Nikola Motors hasn't begun production of its Nikola One and Nikola Two hydrogen fuel-cell semi trucks, making its latest move very bold indeed. The company took to Twitter this week to announce that it will refund customer deposits, and won't accept any new deposits going forward.
Nikola announced that it will refund all current reservation-holder's deposits, without changing their place in line for its hydrogen fuel-cell semi trucks. The company said deposits would be refunded within 60 days, and noted that "we have never used a dollar of deposit money in the history of our company." New reservations won't require a deposit, the company said.
"With over 8[-plus] billion reservations, who needs deposits anyways," Nikola boasted in a second tweet.
The tweets implicitly dissed Tesla, which has made headlines for racking up hundreds of thousands of reservations for its Model 3 electric car, and a healthy amount for its electric semi-truck—all with refundable deposits. But as Tesla works to ramp up production of the Model 3, the news media has questioned whether the company can actually get the job done. Nikola saw an opportunity to kick Tesla while it was down, it seems.
Tesla does not plan to begin semi-truck deliveries until next year, and the automaker has missed many production deadlines in the past. But Nikola doesn't plan road testing prototypes of its truck until later this year. Production isn't scheduled to start until late 2020 at the earliest, and the development issues that often crop up with new companies developing new products could delay things.
Nikola also faces the challenge of building hydrogen fueling stations for its trucks. Hydrogen stations are much more expensive to build than charging stations for battery-electric vehicles. Those vehicles can also rely on the grid to supply electricity; developing a large-scale source of hydrogen will be less straightforward. Nikola can boast about deposits all it wants, but it needs to solve those problems to beat Tesla.