Nikola Sues Tesla Over Electric Semi


Sometimes the news writes itself.

Tesla is in trouble once again, this time facing legal action for violating patents with its upcoming all-electric truck.

Related – Nikola Motors To Refund All Semi Deposits In Swipe At Tesla

Fellow American manufacturer Nikola Motors alleges that Tesla violated six patents with the design of its all-electric semi truck that was first shown last year.

The patents, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office between February and April of this year, cover the windscreen, door, and bodywork design of the similar Nikola One which it claims the Tesla Semi is ‘substantially’ based on.

Nikola Motors has said that the potential patent violation could cost it around £1.5 billion, but Tesla has shot down any suggestions of wrongdoing.

‘It’s patently obvious there is no merit to this lawsuit,’ a Tesla spokesman told Reuters.

Tesla’s truck, first revealed back in November 2017, comes with an all-electric drivetrain that promises a 500 mile range and the possibility of adding 400 miles of charge in just 30 minutes.

The Nikola One, which was first shown in December 2016, meanwhile will have 320-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery with a hydrogen fuel cell range extender that allows it to have a range of around 1200 miles. To support the range extender, Nikola is planning to build a network of 364 fueling stations across the US.

Tesla aims to start manufacturing its truck next year while full manufacturing of the Nikola One is slated to begin no later than 2020.

A big surprise at the Telsa truck reveal was the all-new Tesla Roadster. Following on from the original, the new electric sports car claims to be capable of 0-60mph in just 1.9 seconds and 0-100mph in 4.2 seconds. Tesla also claims a crazy top speed of 205mph. Production is expected to begin in 2020.

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55 Comments on "Nikola Sues Tesla Over Electric Semi"

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This is the kind of thing that makes some articles seem like ads for Tesla:
“A big surprise at the Telsa truck reveal was the all-new Tesla Roadster. Following on from the original, the new electric sports car claims to be capable of 0-60mph in just 1.9 seconds and 0-100mph in 4.2 seconds. Tesla also claims a crazy top speed of 205mph. Production is expected to begin in 2020.”

Nothing at all to do with the headline or subject.

I was about to type something similar, but it is what it is. This blog has become more and more a Tesla fan site. It’s their blog and site and that’s how they want to run it. Also, there is probably a majority of followers here that are huge Tesla fans. Some of them rabid, so if you see one in the daylight, beware! LOL.

I consider myself to be more of a “GM fanboy” than a “Tesla Fanboy”. Have mixed feelings about Elon Musk, but generally positive. However, I don’t consider this site to be any more of a “Tesla fan site” than any other automobile manufacturer. Given what Tesla has actually done (Roadster + Models S, X, & 3 all have more than 200 miles of EV range, Gigafactory, super charger network, etc.), they simply deserve more coverage than the other vehicle manufacturers.

Now, regarding the comment about the Gen 2 Tesla Roadster: I agree it doesn’t belong in an article titled “Nikola Sues Tesla Over Electric Semi”. Since Tesla actually builds what they say they’ll build, Gen 2 deserves its own article. More coverage for Tesla. 😉

Is there some reason why you think InsideEVs should not strongly support the one company doing far more than any other to support and push forward the EV revolution? The company which, arguably, is doing more than all other companies put together, with the possible exception of BYD, which sells no EVs except buses outside China?

You dont want to create a bais in your articles, you present the facts and you walk away. That taught in journalism class but everyone wants to be opinionated. Thats why i love PBS newshour at 6pm

Yes, I too far prefer to get my news from PBS News Hour and BBC America news, because they are the last bastion of “just the facts” news. Unfortunately, all other major TV news sources have become “infotainment” shows, indiscriminately mixing commentary with news. The day when CNN anchors started offering opinion instead of just facts was a very sad one for journalism. 🙁 However, Will, InsideEVs does not claim to be a pure news site. From the IEVs “About” page: InsideEVs was created not only to publish the breaking news of the day, but to dissect it, to promote it, and, most importantly, to examine the how, what, and why of electric vehicles. Promoting EVs means promoting Tesla above all other companies, because Tesla is doing more — far more — to shift public opinion in favor of EVs than any other company or organization. Promoting EVs does not mean promoting a sham company like Nikola. Especially not if Nikola is being a patent troll! However, that doesn’t mean I want to see more fluff pieces from companies like Evannex, whose “articles” are nothing but soft-sell advertising for Tesla. Of course, anyone who knows much about newspaper publishing knows… Read more »

