BADGER HUNT | Ute Review – Nikola

The electric ute that could revolutionise the market

In Europe it’s probably the closest animal to our wombat, other than not being a marsupial. The badger is nocturnal, lives in burrows under the ground and can be aggressive when provoked.

Although not that well known in the Australian market, if American company Nikola has its way the name Badger is likely to become the poster pin-up for environmentally-acceptable ute ownership with zero emissions and a huge amount of inbuilt technology.

Badger will make its first appearance at Nikola World 2020, slated for September of this year, if by then the world has the Coronavirus contained and controlled.

Nikola Corporation designs and manufactures hydrogen-electric vehicles, electric-vehicle drivetrains, vehicle components, energy storage systems and hydrogen stations. Leading the company, which is privately-owned and headquartered in Arizona, is its visionary CEO Trevor Milton.

As a start-up company Nikola has some very solid friends. In recent years it’s been developing a battery-electric prime mover called the Nikola TRE and it aims to start production this year in a joint venture with CNH International, Iveco Trucks and Fiat Powertrain, based at the Iveco manufacturing centre in Ulm, Germany.

Having got the truck project up and running, Trevor Milton indulged in some broader lateral thought and turned his attention to the ute market.

“Nikola has billions worth of technology in our heavy-truck prime-mover programme, so why not build it (the technology) into a ute?” said Trevor.

“I have been working on this ute programme for years and believe the market is now ready for something that can handle a full day’s worth of work without running out of energy. This electric truck can be used for work, weekend getaways, towing, off-roading or to hit the ski slopes without performance loss. No other electric ute can operate in these temperatures and conditions.”

Nikola’s description of Badger says it all really. It’s the most advanced zero-emission FCEV/BEV ute available in the world, and it will hit the market with an estimated range of just under 1000 km when combining FCEV and BEV. Where hydrogen is not available for a refill, the Badger will run for almost half that distance as a BEV alone.  And if you are not yet up to speed with FCEV as a BEV vehicle nomenclature, the first refers to fuel-cell electric vehicles with the latter expanding to battery-electric vehicle.

Unlike anything on the market, the Badger advanced electric ute is designed to target and exceed every electric, diesel or petrol ute in its class.

The Badger is engineered to deliver 1328 Nm of torque, 675 kW (906 hp) peak power and 340 kW (455 hp) continuous power. The acceleration rate is phenomenal, thanks to the EV drive with peak torque from zero rpm, and its 0-100 km/h time is estimated as being in the region of three seconds.

The electric pickup is designed to handle what a construction company could throw at it and is engineered to outperform all electric pickup trucks on the market in both continuous towing, power and range. The Badger will be outfitted with a 15 kW power outlet for tools, lights and compressors, which is enough power to assist a construction site for approximately 12 hours without a generator.

Badger was designed to handle 0-160 km/h launches with minimal loss of performance and to operate on grades up to 40 percent through advanced software blending of batteries and fuel-cell. With a fully-loaded trailer and gross combined weight of 8000 kg, Nikola claims Badger will be able to launch from a standstill on a 30 percent grade without motor stall.

“The Nikola Badger is a game changer. The programme will help drive down the cost of the fuel-cell components on our Nikola TRE prime mover while accelerating the hydrogen station rollout. Giving customers the option to order a fuel-cell or battery electric version will ensure we drive the cost down for everyone across our line-up,” said Mark Russell, president of Nikola Corporation.

The Badger will be built in conjunction with another as yet unnamed OEM using their certified parts and manufacturing facilities. Nikola Corporation is currently not yet releasing details of the proposed partnership but at Delivery Magazine our team is forecasting an involvement with Nissan and the Navara line-up, using the considerable design and development work completed by Mercedes-Benz to create the X-Class.

The decision by Mercedes-Benz to cease production of the X-Class could not come at a better time for Nikola or Nissan, as it plays into Nissan’s current more adventurous marketing attitude as demonstrated by the N-TREK Warrior marketing.

Back in 2014, Nissan motors, together with Spanish Endesa, recently announced the first commercially available product for “Vehicle-To-Everything” (V2X).

With V2X an electric vehicle can deliver power to the owner where access to the general power grid is not possible or practical. V2X can also strengthen a vehicle’s ability to support the power system through ancillary services. Participation by a car and charging spot OEM is a great contribution to the Nikola project and CEEs research within electric vehicles.

With five seats, overall dimensions are being quoted of 5900 mm long by 1850 mm high and a width of 2160 mm with a bed width of 1560 mm. Using the identical bed width as the X-Class suggests a longer tray dimension by 269 mm and a height increase of 11 mm corresponding to a suspension lift and a gain in ground clearance.

In conjunction with the major product announcement scheduled for September of this year, in Phoenix, Arizona, Nikola Corporation is currently planning 700 hydrogen stations to give North America hydrogen coverage. Initial hydrogen station locations to service the Badger ute and Nikola TRE prime mover, plus other hydrogen fuelled vehicles are finalised and will be announced this quarter.

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