Nikola Motors Boldly Claims It Will Become U.S. Largest Energy Consumer

Tesla Semi Competitor

OCT 5 2018 BY MARK KANE 75

Nikola Motors will be an electricity guzzler. Probably not a wise marketing move for the automaker.

Nikola Motor Company plans to launch its first hydrogen refueling station by the end of 2020 and have more than 820 such station within 10 years – by the end of 2028.

Because each of those stations are expected to serve 160 hydrogen fuel cell trucks a day (up to 8,000 kg of hydrogen), the amount of renewable electricity (mostly photovoltaic) needed to satisfy demand is projected to be extremely high.

The scenario envisions that 422 MWh of electricity is needed daily per station, which brings the total to 349 GWh for 828 stations in 2018 every day.

“Within 10 years,@nikolamotor will become the largest energy consumer in America. Estimated 820 stations going online by 2028. Each station fills 160 trucks daily- will consume 422 MWh of renewables (422 MWh X 828 stations = 349 GWh per day)”

Assuming that 422 MWh is needed for 160 trucks, a single truck will need 2.6 MWh or 2,600 kWh of electricity to produce enough hydrogen for all its tanks. And that’s probably a reasonable amount – because total efficiency of using hydrogen is low. We believe that an all-electric truck could do the same distance using 800-1000 kWh battery (charging losses would probably be only several percent).

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75 Comments on "Nikola Motors Boldly Claims It Will Become U.S. Largest Energy Consumer"

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That is a lot of energy!

Can’t imaging them to keep the hydrogen free of “charge”.


It will not be free for charge, it may only be included in lease price.
They will be retailing it for few dollars per kg, though it seems they can’t fix the promised price now.


That doesn’t really seem like something to be proud of.

philip d

Ha! They just made their own case against themselves. I know Tesla doesnt run ads but they should make an exception in this case and run Nikila Motors add for them with a simple asterisk at the end showing that a Tesla semi would use less than half that energy per day.


Total energy consumption is only one part of the equation. If they had been deploying and fueling that many EV trucks, they may still have been projected to be the top energy consumer.


I don’t think Tesla should dignify this sham company by taking any notice of their increasingly absurd claims.

Prad Bitt

I wouln’t be proud to claim being the largest energy consumer when we know that the FCV cycle takes THREE TIMES the amount of energy as a pure electric does.

WTF? We all know we must diminish our global energy consumption!


Oh oh, someone is introducing actual physics and and rational thought into the discussion.

“If only the world weren’t governed by the unfair and cruel laws of thermodynamics and economics, the hydrogen economy could rule the world.” – HVACman, comment at, July 8, 2015


“We all know we must diminish our global energy consumption!”
No, we don’t all believe that.
Why do you?
The global energy grid continues to get cleaner & cleaner. If people using electricity is having no ill effects on our planet, then why must we diminish our global energy consumption?


For one thing, cost. And all the other resources involved in installing 3-4 times more production capacity


The impact of renewables is much, much smaller — but there is still an impact that isn’t insignificant.

But even if there wasn’t, wasting energy instead of putting it to productive use would still be stupid.


Not talking about primary energy obviously, they are only a bit worse than ice-trucks now. I guess Scania or Volvo trucks consume a lot more (primary) energy.


So they will have double the running costs of an electric semi, at a minimum?


Running costs are a lot more than just fuel. it all depends on a lot of factors, and will probably vary per each operator and their requirements. And if fuel is truly free then it’s cheaper for the operator than a Tesla Semi, where they’d have to pay for the electricity.

I guess how long the H2 remains free probably depends on a lot of factors, not least how the H2 is generated. If they’re using Solar to split water then Opex to produce the hydrogen will be pretty low.


If it requires more than double the power, then they will need more than double the solar panels to power it. Somebody pays for the running costs. Either Nikola will absorb them and take huge losses or they will be forced to pass them on to the customer. No way around it.


The Nikolas are counting on low running coats as well as Budweiser and Express as well as hundreds of partners and suppliers.


Solar has few running costs. It has lots of startup costs though, which could well be absorbed into the cost of the vehicle sale price.