The problem with this article isn’t that it’s too favorable to Tesla, it’s that it suggests Nikola’s plans and claims are credible. A hydrogen-powered truck can’t possible compete economically with diesel-powered trucks, and even if that wasn’t true, Nikola doesn’t have a drop in the bucket of the funding it would need to actually build a factory for manufacturing semi tractors, let alone put their design into mass production.

No, this article should merely have noted that Tesla has been hit with a frivolous and ridiculously inflated — $2 billion — lawsuit by a company so desperate for funds that it has resorted to baseless patent trolling.

Nikola could just as easily sue MANN trucks (see picture below) for a similar design; any semi tractor design based on wind tunnel tests is going to look similar. But of course, MANN doesn’t have the billions of dollars Tesla has, so Nikola isn’t going to bother trying to extort “oh go away” money from them.

MAN, not MANN, is part of the Volkswagen Group, so it must have access to far more capital than Tesla. If MAN were found liable for $2 billion due to patent infringement (not likely), it would likely be able to pay.

Hmmm, the time limit on editing must be pretty short!

Edit: That should be “MAN trucks”, not “MANN”.

Is it right to call them (Nikola) a manufacturer if they don’t actually make anything?

Bottom line is that based on the basic physics, a BEV vehicle powered by RE will ALWAYS be far, far cheaper to fuel then an H2 vehicle so the economic advantage goes to Tesla’s solution big time.

I bet that if Nikola gets any trucks into service their H2 will be either heavily subsidized or more likely be diesel trucked in (with all its attendant pollution) from NatGas steam reformation from Big Oil (who are probably backing Nikola along with the Koch Heads).

Nikola is almost certainly a company set up to delay and attempt to divert the inevitable transition to a sustainable trucking transportation system by throwing out a false alternative.

As already pointed out, Nikola carefully timed their Patent Trolling announcement and this AB “UP TO” 800 truck order to coincide with Tesla’s quarterly report which is in and of itself very emblematic on what their real purpose here is.

Yeah. At best, even if we want to be polite to a company which is pretty obviously a sham*, at best Nikola is only a wannabe manufacturer.

More realistically, they are a startup which obviously lacks any realistic business plan, as well as lacking any significant source of funding.

*Probably a scam, but at least a sham, in that its claims are wildly unrealistic, just like Faraday Future was.

They make fools out of themselves lol

Can Nikola really patent any truck that is essentially an aero shape? Take a look at the Shell and Mack concepts.

I doubt it. Nobody in the auto business has been very successful at patenting a shape. I don’t think this lawsuit will go very far. BTW, why aren’t they also suing Thor trucks? Also pretty much the same shape.

“Patenting a shape” = “Protecting a design”

Yes, you can protect a design.

No uou cant. Ford won a case saying that design are not patented and that case was almost 110 years ago

No, but unfortunately there is probably no way that Nikola can lose here. Either Tesla will give them some “oh go away” money to make the frivolous lawsuit disappear, or else Tesla will fight them in court, which will give Nikola publicity it doesn’t deserve and make it appear as though they are a serious competitor. 🙁

Unfortunately, this article accomplishes the same purpose — it appears to give Nikola and its claims a legitimacy which this sham company does not deserve.

