Since Nikola Motor Corporation’s stock debuted, comparisons between its hydrogen fuel cell Class 8 truck and the Tesla Semi have revived. While Nikola has gained support in the auto industry, there is one firm that has doubts about the success of the company, namely ARK Invest.
ARK Invest recently compared the cost of ownership between Tesla’s battery-powered Semi and Nikola’s hydrogen-fueled Class 8 truck. “Nikola aims to lower the cost of trucking. ARK’s research suggests, however, that hydrogen trucks will have a higher total cost of ownership than their battery-electric alternatives…” wrote ARK in its latest newsletter.
Credit: ARK Invest
Hydrogen costs and hydrogen drivetrain inefficiencies were the main reasons for the significant differences in costs between Nikola’s Class 8 trucks and the Tesla Semi. However, ARK also argued that infrastructure for hydrogen refueling stations might be another obstacle against the adoption of Nikola’s Class 8 trucks.
Indeed, countries around the globe are starting to accept and make room for battery electric vehicle charging stations. For example, the national government in Germany recently began enforcing rules that would encourage gas stations in the country to provide EV charging stalls. Other countries in Europe have readily adopted battery electric vehicles (BEV) and are already working on building an infrastructure to support EV adoption.
In Asia, EV adoption has also steadily increased with China in the lead. The Chinese government has also started to build infrastructure to support EV adoption in the country. News broke in April that the national government in China planned to invest RMB¥10 billion to construct BEV infrastructure.
Nikola will have to forge its own place in the global car industry since hydrogen vehicles have not made an impact on the market yet. Tesla was in a similar situation in its early years with its BEVs. However, Nikola will have to compete with traditional Class 8 truck manufacturers, including the King of Freights, Daimler Trucks North America.
Unlike the passenger vehicle market, there is little resistance against EV adoption in the market of Class 8 trucks. Traditional manufacturers in the market have been open to EV adoption for quite some time. Daimler Trucks North America, which accounts for ~40% of the market share in the segment, has even invested in its own EV Class 8 truck, named the eCascadia.
Based on recent news, though, it appears that only the Tesla Semi is close to volume production. A leaked email from Elon Musk last week revealed that Tesla had been manufacturing the Semi on a small scale over the past few months and was ready to start volume production soon.
In comparison, Nikola has yet to start production of its hydrogen fuel cell Class 8 truck and ARK Invest doubts it ever will. “ARK will be surprised if Nikola ever delivers a single fuel cell truck,” said the global asset manager.