Perhaps the Nikola trucks will be more expensive than the Tesla Semi. That may put some off, but others may be able to make that money back with the free fuel depending on their usage case (perhaps they do longer distances that the Tesla semi is less practical for, maybe in an environment that is less practical for batteries for example).


Thats what I meant when referring to running costs. The capital cost is more than double, so the cost for each unit of energy produced over the station’s lifetime is double, assuming all else is equal.


That’s where economies of scale come in. Sell 400 trucks and it’s half the cost per truck than if they sell 200 trucks.

Obviously they may have to build more chargers, and there will be some complex maths to do the proper scale calculations, but presumably they have done that maths and spoken to hauliers to come up with a sound business case so people are willing to invest in them.

Remember, reduced monetary cost is not the only factor in making something profitable. If the Nikola trucks can cover 100 extra miles in the same time, or haul an extra ton of goods 1,000,000 miles then that may well make up for the additional cost (either up front, or in fuel).


It could make up for *slightly* higher costs — but not for much, much higher costs.


No matter what way you turn it, the fact that it consumes more energy means it has additional costs. And since the fuel cells and hydrogen tanks are very expensive as well, the upfront costs of the truck itself are higher too.

Maybe one day years from now they might be able to undercut combustion trucks — but there is no way they will ever come close to the low TCO of battery trucks.


Nikola would use far less energy than the diesel trucks they would replace, there isn plenty of sun to power the plants, the H2 is stirred electricity at a volume and price that batteries cannot match. Remember ,they will sell H2 to any customer coming to the station so there will be extra revenue. BEV semis make a great deal of sense, especially for short range tripos, we already have Daimler with multiple EV trucks on the road with more to come, but nobody is pretending to have EV trucks that can go 1200 without refueling.
We are all eager to see the Tesla semi which they promised to be in production in 2019 so we should see fleets if the Tesla semis in a few months.


Tesla is years away from production of its Semi Truck.

But its’ reasonable to think that Tesla will eventually put its truck into production… unlike Nikola, which is just a sham company.


“So they will have double the running costs of an electric semi, at a minimum?”

The fuel cost alone would be about twice that of diesel, and who knows how many times that of an EV semi. But since this is just a sham company which will never put any vehicle into production, nobody will ever have to pay anything to run them.


Sadly , Their Days are Numbered…..


You have a crystal ball?


Yes, he bought it from Musk with his flamethrower.


One doesn’t need a crystal ball to see that Nikola can’t possibly succeed trying to sell (or to provide free fuel for) fool cell semi tractors. A textbook on basic physics and thermodynamics will do.


We shall see.


Oh wow bold plan but the capex numbers won’t look pretty! Lets say very very optimistically that they will somehow figure out how to build them at 40 mil per 8t station then we are still talking about over 30 billion total for 820 stations. And those stations aren’t going to be low maintenance either. I don’t know what tech they have but how on Earth can they compete with BEV trucks if they have to swallows such investments?


They have already made initial order, and the numbers are much less than you are claiming.
500 mil for 28 stations and electrolyzers. The costs will go down with scale.


So about $110,000 per truck for the fuelling stations alone…


Thanks for the link. 500/28=17.85 mil USD per station @ 700bar. However they don’t specify the daily output which might only account for Anheuser-Busch (not public) use. We’ll see.


I think by around 2025, Nikola will toss in the towel on the hydrogen folly and just build EV trucks like Tesla, Daimler, Volvo, BYD and everybody else.

I think battery cost will be pretty low by 2025


It’s hard to see why any informed investor would throw money at Nikola after it tried to sell the idea of fool cell trucks powered by free compressed hydrogen entirely produced by solar energy, and dispensed at H2 truck stops constructed at Nicola’s expense. If there is an EV startup business plan that is even more obviously unworkable than Faraday Future’s was, it’s this one.

I see echoes of (Project) Better Place’s clearly unworkable business plan here, but perhaps ten times more unaffordable.

BoltEV (was SparkEV)

Considering that FCEV waste about 75% of electrical energy (50% for water to H electrolysis, 50% for fuel cell to wheels), they will be the largest electrical waste heat producer.


I believe that using the best of today’s technology the real number is 60%. Not that it changes your point tho.


Your numbers are far far off obviously, or this gigantic enterprise would not have all this capital behind it.

