Tesla Semi rival Nikola targets $1B financing round amid $380M worth of new truck orders

As the company prepares to unveil working prototypes of its hydrogen-electric trucks next year, trucking startup Nikola Motor has announced that it recently completed an “oversubscribed” Series C funding round, which began last August. In a statement on Twitter, the company noted that it had received an additional $105 million from investors, bringing the total Series C funding round financing to over $205 million.

Nikola CEO and founder Trevor Milton noted in a statement to trucking publication Freightwaves that the company’s initial goal for its Series C funding round was $150 million. Inasmuch as its recent financing round was successful, though, Milton stated that the startup’s target next year would be even bigger — a $1 billion round that would likely start in the first quarter of 2019.

“It’s primarily for prepping the truck for full production. We’re going to start a $1B round in the first quarter of next year. It usually takes around 4-5 months to complete a round that big and that will go to the factory and everything else,” Milton said.

Nikola expects to break ground for its Arizona-based factory sometime next year. Milton notes that the facility would be tasked with manufacturing the company’s Nikola One sleeper and Nikola Two daycab once the vehicles are ready to enter production. Over the next six years, the trucking startup expects to spend about $6 billion to develop the facility. The $1 billion funding round for 2019 is expected to allow the company to deploy working units of its vehicles on US roads.

“The year 2019 is going to be a pretty amazing year because you are going to see all the products out on the road. The biggest criticism is when are you going to have trucks on the road? We’re really trying to help the industry, and you can’t do that if the truck can’t pull a load,” Milton said.

With its Series C funding completed, Nikola is now dedicating its efforts to its upcoming Nikola World 2019 exhibition, which is set to unveil a working prototype of the Nikola Two. A sample unit of the Nikola Tre, a new truck the company announced for the European and Australian markets, would also be available in the event.

The Tesla Semi and the Nikola One.

While Nikola’s vehicles boast excellent specs, the company would have to establish a network of hydrogen refueling stations across the United States and Europe for its trucks to become a viable alternative to diesel-powered trucks. That said, the company has stated that it would have hydrogen coverage in the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia by 2028. Within that timeframe, Nikola has announced that it would become America’s “largest energy consumer.” 

For now, though, Nikola Motor remains optimistic, announcing that the Tre, its truck for the European and Australian market, has received $380 million worth of orders within the first five days since it was announced. The company also plans to start building its hydrogen network in 2020.

The United States’ trucking industry is ripe for disruption. Thus, vehicles form upstart companies such as Nikola and trucks from established electric car makers such as Tesla would likely accelerate the transition of the long-haul industry into the zero-emissions era. Considering the progress of the companies so far, though, the Tesla Semi, which is currently undergoing testing and expected to “earnestly” begin production sometime in 2020, would likely be saturating the market by the time Nikola’s hydrogen-electric trucks start rolling off the production line.

Tesla Semi rival Nikola targets $1B financing round amid $380M worth of new truck orders
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