On this rare occasion, I am going to disagree with you. Since this news has been out for several days, I’ve had some time to dig in. Nikola Motors does not have the money for a protracted legal fight. Tesla does. They should not be engaging in this fight at all. Knowing Elon as well as we do, I cannot see him settling out of court. He’d rather burn the cash. If you look at Oracle vs. Google over the Android OS inclusion of unlicensed parts of the Java language, which they won, it was a long, painful legal battle. Google refused to settle, there were billions on the table, and they eventually lost. Tesla is no stranger to lawsuits, since they actually make consumer products sold to rock divas and Wisconsin drivers alike (lemon law lawsuit was an early one), so it’s not like they don’t already have a payroll for this sort of thing. Nikola Motors filed these patents this year. Tesla was clearly working on the Semi for quite a lot longer than that, so they should be able to claim prior art without any issues. Nikola Motors will lose credibility from this play, spend money it… Read more »

Thank you for your very insightful and thoughtful commentary, Vexar!

You make a pretty strong argument, but the fact is that patent trolling must be profitable in most cases, or there wouldn’t be so much of it. I agree that no reasonable person would expect any settlement — in or out of court — to be even in the ballpark of $2 billion. Presumably that’s just a typical case of a lawyer aiming very high in the hope that will increase the settlement.

I agree that it is very unlikely Tesla will offer an out-of-court settlement in this case. I presume that Nikola’s real agenda here is to use the lawsuit for publicity purposes. If they really think Tesla will throw some “oh go away” money at them, then Nikola’s execs are both desperate and foolish… which is certainly not impossible, given Nikola’s desperate and foolish switch from touting a natural gas powered truck to touting a hydrogen-powered “fool cell” truck!

Well done, that company is worse than any chinese copycat. Maserati should sue them over Model S, Porsche Model 3 and Audi Tesla Roadster

Audi should sue them for the Tesla Roadster? No, Lotus should sue them It looks exactly like an Elise. 😀

I see what you did there. 😉

I like what Elon said about this issue on the earning call..

Okay, for the first time a business model for Nikola’s bizarre hydrogen experiment is emerging that actually makes sense. Patent trolling…maybe that’s what Nikola motors was ever all about?

I’m not sure what you think is so bizarre about it? A battery powered truck with a hydrogen fuel cell range extender, actually makes a lot of sense. Set aside all the “fool cell” rhetoric for a moment and think about it.

The Tesla truck and Nikola truck both start off fully charged from the same point. At 300 and something miles, the Nikola truck runs out of electricity in it’s battery, but it keeps going because now it switches to hydrogen. At about 600 miles, the Tesla truck has to stop. It’s done and needs a long recharge. At about 1200 miles, the Nikola truck has to stop as it’s done too. The Nikola now gets a relatively shorter battery recharge and about a 5 minute hydrogen charge and it’s good to go another 1200 miles. It is actually a practical LONG haul truck. The Tesla truck is a regional truck.

The same people that think this is a crazy scheme probably also drive a plug in Prius an think that’s pretty smart. Nikola is the same concept as the PIP, only bigger and better.

You don’t seem to understand how the Nikola truck is supposed to work: it’s not a hybrid with hydrogen merely as range extender, it runs full time on hydrogen burning it at a rate of 6 miles per KG, at $16/kg. That’s like driving a 6MPG diesel truck at $16/gallon diesel. All of this goodness is offered by Nikola Motors at a $4-5K/month lease including all fuel up to a million miles but a 100k miles/year long haul truck would cost Nikola well over $20K per month in fuel alone, now how is that for a business model? No, I think they should stick to patent trolling.

Seriously, what these numbers that don’t even remotely add up prove is that Nikola Motors was a scam to defraud investors from the start and now it seems to have moved on to defraud Tesla.

It is you that needs to read up. I’m no Nikola fan and make no claim to the validity of their supposed product, or the company’s intentions, but I will say that their stated intention is to use the fuel cell as a way to recharge the battery pack when needed. The fuel cell is NOT intended to run full time. From the FAQs on the Nikola site-

“Q: How often does the fuel cell turn on during normal driving?

A: There are many factors that determine when the fuel cell turns on to charge; terrain, load to motors, battery longevity, battery level and more. We anticipate the fuel cell will run 50% of the time.”

In addition, they are providing a plug so the battery can be charged by a charging station you want to. L2, L3, what rate of charge I have no idea, but it’s to be chargeable by other means than the fuel cell by the operator if they choose. So yes, the fuel cell IS a range extended IF the operator choses to run the truck this way. Basically, it can be operated just like a PHEV.

