Nikola versus Tesla: it is an all-out war!

In a move that many say will not achieve anything, hydrogen truck start-up Nikola is suing Tesla Motors for US$ 2 billion (R25,5 billion) saying the electric car maker copied its patents when designing its electric semi.

Nikola first showed its semi, the Nikola One, back in 2016. Now it is saying that Tesla copied its design and does not have patents. “The Tesla Semi design is substantially similar to Nikola’s unique design, and Tesla copied Nikola’s patents,” an Arizona federal court lawsuit states.

Nikola notes multiple aspects of Tesla’s electric semi it says infringes on its patents. These include a mid-entry door, fuselage and wraparound windshield that’s designed to give the driver an unobstructed view of the road.

In a not-too-veiled jibe at Tesla, Nikola has also stated (on its official Twitter account) that Nikola customers can reserve their trucks — the sleeper semi-truck Nikola One and the day cab Nikola Two — at zero cost. This is in stark contrast to Tesla, which is taking pre orders for its Semi … at a cost of US$ 20 000 (or R255 000) each.

Quite why Nikola is bothering with this lawsuit and slagging off Tesla, I do not know. One would think that it would have its hands full. After all, it has just announced that Anheuser-Busch, America’s leading brewer, has placed an order for up to 800 hydrogen-electric powered semi-trucks from the pioneer in hydrogen-electric renewable technology.

Anheuser-Busch owns and operates 22 breweries, 20 distributorships and 22 agricultural and packaging facilities, employing more than 18 000 people across the United States (US).

The zero-emission trucks — which will be able to travel between 500 and 1 200 miles (805 and 1 931 km respectively) and be refilled within 20 minutes, reducing idle time — are expected to be integrated into Anheuser-Busch’s dedicated fleet beginning in 2020.

Through this agreement, Anheuser-Busch aims to convert its entire long-haul dedicated fleet to trucks powered by renewable energy by 2025. Nikola’s cutting-edge technology will enable the brewer to achieve this milestone across its long-haul loads, while also helping to improve road safety through the trucks’ advanced surround viewing system.

“At Anheuser-Busch we’re continuously searching for ways to improve sustainability across our entire value chain and drive our industry forward,” says Michel Doukeris, CEO of Anheuser-Busch.

“The transport industry is one that is ripe for innovative solutions and Nikola is leading the way with hydrogen-electric, zero-emission capabilities. We are very excited by the possibilities our partnership can offer,” he notes.

“Hydrogen-electric technology is the future of logistics and we’re proud to be leading the way,” adds Trevor Milton, CEO of Nikola Motor Company. “Anheuser-Busch has a long history of investing in progressive, sustainable technology and we are excited that this partnership will bring the largest hydrogen network in the world to the US.

“By 2028, we anticipate having over 700 hydrogen stations across the US and Canada. With nearly US$ 9 billion in pre-order reservations, we are building to order, not speculating, and are very excited about what’s to come.”

The partnership with Nikola will contribute to Anheuser-Busch’s recently announced 2025 Sustainability Goals, which include reducing CO2 emissions by 25 percent across its value chain.

Once fully implemented, the carbon reductions gained from these 800 trucks will reduce the brewer’s carbon emissions from logistics by more than 18 percent — the equivalent of taking more than 13 000 passenger vehicles on the road annually.

Published by

Charleen Clarke

CHARLEEN CLARKE is editorial director of FOCUS. While she is based in Johannesburg, she spends a considerable amount of time overseas, attending international transport events – largely in her capacity as associate member of the International Truck of the Year Jury.
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