Many details show how much Trevor Milton wanted to be a Tesla in a hydrogen-powered car. The electric car company, Tesla, was named after the legendary scientist, Tesla, when it was founded in 2003, and Milton, who launched his business in 2014, only used the scientist’s name.
But Nicola is not a cottage business. Just last week, Nikola Motor, a Phoenix, Arizona-based hydrogen-fueled car company, listed on Nasdaq under the nasdaq, and although none of the cars were delivered, the share price soared to a market capitalisation of $13 billion. Unlike other start-ups, Nicola sumpted through an initial public offering, but through a venture to vectoIQ, a publicly traded company of Steve Girsky, the former gm’s vice-chairman, to make a quick listing through a backdoor. Gski is also a member of Nikolai’s board of directors.
It took six years from its inception to listing, and Milton, the 38-year-old founder, is worth $4.4 billion to become a global billionaire in the hydrogen fuel sector. Seven years after Tesla’s launch, at least it has already begun delivering the Roadster sports car, which was just 39 years old on the day of the launch. Milton has never hidden his fascination with Musk, who is both his entrepreneurial idol and his direct competitor, or the marketing ploy he has used. He admits he has long been concerned about Musk’s words and deeds.
Milton’s stout figure looks a bit like Musk’s, and even his hubris is similar to Musk’s. “Since Nicola launched its first hydrogen-powered semi-trailer, the world has been supporting hydrogen energy and following our direction. Hydrogen, once seen as the source of the future, has become the solution now. Our goal is to be a truly world-changing business. “
Similar to Musk’s weekly commute between Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, Milton also travels frequently to and from his home in Utah and Arizona. Although he needed to start a business in a big city, he was reluctant to leave his Utah home and was more obsessed with living on a western estate, and last year spent $32.5 million on a 1,000-hectare manor house in his Utah home.
Milton never went to college, but he grew up with a passion for machinery and cars. Milton, 29, founded a gas trucking technology company in Utah in 2010 and sold it to Worthington in 2014. He then started Nicola with his entrepreneurial partners. Like Musk, Milton is also a technocrats who work with Nikolai’s engineers almost every day.
Cut into the hydrogen fuel heavy card market
Compared to Tesla, Nikolai chose a different cut into the market, doing electric and hydrogen-fueled trucks. Competitors include both heavy trucks with traditional energy and Tesla’s electric truck, the Semi, which was released in 2017. In fact, what Milton wanted to do when he first started was an electric heavy card, but then shifted its focus to hydrogen-fueled vehicles. While his idol, Musk, is foolish to publicly mock the idea of a hydrogen-fueled car, Milton thinks that’s the future direction of the car.
In April last year, Nicola officially unveiled a 9-ton Class 8 class (more than 15 tons of cargo) hydrogen-fueled semi-trailer Nicola One (debuted in 2016), powered by 1,000 horsepower, dragging 18 wheels of heavy cards for up to 750 miles. Nikolai’s hydrogen-fueled heavy-duty card has many advantages over Tesla’s electric heavy-duty semi, which was released in November 2017. Milton is proud to say that if such a parameter were an electric truck, it would require at least 2.3 tons of battery weight. Of course, the biggest advantage of hydrogen fuel heavy cards is that they fill the “cylinders” as quickly as refueling, rather than waiting slowly to charge.
In February, Nicola unveiled another hydrogen fuel and electric hybrid pickup Badger. In addition to hydrogen fuel cell motors, Badger has an additional battery pack that together provides a range of nearly 1,000 kilometers. Nicola’s hydrogen-fueled pickup is more practical than Tesla’s sci-fi-style Pickup Cybertruck, and can be recharged even without a hydrogenstation. ‘Now that we’ve all invested billions of dollars in developing hydrogen-fueled heavy-duty trucks, why not make a pickup truck again, ‘ Mr. Milton said.
Nicola has already built a land-buying plant in Arizona to produce hydrogen-energy and electric trucks released last year, and plans to start delivering them in 2021. Nicola One’s service orders now exceed $10 billion (depending on delivery capacity). Anherser-Busch, the US beer giant, alone has ordered 800 big trucks, compared with 40 for Tesla’s Semi. Nicola expects sales of $3.2 billion in 2024.
Nikolai’s key technology partners also include CHN Industrial in the Netherlands, owned by Iveco, Germany’s Bosch, Meritor in the US, Worthington, the US’s precision steel company, Hanwha, a South Korean solar solution supplier, and Nel, a Supplier of Hydro-Dehydro hydrogen solutions in Norway. Some of these companies were also investors in Nicola’s $500m D-round financing last year, with Caisnew Industries investing $250m.
Nicola’s ambitions are not limited to that. Their version of the hydrogen fuel heavy card for the global market, called Nicola Tre, is a joint venture between Nicola and Iveco and is scheduled to start production in 2022. Nicola’s road map also includes the jet ski Nicola Wav, the all-terrain off-road vehicle (ORV) Nicola NZT, and the military version of Nicola Reckless. But the off-road leisure market for both products is not big compared to the huge demand for heavy cards and pickups, and more like Milton’s own hobby, which is obsessed with western life.