BoltEV (was SparkEV)

If you think my estimate is off, show me the money! Current retail H for FCEV is $16.50/kg which is about 5 times more expensive than even inflated CA gasoline price. That’s $0.49/kWh, which is about 4 times more than retail off-peak electricity price, and that’s just production side (75% loss in money).

As for Arne-nl that it’s 60% loss in energy, he’s not counting other losses associated with H such as having to purify the water before electrolysis and shipping, etc. Real world loss is about 75% (or more if not optimized). Fool and his money is soon parted, enterprise capital or not.


If anything, his numbers are too optimistic. It’s not just that the H2 fuel is unrealistically expensive; the cost of building those huge H2 truck stops would be even more prohibitively expensive.

All the wishful thinking in the world from fool cell fanboys can’t change the laws of physics, or thermodynamics, or even basic economics.

comment image


Goes against everything the E generation has been building, now if they generated their own energy without consuming energy that would be worthy of print but this goes against everything.


They are in the solar energy business.


So they should be bragging about how they use that to generate the energy to run their vehicles!


Untold billions of dollars and person-hours are going into the battery, capacitor and fuel cell research these days, so let Nikola just develop a good electric truck, and when it’s ready, employ whatever source of power – or a combination thereof – gives the best bang for the buck.


350 GWh per day is about the same as my country.


Yet more proof H2 is a waste of energy.

Ron Swanson's Mustache

Looks like Nikola changed the look of their truck.

I guess that lawsuit didn’t go so well.


Interestingly enough, the render above is badged “NikolaTwo”. They were previously touting the equally fictitious “Nikola One”. Well, I guess they can make as many imaginary prototypes as they want, since it doesn’t cost them anything except paying the computer render artist!


Don’t they have a working prototype of the One?…


Hard to approach potential customers and win them over on this aspiration.

Bill Howland

In the states I would tend to doubt this. There is now a tariff on ‘dumped’ Chinese Solar Panels so there will be somewhat of a temporary increase in the cost of Solar Power (although Wind Power will continue to decrease in TCO.). Since fueling costs are a significant expense in trucking, and ‘Platooning’ can be used to greatly minimize labor costs (1 driver for 3 trucks) which can be done for ANY type of power train, there will be a great incentive to get Hydrogen in the vehicle at as low a cost as possible.

Since Nikola is not in the Charity business, I would wager their customers will try to refuel at the lowest cost method for them possible, and that is not Hydrolysis.


Estimations I have seen suggest that the Trump solar tariff essentially offsets about a year of solar cost reductions… Unfortunate to be sure — but not a big difference on the grand scheme of things.


Nikola Motors twitter is claiming deliveries to customers in 6 months…


Fine print somewhere: *Jupiter months.




They are not claiming normal deliveries until 2020-2021.
They are only promising pre-production truck reveal in April next year.
Some pre-production trucks may go to real customer fleets this year already, along with test refueling stations, but only that.

I guess in Musk-speak they should claim start of production this year already, if they manage to assemble 4 test trucks 😉 No, not really, what I hate about Nikola is their attempts to emulate Musk hype and annoying BS marketing.

Paul Smith

Now THERE’s a company you can safely short.


No, you can’t, safely or unsafely. It is private company, and as such it doesn’t need to engage in stock pumping schemes. No pumping and no shorting.


makes no sense
use electricity to make hydrogen, then use hydrogen to make electricity, every time you convert you loose efficiency.
They say it does not pollute, because it only produce water.

What will happen in cold climate, you know you are stock in traffic and thousand of vehicles produce droplets that freeze on the road!

and in warm climate all those vehicles will produce water vapor, if ICE can produce smog, don’t you think water vapor can change the air as well (humidity level).


A relevant quote:

Perhaps they could add a few extra steps:

1) Use the hydrogen in a fool cell to generate electricity

2) Use the electricity to electrolyze water to hydrogen and oxygen

Steps one and two can be repeated as many times as necessary to get to the desired level of inefficiency.

— John Hollenberg, comment at, September 24, 2015


The amount of water it produces is negligible. (It’s not actually much bigger than what a combustion engine produces, if I’m not mistaken…)

filip bjurling

Is that really something to brag about?


Nothing about Nikola’s claims makes any sense, but clearly they don’t care.


