Fuel Smarts

Nikola Motor CEO Compares Truck Manufacturers to Kodak

May 2017, TruckingInfo.com - Feature

by Today's Trucking

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Photo: Tom Berg
Photo: Tom Berg

The founder and Chief Executive Officer of Nikola Motor Company suggested today’s truck manufacturers face a fate similar to Kodak, which watched its film business collapse during the advent of digital cameras.

 “They [Kodak] were so powerful that they never expected to change anything,” Trevor Milton said in an address to the 66th annual meeting of the Quebec Trucking Association. “Why change something that already works?”

His Utah-based company is certainly looking to reinvent the idea of a Class 8 truck, as it looks to produce a hydrogen-powered electric model known as the Nikola One.

One of Kodak’s main mistakes was that it focused solely on an existing product without considering a changing environment, he told the crowd. "In the event of a war, for example, the liter of diesel could reach five or seven dollars ... You'll never have to pay that kind of money to run the Nikola One."

Milton also compared the truck’s concept to the arrival of the first smartphones, which also took the marketplace by surprise.

Apple combined the iPhone and iTunes to change the way people purchased music. Nikola One’s monthly payments will include the price of the truck as well as fuel, maintenance, insurance, and even the windshield wipers. The company plans to develop a related network of hydrogen fueling stations, too.

"In the automotive world, emotions sometimes motivate acquisitions," he said. "But not in trucking. It is only money that dictates decisions.”

"The other companies took a long time to figure out what was happening, and that's what's going to happen with the trucking industry," he said.

Once produced, the Nikola One is expected to travel up to 1,900 kilometers on a single filling of the hydrogen fuel cell system, while delivering 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 lb-ft of torque.

"Other manufacturers are trying to meet the new emissions standards by sacrificing torque and power, but drivers do not want to drive a truck that does not have power," he said, stressing that his truck will also offer a quicker braking response than its diesel-powered counterparts.

"I love the history of diesel," Milton added. "It used to be the most efficient and efficient alternative. But there is now a more efficient, efficient and emissions-free alternative."

The truck’s batteries will offer a further environmental benefit when they are removed after 1.6 million kilometers of service and sold for a fifth of their traditional price to store solar energy, he said.

"By 2021 the truck will be on the road, it's not a dream," Milton concluded. "The future is here and we're all going to be part of it.”


  1. 1. Stan [ May 09, 2017 @ 04:32AM ]

    Students of history may well think that Trevor Milton sounds just like Preston Tucker. It didn't work out that well for him.

  2. 2. kh [ May 09, 2017 @ 04:49AM ]

    I hope they get it right! It seems amazing to me that the automotive has not produced a solid Hydro automobile, but a start up truck company can.

  3. 3. william [ May 09, 2017 @ 05:26AM ]

    In my business dealings with Mr. Milton, I would compare him to a snake oil salesman. The difference being there was something in the bottle of oil instead of a hollow shell full of broken promises.

  4. 4. good luck [ May 09, 2017 @ 09:54AM ]

    remember apple didn't tell the world until they were ready!

  5. 5. AndrewH [ May 09, 2017 @ 11:42AM ]

    The epitome of "talk is cheap." Lots of cocky comments and zero sales.

  6. 6. Thomas Ross [ May 09, 2017 @ 03:01PM ]

    Gentlemen, Toyota has just announced that they are coming out with similar technology in a class 8 truck.

  7. 7. reality hits you hard bro [ May 09, 2017 @ 06:19PM ]

    december 1, 2016, less than six months ago, mr milton said this and i quote: "the truck will be in production by 2020, with an expected annual build rate of 50,000 units." today he says "the truck will be on the road in 2021". i wonder what he'll say at the end of the year.

  8. 8. Jason [ May 10, 2017 @ 08:02AM ]

    I see that he includes insurance in his price. As someone that manages insurance for companies, I can say that like trucks, no two insurance companies are alike. So, what type of coverage will they provide? What type of claims service will they offer? We all know that a good claim experience can save you money. So, if they do not offer a claim service like a GW, then you will be down longer and lose money.

    Also, the price point for these are going to be monstrous. Insurance on a new unit with a physical damage value of $140,000 can cost over $15k. Of course, the $15k is an estimate, as many different factors generate your premium, but it is a medium number. Imagine the cost of insurance per year at the price point these trucks will be.

    I really think he is blowing some major smoke up our backside. I am not saying that the industry is changing, or that it isn't changing soon, I just think he is being a bit careless with his words. I also think this type of tech will not be affordable to the average trucker for a decade or more. Not to mention that shops around the country would have to change to start servicing these types of units. With that change, means that tech schools would have to develop new programs to teach mechanics how to maintain these units in conjunction with older ones. There are even more moving parts than what I have touched on, so I am not going to hold my breathe for 2020 like he said last year, or 2021 like he is saying today.

  9. 9. Alex Koegl [ May 15, 2017 @ 04:24AM ]

    We have to hold on to this. At the moment no other car producer outside of Asia can do this. And they are fast. To start in 2020 is to late. No matter what lets hope Nikola is making its cause otherwise we all will depend on how Asia (Japan, Korea, China) is letting us

  10. 10. MC [ May 31, 2017 @ 06:51AM ]

    @Alex Koegl - I agree with your hopes Nikola can push this out before the Asians do. However, we have an anti-environment government in power so they're pretty much on their own. On the other hand, China has been making environmental policies top priority after the embarrassment of the 2008 Olympics when hundreds of athletes boycotted the games due to horrible air quality (and the world-wide negative press that came with it). No doubt that if a Nikola knock-off pops up there, the CCP will subsidize the bejeesus out of it.
    @Jason - I can't comment on the insurance thing, although it would be interesting to see how they figure that into the pricing. But the maintenance part of it, they supposedly have a nationwide contract in the works with Ryder for sales & service and a regional one with a CAT dealer in the Tennessee/Alabama area. It's up to them to train their techs however I think some tech schools may already be teaching (or preparing to teach) hydrogen fuel cell technology as it is deployed on a smaller scale like the Toyota Mirai and UPS-style delivery trucks.

  11. 11. Joedirtyshirt [ July 04, 2017 @ 08:30AM ]

    Well I was highly interested when The truck was going to be a CNG turbine powered electric truck , However Hydrogen fuel cell tech. kind of let some of the wind out of my sail, do I think that there maybe a Bernie Madoff scam going down , maybe. Seeing the day cab prototype made me less nervous, I would think that it should be the first release not an over the road, coast to coast traveler, to have issues were there is not much support, A local- regional unit would in my onion be more economical to be the test bed and to allow all the service infrastructure to be built, thus ending my concern of the Bernie scam. I don't want to be the first one or even the first 100 to throw rocks at an idea I truly would be behind an improvement to trucking, but sometimes a battle is lost just because of logistics not having the net work for the grand plan can kill it before it is even started making the company broke just gearing up, having Ryder as a base for service and support makes me think they really need to start with the day cab version.


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