Marko Hirsch, Mikkel Johansen, Hibiyi Mori. Viktor Józsa, Ron Hochsprung

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