Well, I’d say they have a little ways to go. And all that hydrogen will come from natural gas, then have to be converted to electric. Not going to help carbon emissions at all.


They claim they will use solar powered electrolysis only…


They did the math(s) but still came up with 5.


Move over, Faraday Future! You’ve got some competition for galactically unbelievable hype.

Hydrogen is the new diesel

Simple fact is that there is no comparison between BEV and hydrogen efficiency. It is apples and oranges. To carry the same loads that the Nikola is designed to carry over the distance will probably take 2 battery trucks because of the loss of payload from the batteries. Stop pushing this battery myth – it is NOT the solution to everything.


Even with the worst assumption I can think of, the Tesla Semi would lose less than 10% payload capacity compared to a diesel semi of the same gross weight. It’s not a myth — it’s simple maths based on battery technology available *today*.


To Bill Howland:

I think you have Nikola business model wrong.

What they are selling (leasing) is a truck @ .90 mile fixed cost 1,000,000 miles
That includes fuel and maintenance.
At that pricing they would be very successful if they can pull that off.
(That’s why no deposit, you are never effectively going to own the truck)

The latest ATRI cost per mile for trucking was 1.69 including the driver.
So .90 fixed , the only variable is driver wages. That would be very competitive, especially if you factor in inflation going forward.

That’s why a company like Budweiser wants 800 units, that’s a fixed cost .90 mile for 800,000,000 miles.

The only way I see Nikola being able to do this is they have to build an energy infrastructure to lock in their costs. But they are also an energy company.

It’s an interesting business model.


They are projecting 1,000 trucks in Norway alone by 2023, so will be interesting once they start delivering.

Leroy Essek

To economically retrofit any internal combustion engine (ICE) fueled by hydrogen gas would be competitive in cost and efficiency to a hydrogen fuel cell power-train. To improve efficiency of a hydrogen on ICE application the inclusion of combined heat and power (CHP) applications or a new type of affordable engine retrofit has been demonstrated improved efficiency from past experiments. There is a new way to safely store hydrogen “on-board” in water and the vehicle that can compete with hydrogen fuel cells, electric vehicles or large tanks of compressed hydrogen gaseous fuel. The 21st century technology can produce hydrogen “on-demand”, “on-board” or “on-site” as long as ocean, brackish, pond or even atmospheric water can be harvested as well.


I wonder if they realize that, 422MWh per day, would be enough to fully charge 422 Tesla Semi’s per day…. And that is assuming they all have 1MWh batteries(which IMO is pure bunk, they will likely have somewhere between 750kWh and 1MWh options).
Now, of course, remember, that not all of this will come from the electric grid, since truck stop’s generally have a lot of land that they sit on, solar canopies could be deployed over the parking lots, the buildings, and of course, the charge stations. You could probably get a 2.5MW system like that, if you get 4 hours of peak sunlight, that’s 10MWh per day from solar, now your grid load is only 412MWh per day.
Oh, and while we are at it, since we have a huge solar canopy now, lets collect rainwater from it to water nearby plants, and provide water inside of the truckstops(for showers, drinking, food prep, toilets etc). Since many places are water-stressed yet still have a rainy season, enough storage tanks would drastically reduce stress on the underground aquifers.

Hmmm. I’ve previously heard proponents of hydrogen vehicles use the argument that battery vehicles would rely on a (too) big investment in the national grid to service all the necessary charging stations. Yet now Nikola are proposing electrolysis to produce the hydrogen- and hence about 3-4x the electricity demand (and improvements to the grid) that would be necessary for battery vehicles. Which rather defeats their previous argument? I’d been assuming the plan was to deliver hydrogen to the stations by truck, but it seems that’s not viable as such a heavy pressure vessel is needed, as to mean the energy payload per truck is a fraction of that carried by a gasoline truck. If you’re starting with electricity, and ending up needing electricity to power motors, surely the obvious thing to do is to store the electricity directly? As battery storage is so much more efficient than using hydrogen as an intermediate? I believe the whole hydrogen idea was formulated when batteries were far more expensive per kWh than they are now….. and they are getting cheaper all the time. With the competition from such as the Tesla Semi, it’s difficult to see Nikola ever selling (or leasing) enough trucks… Read more »