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Europe is making faster cars and better batteries than Tesla

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European technology companies such as Rimac, Skeleton Technologies and Einride are rivalling the mighty Tesla empire.

By Marie Mawad, Mimi Billing and Maija Palmer
Monday 7 September 2020


At $390bn, Tesla is worth a lot to investors. In fact, it’s worth more than all of Germany’s carmakers combined.


Europe started out as the birthplace of the automobile, but it has become the laggard — and not just as far as stock market valuations go.


In the 12 years since Elon Musk released his first full-electric sports car, he’s expanded into battery production at Tesla’s Gigafactory, deployed dedicated charging infrastructure worldwide and developed products that let consumers generate and store energy. His Roadster has become the reference for super-fast travel on a battery and his electric sedans have climbed the rankings to compete with Nissan for the world’s most sold electric car.

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Tesla Roadster. Credit: Tesla
In that time frame, prestigious brands in Europe, the likes of Volkswagen and Daimler in Germany but also Renault and Peugeot in France, have mostly struggled with a diesel emissions scandal and displayed a sluggish attitude to shifting to battery-powered cars.


Pessimists say the fate of European carmakers shows the region’s inability to transform even the most brilliant ideas and finest engineering talent into disruptive innovation at scale

“It’s not lack of vision that is plaguing Europe — carmakers like Renault have long had the vision of a future with electric, connected and autonomous vehicles,” says Francois Veron, the cofounder of investment fund Newfund. “But they failed at industrialising that vision, at adapting their production and supply chains to the new business models of electric cars.”


“Real disruption is more likely to come from an independent player than from the incumbents,” says Veron. “A heavily financed independent player.”


But while Europe does not have a single Tesla equivalent, it does have several companies doing parts of what Tesla does and in many cases doing it better.


Without the media might of the Musk empire, they are less well known, but there are companies such as Rimac making faster electric roadsters, companies like Skeleton Technologies making more powerful ultracapacitors and Einride making electric self-driving trucks.


Here’s part one of our series looking at Elon Musk’s empire and the European technology companies emerging as its rivals. Part one is focusing on cars and batteries, part two on space and part three on hyperloop.

Part one: vroom
Cars are one of the most visible parts of Tesla, and make up the majority of its revenues. In the second quarter of 2020, car sales accounted for 86% of its reported $6bn sales. A newly launched Model Y has got car pundits salivating.


But perhaps the most emblematic of Tesla’s successes lies in its ability to deploy a wide-spanning network of dedicated, ultra-fast chargers called superchargers. They’ve played a key role in helping Tesla’s cars stand out from the rest, by addressing consumers’ fear of running out of juice in an electric vehicle.


In fact, infrastructure that allows for a relatively short charging pit stop along the way is perhaps the only segment where Tesla truly has no equivalents in Europe.


The company boasts nearly 2,000 stations in Europe and the Middle East. Alternatives, even added together and helped by state subsidies, form a smaller network of disparate chargers that are all less powerful — hence slower to refill a battery — and are often faced with compatibility issues.


Every other part of the electric car ecosystem has Europeans in the ring, battling it out with Tesla. Here are the names worth knowing:

Tesla’s hypercar challengers in Europe
Rimac (Croatia)



Tesla’s Roadster makes claims on being the quickest car in the world. According to the company, it’s able to go from 0-60 mph in just 1.9 seconds, and has a top speed of more than 250 mph.


Croatia’s Rimac may be able to just pip Tesla’s record, with claims that its C_Two electric hypercar can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 1.85 seconds, a whisker faster than the Roadster. And the C_Two claims a top speed of 258 mph.


Mind you, Rimac’s C_Two isn’t in production yet. Any prospective customers will have to wait for 2021 to take delivery, and there are likely to be only a very limited number of vehicles made. Your likelihood of owning a C_Two is probably a lot lower than owning a Roadster

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Rimac C_Two. Credit: Rimac

Rimac, which began with Mate Rimac trying to pimp up his own very beat-up 1984 BMW when he was just 19, is clearly a very different (and much smaller) business than Tesla. But its mission to build electric motor cars that are, well, super fast, is having a surprisingly big reach across the car industry.


