With 1.3 million electric vehicles on the road in 2020, and with lawmakers pushing for more adoption, fleets have been looking at Class 7 and Class 8 vehicles carefully — kicking the tires and doing the math.
But will the coronavirus crisis — and the resulting plunge in diesel prices — cause fleets to suspend their plans? Right now, some fleets are starved for freight business. Investment in electric trucks, with the uncertainty about their dependability and the maintenance involved, could pause if fleets have to juggle costs as the COVID-19 pandemic roils the markets in North America.
But according to Mark Russell, Nikola Motor president, electric trucks are still very attractive to fleets — in part because little has changed about the industry and related policies.
“Our target customers are typically very large and often global enterprises, and they need our battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and our fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) … in order to meet their announced strategic environmental, social and governance commitments,” Russell said in an email to Transport Dive. “They have already made the decision to pivot away from fossil fuels, now and forever. Thus their plans to partner with Nikola are unaffected by temporary fluctuations in the price of diesel fuel.”
Work hasn’t slowed at Nikola because of the COVID-19 shutdowns, he said, noting the pandemic “has not impacted our long-term plans and progress.”
Nikola has not manufactured and sold a vehicle yet, something Nikola CEO Trevor Milton admits he hears from critics in a Thursday post on LinkedIn.
But the company has been growing. It announced a reverse merger with VectoIQ in March. The deal, valued at about $3.3 billion, made Nikola a publicly traded company while aiding it in its quest to supply fleets.
Nikola has 14,000 trucks on preorder, with the first delivery of battery-electric trucks to European fleets expected in 2021, a Nikola spokesperson told Transport Dive in March.
The company, which originally focused on hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles, did a test run of one of its trucks in November 2019, when it helped complete an all-electric delivery of a trailer full of Anheuser-Busch beer in St. Louis. The company is also producing battery-electric vehicles.