Nikola Badger: The 906-HP Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Pickup Puts Tesla and Rivian In Its Crosshairs
The Badger is getting ready to spit water vapor at the emerging electrified pickup-truck space.
The electrified pickup-truck space technically doesn't even exist yet, and already it's passed up niche status for full-on, high-stakes warzone billing. Companies like Tesla, Rivian, Bollinger, and Hummer have all promised to bring out new trucks imminently—although none are for sale yet—and now they're joined by a new would-be, not-yet-real competitor, the Nikola Badger.
Unlike the other trucks we've mentioned, the Badger isn't fully electric. It is a plug-in hybrid. Nikola Motor Company was originally founded in 2014, and for the majority of its existence, it has been focused on hybridized semi-trucks. Hence, the Badger is a fuel-cell electric vehicle that generates electric power from a hydrogen fuel-cell stack, just like Toyota's bizarre-looking Mirai and Hyundai's Nexo.
The Badger's headline figures are Cybertruck rivaling. According to Nikola—and yes, before you ask the company does take its name from legendary inventor Nikola Tesla, the first name of the man whose last name was mined for Tesla—the Badger will make up to 906 horsepower and 980 lb-ft of torque from its powertrain setup. Power is sent to an "independant" all-wheel-drive system—which could be a hint of a dual- or quad-motor setup, one per axle or one per wheel—and the company estimates the Badger will be able to tow up to 8,000 pounds.
Nikola also says its pickup will be able to hit 60 mph in 2.9 seconds—right on par with the Tesla Cybertruck and Rivian R1T's estimates. The Badger has an estimated range of "up to 600 miles" and can use its onboard battery to power a 15-kilowatt outlet for tools, lights, and other equipment needed at construction sites and is said to be able to power these accessories for approximately 12 hours without a generator.
Despite the fact that Hydrogen isn't even close to mainstream, Nikola says its planning on building 700 new hydrogen stations to give North Americans access to a fueling location. Currently, most of the 42 hydrogen stations in the entire U.S. exist in southern California, which is also where, not coincidentally, most fuel-cell vehicles are sold.
Considering the inaccessibility of hydrogen, it's a good thing the badger can still function without it, as a pure battery electric vehicle. Working as a pure BEV, the Badger would be good for 300 miles of range. Users would need to charge the battery, of course, but the truck wouldn't need its fuel-cell stack to operate. Nifty as this is, given fuel-cell stacks' costs, buying a Nikola to use merely as an EV strikes us as odd, and similar to the (fairly common) incidence of gas-electric plug-in hybrid buyers who never charge their cars' batteries, using them purely as hybrids and putting to waste the extra electric-only driving range the battery would provide. In essence, why buy a dual-power vehicle, only to ever use half of its powertrain?
There is no need to think too hard about that scenario, at least for now. That's because the Badger is confined to renderings and images on Nikola's website; the full, real vehicle is supposed to make its debut later in 2020 at a convention dubbed "Nikola World 2020." We've never heard of it. Either way, there are multiple outstanding details left to uncover, including the truck's price and whether this PHEV will really challenge Tesla's Cybertruck or Rivian's R1T, but those interested anyway will be able to place reservations for their own Badgers later this year.