Porsche owns around 15% of the company, and Hyundai Motor Group recently invested €80m as part of a new partnership which will see the two companies collaborate on a range of performance electric cars. A number of other carmakers, including Aston Martin and Pininfarina already use Rimac’s battery packs for their own electric supercars.


With serious investors coming in now, Rimac is professionalising and gearing up to go much bigger. Plus, it just recently hired ex-Tesla engineer Chris Porritt as CTO.


Piëch (Switzerland)


Piëch is based in Switzerland but it has deep roots in Germany and links back to Volkswagen.


The company was founded by Toni Piëch, the son of former Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piëch, whose own ancestors include Volkswagen founder Ferdinand Porsche.


It’s out to build on Germany’s history of top-notch engineering, combined with an electric motor and reviving iconic elements of classic sports car designs, to become the “leading luxury electric mobility brand”

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Piëch Car. Credit: Piëch

“In spirit, we go back to Ferdinand Porsche’s 1931 vision,” the company says on its website. “We aim to build a company that recaptures the artistry, craftsmanship and heritage of the past, but we emerge into 21st century with a new powertrain, a new business model, and an appetite for technology and disruption.”


The company’s Mark Zero all-electric model, scheduled to go on sale in 2022, can get to 100km/h in 3.2s, charges 80% of its battery in 4 minutes 40 seconds, and boasts a range of 500km on a single charge.


One specific: Piëch has no plans to invest in its own manufacturing and relies instead on a network of partners for production — carmakers with factories, assembly and supply chains already set up.


Nikola (US-based, with ties to Germany and Italy)


The other, much-hyped challenger to Tesla is Nikola.


Admittedly that’s partly because of the name of the company, which refers to Nikola Tesla, the engineer and inventor who made important contributions during the 1900s to what we know about electrical supply systems. His surname inspired Musk’s company, and Nikola of course picked up on his first name.


Nikola is going head-to-head with Tesla in electric trucks. The company is US-based, but it does have a big European connection.


Germany’s Robert Bosch and Italy’s Iveco, the truck-maker backed by the Agnelli family, each own 6% of Nikola and were instrumental in building the important parts of the company’s trucks.


More than 200 Bosch employees were involved in building important parts of Nikola’s trucks, including the electric motor for the axle, the vehicle-control unit, the battery and the hydrogen fuel cell. The trucks themselves are being built in an Iveco factory in Germany.

Tesla’s trucks challengers in Europe
The Tesla programme for trailer trucks, dubbed Tesla Semi, has been pushed back a bunch of times and the first units are now expected to be delivered sometime in 2021.


Einride (Sweden)


Stockholm-based Einride’s trucks are not for consumers, but for the logistics industry. The company started off focused on developing self-driving trucks that would transport goods entirely autonomously or controlled remotely. Recently it has acknowledged that the transition to full autonomy may take some time, so it is also building trucks that have space for human drivers.


The trucks will still be all-electric, however, and deals with big companies may do more to speed along the battery-powered revolution than any consumer-focused business. Einride recently signed a deal to supply trucks to German supermarket group Lidl, supporting Lidl’s ambition to make its supply chain emission-free.

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Robert Falck, founder of Einride.
Others include:


Volta Trucks (Sweden)


The company recently launched a purpose-built 16-tonne electric truck that can drive up to 200 km on a single charge. The company is expecting to sell 500 of the Volta Zero trucks in 2022, rising to 5000 by 2025. It is expecting to find strong demand in cities like London and Paris where diesel vehicles have been banned from the city centres.

Tesla’s Gigafactory challengers in Europe
Musk called the Gigafactory “the machine that builds the machine” — where everything needed by Tesla would be made, most notably a huge number of lithium-ion batteries for its vehicles. Tesla has three such factories in operation so far, in Nevada, New York and Shanghai, with a factory near Berlin expected to be completed next year.


The idea of the Gigafactory was not only to decrease Tesla’s reliance on overseas suppliers of batteries but bring the cost of production down to under $100 per KWh of energy storage, a level at which it becomes cheaper to build an electric powertrain than an internal combustion engine.


