The Nikola Zero… a funny name, isn’t it? But two words were never so intimidating, both in practice and philosophy. You see, this all-electric UTV has one thing on its mind: to obliterate the market we once knew and redefine what powersports means going forward.
“Zero” refers to the number of emissions produced by the hulking four passenger unit. But there is another zero-figure worth paying attention to: its zero-to-sixty capabilities. The Nikola Zero accomplishes the task in just 3.9 seconds, with an incredible 555-horsepower engine capable of generating 490 lb-ft of torque. How, may you ask? Electric motors at each wheel in conjunction with gear reductions.
Performance and Good Looks
Power and speed are standard expectations for the off-road community. In fact, to perform in the unpredictable elements, those qualities are prerequisites rather than perks. So, what puts the Nikola Zero on par with a market competitor like the Polaris RZR? For starters, the Nikola Zero is lifted with a 20” suspension in both the front and rear, compared to the RZR’s 16”. Not only that, the Zero comes standard with 32” tires for a truly rugged appeal. And did we mention 4×4 all-wheel drive, an IP67 waterproof motor and gearbox, as well as instant torque (in under one second)?
But is that the Zero’s main goal—image? No, this thing is downright gifted. And given its released specs, some might say even overly capable. Its power and speed put it right in line with the Tesla Model 3 (yes, the car). And because of its mind-blowing capabilities, it also shares the Model 3’s $35,000 price tag. Make no mistake, those with the money who are genuinely curious as to what this thing can do are going to shell out to have one in their garage. But it almost feels as if Nikola is going after this demographic to send a message. A unit this powerful (yet admittedly niche) is like the entire electric realm—with Elon Musk as its fearless leader, of course—flipping the bird to the fuel-injected world.
Case in point, Nikola is very quick and frequent to remind potential buyers that the Zero does not need air to run. Specifically, this means that the 75 kWh, 100 kWh, or 125 kWh battery-powered engine allows the UTV to operate in extreme conditions like being fully submerged in water or mud (not that they’d condone super-fun activities such as that). More than tooting its own horn though, the marketing here seems to break down the world mudders already know and love. In order to survive, electric vehicles at these price points have to subvert the fuel-injected market. And there, our friends, is another flip of the bird.
Foreign administrations like France have openly made strides to eliminate fuel-injected motors. They’ve set hard deadlines for drivers and automakers to be off the road. But it appears that the U.S. is on course to follow China’s approach to electric vehicles. Incentivizing companies to produce EVs, thereby punishing standard fuel injection producers in the process. Possibly more troubling, is that earlier this year Congress saw a bill called the Self Drive Act. It allows self-driving vehicles to breeze by regulatory measures in order to promote more autonomous cars on the road. The bill is currently awaiting the Senate vote, but it crushed the House 54-0.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
The EV and autonomous arguments, though different, are effectively capitalizing on collective momentum. As we enter the new year, it’s important to acknowledge new trends. Yet at this point, it would be an understatement to call electric-powered vehicles a trend. Let’s be real—it’s a movement. And that means different things to different people.
For someone who prioritizes fuel emissions, the benefits of electric growth are obvious. And additions like the Nikola Zero are massive for the group’s morale. It can supposedly travel 200 miles on a single charge and tow a damn tank. Yet the success of this said movement ushers in the shortcomings of others, specifically a new game for the aftermarket. An electric-imposed aftermarket would be forced to innovate on an entirely new level (though it’s been done time and time again). With the electric market’s attempt at a stranglehold by giving more and more power to the automakers, could aftermarket players be reduced to the role of providing replacement parts? And if electric vehicles pride themselves in having fewer parts to begin with, would this shrink the size of and need for a third-party aftermarket?
Making an Educated Guess
While much remains up in the air, one thing is certain. Even with a massive market shift, opportunity will always stick around. Many electric vehicles are still alien to the public, and it will take time for people to build trust. Additionally, individuals are always going to want to add personal touches to the look and performance of a vehicle or powersports unit. For true enthusiasts, fresh off-the-line will simply never be loud enough, high enough, or fast enough. Drivers will continue to create demand for something more. So, to bemoan a changing of the guards would be squandering the talent and creativity of an aftermarket that thrives on change in the first place. Time to ante up, folks—things just got interesting.