Go check out their site if you want-

They have then changed that lately. At least that is an improvement. It was and would be idiotic to have a big battery on an not be able to charge it.
Now they just have to change their second model too.

Adding the plug is the first improvement, replacing the hydrogen “range extender”with a diesel one the second one necessary to have a hope of getting operating cost that are competitive with diesel at least if not Tesla’s BEV truck.

Bit selective in your quoting aren’t you?

Q: How often do I need to charge the batteries?
A: You don’t. The truck has a fuel cell onboard that automatically charges the batteries for you. You never need to plug in. However, the Nikola One™ will also feature a charging port to charge the batteries when you are at a facility that offers electric charging.

So this is definitely meant to drive on hydrogen full time with a plug as some sort of afterthought. Since it’s supposed to be leased with all fuel included nobody would ever plug it in. Which brings us back to the financial numbers of this bizarre project that don’t even remotely add up. Make no mistake: this truck will never happen.

Good grief. What is wrong with you? Guess what? The Plug in Prius and and the Chevy Volt is also definitely meant to drive on gasoline full time. The plug was added just incase an owner felt like being “green” at some point.

As to whether or not this truck will happen, I have no idea and don’t care. I used to own trucks like this and have no desire to again. I won’t be buying it, or the Tesla Semi. As to the financial numbers, I’ll let the professionals that work at trucking companies that study this kind of think run the numbers for themselves. I don’t need to speculate. The market will decide if this truck is worth anything or not.

Hmm, how many people would plug in their Volt if GM sold it as something that never needs to be plugged in and provided you with all you can eat free gasoline to boot? Maybe some greenies would, but trucking isn’t about being green, it’s about making money in a cut throat competition, low margin environment in which $16/gallon diesel equivalent fuel has at least an 80% cost reduction to go before it has any chance of appealing to the trucking industry. If Nikola finds a way to do that it should forget about this truck project and go in the hydrogen distribution business.

…and don’t be afraid to use the info and numbers available to you to determine whether something is a scam. If you don’t you end up buying bridges and stuff….

“Set aside all the ‘fool cell’ rhetoric for a moment and think about it.”

No thanks, I don’t want to be a science denier; I’ll leave that to you and the others promoting the “hydrogen economy” hoax.

Thoroughly proven concepts things such as thermodynamics and the Laws of Physics are about as far away from mere “rhetoric” as you can get!

Please explain me why the conversion of electricity into hydrogen and back would have a much different efficiency than charging batteries? Maybe at the moment there is quite some difference but is there really a physical limit?

A battery has a higher weight to store energy than hydrogen. As such it is less efficient to transport. Also charging time = labour cost. If Nikola has a 340 kWh battery Tesla has double the size. So for every 1200 miles Tesla needs 4 hours of charging. Nikola only 1. (@350 kW)

Unfortunately, what doesn’t make sense is the fact that, for their trucks to work, they ‘ll have to spend 364 x US$2m (Toyota’s figure) = $US730m on merely providing the refuelling infrastructure.

Nikola will lose, both the lawsuit & money to lawyers.

So Nikola has managed to get a patent to streamline a truck. Unfortunately the only requirement to get a patent is it it’s not been previously patented. It does not have to make sense or it can be obviously common sense.

Blue Origin patented the concept of landing a rocket on a boat or barge in the ocean. Ask anybody how they would land a rocket in the ocean and they would give you the same answer. Patents for obvious concepts shouldn’t be allowed.

SpaceX challenged Blue Origin and now lands their rockets on a barge. So at least Courts will overrule nuisance patents.

Its not a patent, it is a “design”-patent. They only get the rights to the exact shape of the design. If another company makes a few small changes to the design it is not considered to violate the current design-patent rights.

Nikola doesn’t have any patent issues regarding Tesla semi… it’s is a design right often called a “design patent” the least important property right one can have, especially in the field of automotives.
Tesla has nothing to worry about, and as everyone can see from the picture above they look nothing a like.