The Nevada Gigafactory had a goal of producing 35 GWh per year by 2020. Opened in 2016, the Tesla facility has a clear head start, but in the past year or two a number of challengers have emerged in Europe:


Northvolt (Sweden)


One of Europe’s biggest battery startups was founded by ex-Tesla employees. Peter Carlsson, who was global head of sourcing and supply chain at the company, worked closely with Musk to launch the Model S. Another Tesla alumnus, Paolo Cerruti, helped Carlsson launch Northvolt, which is building a giant battery factory in northern Sweden, aiming to produce 32GWh of capacity annually — just short of Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory levels — once it is fully up and running. The company raised $1bn last year from investors led by Volkswagen and Goldman Sachs.


Carlsson says that while China and the US have been in the lead so far when it comes to producing the batteries needed for electric cars, Europe now has an opportunity to catch up

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What the Northvolt battery factory in northern Sweden will look like when ready.

“At present, we don’t have enough factories but looking at the projects being planned and constructed as we speak the future looks promising in Europe,” he says. “In Europe, there is a new momentum. We have seen actions in the regulatory space and Europe has started to flex its muscles by backing and financing car manufacturers and others along the supply chain – and the dynamics are strong. To be frank, the US has lost a bit of headway between the shift from Obama and Trump.”


“Europe now has to decide whether it will focus on satellite factories that rely on supplies from Asia or will it build its own ecosystem. There are advantages to the region to have its own ecosystem with all the actors across the supply chain including subcontractors, factories, support to universities and so on.”


“Strategically, it is possible to build it but we don’t have it ready for raw materials as yet. We have the conditions to create nickel and cobalt but it will take time. We are not alone, even in China they are dependent on building supply chains of raw materials, just look at what they are doing in parts of Africa and South America.”


In the meantime, Northvolt is developing patent-protected ways of recycling batteries more efficiently, so that part of Europe’s raw material needs could be supplied this way.


Verkor (France)


The startup exited stealth mode and unveiled ambitious plans to deliver up to 50GWh of battery production capacity. Production in Verkor’s first gigafactory is scheduled to begin in 2023 with 16GWh capacity and ramp up from there.


Backed by French industrial Schneider Electric, real estate group IDEC and the EU’s European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT), Verkor is currently looking for land to set up a gigafactory in France. The initial investment in the project is about €1.6bn.


It’s not the only French project of the sorts. Energy giant Total and carmaker PSA have set up a joint venture called Automotive Cells Company, which is also aiming to start deliveries in 2023. The first phase of the project involves a €200m investment and a pilot plant built around an existing facility in Nersac, France, owned by Saft, Total’s battery production arm. Total took over startup Saft in 2016 for €950m.

Fast charging
Europe is also developing breakthrough technologies that could significantly increase the charging speeds for electric vehicles. Charging an electric car at a public charging point can still take several hours — even a Tesla Supercharger station will take at least half an hour — so getting charging times down to a point where they can compete with a few minute petrol refuelling stop is crucial.


Ulracapacitors, which discharge energy much faster than batteries, have been seen as a potential part of the solution. Tesla bought ultracapacitor company Maxwell Technologies for $218m in 2019, in hopes of improving the batteries used in its cars. Battery experts speculated that Musk might be looking to apply some of the technologies used in Maxwell’s ultracapacitors to improve the cost, performance and lifespan of its lithium-ion batteries.

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Skeleton ultracapacitors
Skeleton Technologies (Estonia)


A European challenger, Estonian Skeleton Technologies, may be close to this already. The company is developing the SuperBattery, a ground-breaking graphene battery with a 15-second charging time and the capability of being recharged hundreds of thousands of times.


The company has just partnered with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology to complete the development of the battery. If this is successful, it would eliminate the three main anxieties of electric car owner: slow charging time, battery degradation over time, and limited range.


Skeleton Technologies chief executive Taavi Madiberk says the technology will “blow existing EV charging solutions out of the water”. He also notes that, unlike Tesla, which seeks to do everything itself, in Europe the key to energy storage breakthroughs will be a collaboration between companies.


Source: Sifted
 
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The Estonian superbattery that is beating Tesla

Skeleton Technologies' battery can be charged in just 15 seconds, and can go through hundreds of thousands of recharge cycles.


It can be charged in just 15 seconds, and can go through hundreds of thousands of charge-recharge cycles without degrading. Meet the “SuperBattery” developed by Estonian startup Skeleton Technologies, which could solve some of the biggest problems still holding back the transition away from fossil fuels.