The advantage of hydrogen fuel heavy card is obvious
To attract corporate customers to give up diesel heavy cards, Milton has also designed a disruptive business model for Nicola, which will push for “all-inclusive” rentals, including vehicles, services, maintenance and fuel costs, to keep long-term life-cycle costs on par with diesel models or lower than diesel models. This means that customers will only have to pay for the use, rather than buythe entire heavy card, greatly reducing the company’s doubts about the future of new energy vehicles.
Nicola sued last week to order $30m worth of hydro-de-hydrogen equipment from Nel, Norway, to build a hydrogen plant in Arizona with a daily hydrogen production capacity of 40,000 kilograms. The southwestern United States (California and Arizona) have abundant and cheap solar and wind resources that can be used to make hydrogen. While this can only meet the supply of five large hydrogenation stations and maintain the supply requirements of 250 hydrogen-fueled heavy trucks, the route of transport for long-distance heavy trucks is usually fixed.
Nicola plans to build the first hydrogenation stations in California, home to the largest market for new energy vehicles in the United States. Under Milton’s plan, Nicola will have a refueling network covering more than 700 hydrogenation stations across the country by 2028. Milton believes he can reduce the cost of compressed hydrogen to $2.50 a kilogram, while the retail price of a California hydrogen station is now $14 per kilogram. Milton confidently declared that Nicola’s technology was at least three years ahead of his rivals.
Hydrogen-fueled trucks have their own innate advantages: compared to conventional diesel trucks, hydrogen-powered vehicles are the cleanest energy source, and the equivalent of electric trucks, which can be replenished in minutes like refueling without the need for bulky batteries. Of course, hydrogen-powered cars are not without its drawbacks: hydrogen networks need to be built in advance, as well as cost-effective solutions for hydrogen, hydrogen and hydrogen storage.
Nicola’s choice of the re-card market as an entry point clearly makes its case. This is a huge market. In North America alone, Class 8 heavy trucks (carrying more than 15 tons of cargo) have an annual market size of $30 billion, or about 250,000 vehicles. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Class 8 heavy trucks carry 80 percent of the U.S. cargo, consume 22 percent of their transportation energy, 2.5 million trucks consume 28 billion gallons of fuel a year, and each truck has 66,000 miles per vehicle.
According to IHS research, the world’s truck consumption of oil and small cars is roughly the same, accounting for about a fifth of global oil consumption. Trucks account for 7 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, consume 17 million barrels of oil a day, and fuel demand is growing by 1.9 percent a year, according to the International Energy Agency. Heavy trucks are particularly fuel-intensive in this regard.
The market for hydrogen-fueled vehicles is huge.
Policy is, of course, the greatest development advantage of new energy vehicles. While the current Trump administration has slashed subsidies and industry support for new energy vehicles, countries such as Europe, China and California are pushing the new energy market hard. Of course, if Biden is elected president in November, the U.S. will also be back on track to support new energy, combat climate change, and give new impetus to the new energy vehicle market.
Under the EU’s climate change response target, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 40 per cent by 2030, and last year the EU set out more specific plans to reduce average emissions from heavy vehicles by 30 per cent by 2030. Under such a policy, diesel engines will be the biggest influencer, but also electric trucks, biofuel trucks and other new energy trucks to bring a huge market.
Hydrogen energy vehicles were developed as early as the 1960s, and GM released its first prototype as early as 1966, but never really put it into production, and technology and costs have always been a huge challenge. Until recent years, the price of materials and equipment fell sharply, green energy has become an industry trend, hydrogen energy vehicles have once again become the focus of industry attention. Traditional hydrogen processes include “blue hydrogen” processes such as natural gas conversion hydrogen and coal hydrogen, because hydrogen itself is an industrial raw material for industries such as refining and metallurgy. Now more popular is hydro-destoated hydrogen and other “green hydrogen” new process. Nicola of Milton uses a green hydrogen process.
Musk, however, is far from optimistic about the future of hydrogen-powered cars, even calling it a “mind-shaming stupid” (Mind-bogglingly stupid). “Hydrogen is a mechanism for energy storage, not a source of energy,” Musk explains. You have to make hydrogen, for example, electricity to break down water, and electrolysis produces energy that is very inefficient. Instead of charging the battery directly, trying to break down water to make hydrogen, then compressing it in liquefaction and injecting it into the vehicle to start the fuel cell, which is equivalent to losing half the energy efficiency. It doesn’t make any sense at all, why do you want to do so? “
But Tesla’s hydrogen fuel doesn’t affect the way many other car companies are investing in the field. Toyota Motor Corp. of Japan, Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor of South Korea are the starters, and several models are already on the market, with California also being the main market. In March, Toyota announced that it was developing a hydrogen-fueled heavy truck with a 600-kilometer range, based on the existing heavy-card model Hino Profia, based on the existing heavy-card model Hino Profia.
Milton believes he can catch up with Tesla because hydrogen energy is the technology of the future, while Musk is stuck in the electric car market. “Very few people can surpass Musk in the field of new energy vehicles, and I’m one of them. Nikolai will be a pioneer in heavy trucks, and Tesla will only follow us. “