Minimal changes to a design and the “right” is no longer protected. Sad and surprising Nikola motors want to get such a focus on their brand. People will remember this move for a very long time!

In Nikola:s suit, they say that due to Tesla copying them, they have reduce the value of their name and made it more difficult to sell trucks. Then a few days later they announced they have an order for 800 trucks. Kinda negates that argument.

Nice to know that in the USA you can sue your competition for competing with you.

I didn’t read the article closely enough, and miss the fact that Nikola’s patents were filed this year. How does that work over a year after showing their prototype and almost half a year after Tesla showed theirs. Doesn’t the patent have to pre date the act?

I believe they lost orders was because of the performance of the Tesla truck, not how it looked. Tesla just needs to make sure there are enough differentiating design features to escape the design patent issue.


Nikola is desperate. Zero chance to keep these design patents valid. These pictures have all been published years before Nikola patented their state-of-the-art design:

Sure, it’s a frivolous lawsuit with no merit. Unfortunately, it has already succeeded in getting Nikola attention which this sham company doesn’t deserve; attention such as the very article we’re discussing. Sadly, there’s no downside for Nikola in filing a frivolous lawsuit. Either Tesla will give them some small amount of money to make the merit-less suit go away, or else Nikola will get even more undeserved attention if Tesla fights them in court. A court fight would, unfortunately, also make Nikola look more like a legitimate company and less the sham that it is. 🙁

Tesla is “in trouble” because it’s being hit with a frivolous lawsuit by a patent troll company?

Ummmm… no. Just no. This hardly even rises to the level of annoyance from a company — Nikola — with no credibility whatsoever. It’s not even a pygmy biting the ankles of a giant; it’s more like an annoying gnat buzzing around that needs to be swatted.

Only fools would file a frivolous lawsuit lol well they are making a fool cell truck lol

*S H O C K E D* that Nikola did not also sue Tesla for NOT using Hydrogen Based Propulsion– just like their (at least in compared energy efficiency) lame truck. 😛

There seems to be a fair amount of misunderstanding with the other electric semi trucks, apart from Tesla Semi.
Check out

I wish there was more information on the potential patent infringement between Tesla and Nikola.

What state is Nikola’s corp office? UT…What state did Nikola file this Tesla lawsuit in? AZ…What state did Nikola just recently announce it would build a $1B manufacturing facility? AZ…Strike while the iron is hot and hope the judge has a pro-AZ-business-bias…

To make hydrogen by electrolysis we need lot of water only few percent is available
for consumption, water supply is scarce and is becoming even more scarce every passing day, moreover it takes millions to build a station whose capacity to refuel is 10-12 trucks every day, so that will not work.

To make hydrogen from natural gas which is more abundant we again create more emissions so it doesn’t serve the purpose of ZERO emissions.

It’s a Sham.

The only purpose of this law-suit seems to be, to get millions thru an out of court settlement. It’s not new to get money using patent trolls.

I don’t believe Tesla will settle out of court. Nikola will lose the court case, have to pay court cost and Tesla will sue them for their legal cost. Nikola will end up with nothing but a large legal bill.

I think Nikola knows this and will not go to court, but is just hopeing for an out of court settlement.

Nikola can drop this frivolous lawsuit any time that they think they’re spending more in legal fees than they gain in publicity over the lawsuit. Unless this actually goes to trial, which I think is unlikely, Tesla won’t counter-sue to claw back legal fees.

“To make hydrogen by electrolysis we need lot of water only few percent is available for consumption, water supply is scarce…”

That’s not any barrier at all, since waste water can be used as the source for electrolysis.

There are many reasons, both scientific and economic, why hydrogen will never be a practical or affordable fuel for wheeled vehicles (it’s great for large rockets!), but the availability of water isn’t one of them.

FedEx just took delivery of a fuel cell delivery van , via plug power fuel cell.

They have lot of successful experience (20,000 +) in fuel cell forklifts and are now expanding into vehicles.

It’s still a viable technology.