“This will be a key enabler of the energy transition,” says Taavi Madiberk, founder and chief executive of Skeleton. “In most cases we see that batteries are not able to fully replace the older technologies — we still have hybrid vehicles or the need for backup generators.”


Skeleton signed a €1bn letter of intent with a leading automotive manufacturer to bring the technology to market.
Skeleton’s graphene-based battery is hoping to help bridge the gap where lithium-ion batteries or hydrogen fuel cells are still not quite meeting energy requirements. The company is today announcing a partnership with Karlsruhe Institute of Technology to complete the development. Skeleton recently signed a €1bn letter of intent with a leading automotive manufacturer to bring the technology to market, most likely in 2023 says Madiberk.


Electric cars will be a key use case. Painfully slow recharge times are still one of the major headaches for electric vehicle owners. Even at Tesla’s super-fast recharge stations, it will take at least half an hour to get the battery re-powered, making it hard for electric vehicles to compete with the fast filling times at petrol stations.

Plus lithium-ion batteries degrade over time, limiting their lifespans. The warranties offered on electric cars are telling: Renault offers a three-year warranty for the Zoe, Nissan covers the Leaf for five years and Tesla gives an eight-year warranty to Model S drivers.


Developing batteries that can overcome some of these issues is a Holy Grail for the auto industry.


Ultracapacitors — which store charge in an electrical field, without the need for a chemical reaction to release it — have been considered as one potential answer. Ultracapacitors charge up fast and can deliver a powerful energy kick to a vehicle, but they have one big drawback: they are not good at storing energy in the long term, so they are of little use for long car journeys. An ultracapacitor is a bit like a leaky cup that tends to lose its contents over time.

But what if you could combine some elements of ultracapacitors with lithium-ion batteries to get the best of both?


Elon Musk has been trying to do this. Tesla bought ultracapacitor company Maxwell Technologies for $218m in 2019, with the idea of borrowing from the technology to improve the batteries used in its cars.


“We looked at the dry electrode route that Tesla is exploring, but decided to go a different way,” says Madiberk. “Tesla is trying to go for maximum energy, but we are looking at the most efficient way of getting power.”


The SuperBattery combines the way ultracapacitors store charge in electrical fields with a small amount of “wet” chemical reaction to allow the batteries to store energy for longer.


Madiberk says the battery is designed to be used in combination with lithium-ion batteries or even hydrogen fuel cells.


“We are not a silver bullet or a complete solution on our own. You won’t have long-range electric vehicles running purely on our technology. But combining a lithium-ion battery with a SuperBattery can reduce charging time, as well as the overall cost and weight of the battery system in the car. We are a building block in developing a much more efficient system.”


“When I tell people that our ultracapacitors have four times the power density of Tesla, people just assume it is marketing hype.”
Going up against Tesla — with its name recognition and marketing power — is not easy, Madiberk admits.


“When I tell people that our ultracapacitors have four times the power density of Tesla, people just assume it is marketing hype,” he says.


But independent studies have backed up the fact that Skeleton is already beating US rivals in ultracapacitors. Last year a study backed by the US Office of Naval Research found that Skeleton’s SkelCap ultracapacitors outperformed those from Maxwell and Ioxus by a large margin.


“For them to find that a European technology was the leader was, I am sure, not what they were expecting,” says Madiberk. “It was a great validation for us.”


“European research in energy storage — especially in Germany — is clearly some of the best in the world,” he adds. “It is just that our ability to commercialise it is not as good. That’s where we come in. Maybe we can change that.”

Source: Sifted
 

Crissa

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'The media might of Tesla'?

Whoever this Sifted is, they seem to be using Tesla as click ait to publish hopes and dreams articles. Two thumbs down to clickbait headlines and atarting paragraphs not held up by the body of the articles.

Still, there are alot of hopeful companies out there.

-Crissa
 
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Swedish startup Volta unveils electric truck, to manufacture in UK

Early versions were built by Prodrive, famed for building rally cars

b2d6b0b0-eee4-11ea-be7b-c6ae3aaa18a8.jpg

STOCKHOLM — Swedish startup Volta Trucks unveiled on Thursday its Volta Zero, a 35,000-pound electric truck, with plans to start production in 2022 in the United Kingdom.

Following the success of companies such as Tesla in popularising electric cars, truck makers have also turned their attention to electric vehicles, including Volvo and Daimler as well as startups like Rivian and Nikola.




Trials will start next year with parcel delivery companies such as DPDgroup in the UK and other firms in Europe. Volta aims to put 500 vehicles on the road by 2022, CEO Rob Fowler told Reuters.
"We are also well progressed with another seven or eight customers," he said.

Volta said its trucks would feature advanced driver assistance systems, 90% fewer mechanical parts than traditional internal combustion engine vehicle and offer a range of 93 to 124 miles on a single charge. Top speed is 56 mph, and it has a payload capacity of nearly 19,000 pounds, The company also plans to offer refrigerated variants that are cooled by battery power, rather than an auxiliary diesel-powered cooler.

The company said the first Volta vehicle was manufactured by Prodrive in Warwick, central England, and it was in talks with a small number of suppliers for contract manufacturing of its trucks.

It declined to give details about its current funding. Fowler said the company was interested in raising funds to fuel the capital-intensive business.
"We acknowledge there are challenges in this space, but we're confident that we've got the right people around which allows us to go out and raise money when we need to in the future," he said.

Source: autoblog
 
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Whoever this Sifted is,
It says they are backed by Financial Times, the WSJ of Europe.

FT was acquired by Nikkei Inc. in 2015.
 

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You mean like Nikola Motors?
I mean like all of them.

I hope they survive and I hope their specs aren’t just made up specs. I hope they’re not taking people’s money and going bankrupt in a few years.

As I believe the Cybertruck Truck Guy said “Tesla has more vehicles in space than Nickola has in customers hands”.
 

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You mean like Nikola Motors?
I heard that Nikola Motors invited youtubers and twitter people to see a semitruck but limited the amount of hydrogen in the truck because of safety reasons. Then apparently drove them around a parking lot at 20mph. Nikola also said on twitter that they were allowed to ask any questions and that they held nothing back...but the people that were invited admitted they had to sign an NDA but said they could talk about a lot of what they were told...but so far it seems like they haven't, suggesting that the NDA is preventing that.

They also had a huge event which was posted on twitter about them breaking ground back in july, when they had no permits and unless something has happened in the past week, it's still just a field.

It's hard for me to be excited about Nikola, when I first seen their website and the truck and heard what they were doing, I thought it was awesome. Then I did research and I don't think anything is holding up. It will be interesting to see what they have at Nikola World.
 
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I heard that Nikola Motors invited youtubers and twitter people to see a semitruck but limited the amount of hydrogen in the truck because of safety reasons. Then apparently drove them around a parking lot at 20mph. Nikola also said on twitter that they were allowed to ask any questions and that they held nothing back...but the people that were invited admitted they had to sign an NDA but said they could talk about a lot of what they were told...but so far it seems like they haven't, suggesting that the NDA is preventing that.

They also had a huge event which was posted on twitter about them breaking ground back in july, when they had no permits and unless something has happened in the past week, it's still just a field.

It's hard for me to be excited about Nikola, when I first seen their website and the truck and heard what they were doing, I thought it was awesome. Then I did research and I don't think anything is holding up. It will be interesting to see what they have at Nikola World.
Nikola is shaping up to be a big scam.

Not sure how many people remember or know about this but Nikola first started out using a micro-turbine as their prime mover. It was multi-fuel capable. Then I guess about a year or so later they announced the fuel cell in place of the micro-turbine. Funny how there is no mention of this on their website or Wikipedia.

The concept of the hydrogen fuel cell works just fine. It's the infrastructure that's the deal breaker.
 

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Nikola is shaping up to be a big scam.

Not sure how many people remember or know about this but Nikola first started out using a micro-turbine as their prime mover. It was multi-fuel capable. Then I guess about a year or so later they announced the fuel cell in place of the micro-turbine. Funny how there is no mention of this on their website or Wikipedia.

The concept of the hydrogen fuel cell works just fine. It's the infrastructure that's the deal breaker.
Yeah I think they could be successful if they drop the Hydrogen aspect entirely. They said they can reduce the price to compete with charging costs but they failed to mention how despite everyone constantly asking. Then there is the biggest problem i've always had with Nikola and that is the fact that their hydrogen network doesn't exist at all. Not a single station is built, their test station isn't even built and their goal is to only have 700 stations across all of North america in the next 8 years.

In Canada, we have over 100 Tesla Superchargers, that gives us 1 highway that we can go coast to coast on. The map the Nikola has for their future stations gives Canada 7 hydrogen stations from coast to coast, with one stretch probably being around 1000km. Also no where does it say that none of these are built and it could be 8 years or longer before completion.

I'm not saying that the Nikola truck is bad, just that the hydrogen aspect of it is bad and there is no prototype. Take out the fuel cells and put in a bigger battery. At least even in Canada there are countless places that you can charge with chargepoint and plug share and probably other companies too. WIth a Tesla, there is also like thousands of destination charging as well.
 

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Yeah I think they could be successful if they drop the Hydrogen aspect entirely. They said they can reduce the price to compete with charging costs but they failed to mention how despite everyone constantly asking. Then there is the biggest problem i've always had with Nikola and that is the fact that their hydrogen network doesn't exist at all. Not a single station is built, their test station isn't even built and their goal is to only have 700 stations across all of North america in the next 8 years.

In Canada, we have over 100 Tesla Superchargers, that gives us 1 highway that we can go coast to coast on. The map the Nikola has for their future stations gives Canada 7 hydrogen stations from coast to coast, with one stretch probably being around 1000km. Also no where does it say that none of these are built and it could be 8 years or longer before completion.

I'm not saying that the Nikola truck is bad, just that the hydrogen aspect of it is bad and there is no prototype. Take out the fuel cells and put in a bigger battery. At least even in Canada there are countless places that you can charge with chargepoint and plug share and probably other companies too. WIth a Tesla, there is also like thousands of destination charging as well.

If they admit they were wrong about hydrogen and go all battery, then investors will drop them and they won't be able to do either. HFC's are their ONLY selling point. Otherwise, every single semi manufacturer and of course Tesla, are already way ahead of them. Tesla has all the autopilot technology and they have none. They also don't have any battery technology, whereas Tesla has some of the leading battery tech. Any manufacturer can drop in some motors and a battery and be further ahead of Nikola. So, they have to keep up the facade of hydrogen or they will fold.

Also, if you think about it, they are targeting the smallest market. Over 80% of trucks drive less than 250 miles a day. If you are driving 250 miles and none of those miles are near a hydrogen station, you certainly don't want a Nikola. But a Tesla semi can be charged at home over night when rates are lowest.

And even if they do go all in with BEVs and don't have everyone pull out, they would still need to build a charging network for their vehicles. I am sure Tesla won't share theirs. Not after Trevors comments.
 

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Also, if you think about it, they are targeting the smallest market. Over 80% of trucks drive less than 250 miles a day. If you are driving 250 miles and none of those miles are near a hydrogen station, you certainly don't want a Nikola.
Nearly no bikes do that, most pickups don't do that... But that's not why people buy them.

They imagine a use case, even if that's not most or even any at all of their usage. Even businesses do this.

-Crissa
 

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I agree that any company can drop in a motor and a battery, but that includes Nikola. Most of the companies that have EV's don't have their own batteries, they are buying them from another company just as a lot of companies partnered with others for engines and other car parts for decades.

Nikola has a pretty good design for their truck, it's still overall a pickup truck look but it's still pretty stylish compared to the big 3. Also when it comes to charging networks, most companies don't have their own charging network. They will rely on other charging stations like chargepoint and plug share and the numbers are growing everyday. They don't even need a wall charger, just a plug for a 120/240 outlet.

While having a thing to put you apart from the rest is good when you are a new company. I feel like they are at well well known enough to start small and build their brand. If you take a truck from the big 3, remove the logos completely, a lot of people won't be sure what truck it is anyway. If Nikola got just enough trucks on the road, overtime they could be a contender.

As for autopilot and FSD. they could do a very simple system and use Openpilot like a lot of other cars can use. I don't think any cars directly offer it but they can be put in cars like Honda.
 

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Most other companies have billions of dollars to invest in BEV technology.
 

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