Nikola Zero electric side-by-side edges closer to reality with 520 hp prototype

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With 20 inches of suspension travel, the Zero UTV should be able to cover almost any ground 

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Nikola Motors is a relative unknown in the motoring world, but that hasn't stopped it from making some seriously audacious promises about its upcoming hydrogen-electric semi and side-by-side. Now, as we edge closer to actual production, the full specification of the Zero UTV is starting to become clear.

When it first showed off a rendering of the Zero, Nikola claimed it would hit 98 km/h (60 mph) in less than three seconds. We were promised a 50 kWh battery, and 500 hp (373 kW) being shuffled to all four wheels through a torque-vectoring system. Oh, and it would cost around US$42,000.

In production guise, a few things will change for the better. The 50 kWh battery has been dropped in place of a 400V 72 kWh lithium-ion unit, and there's an extra 20 hp (15 kW) of power on tap according to the revised spec sheet. Considering the current, petrol-powered class leaders are only making around 140 hp (104 kW), the Zero should have them well and truly covered.

Beyond the sky high power output, the 645 Nm of torque being shuffled around the four wheels should help with performance as well. With 20 inches of travel from the Fox Podium shocks and 14.5 in (37 cm) of ground clearance, it should be able to hammer flat out over just about any terrain, too.

So far, the real Nikola Zero looks remarkably similar to the one we were promised in the renders. The promised IP67 waterproofing for the motors and electric hardware has carried over, and the dual seven-inch displays rendered earlier this year have found their way into the first prototype as well. There's also 400 watts worth of roof-mounted solar panels on the Zero, which the company says could add up to 10 miles (16 km) of range per day.

Pricing for the Zero will kick off at US$37,000 and the company is taking refundable deposits. Sure, that's $5,000 less than we initially expected, but it's a lot for a weekend toy when Chevrolet and Tesla have $35,000 electric cars on the way.

The other potential issue is Nikola's relative youth. All of this tech sounds incredible, and the fact a prototype has actually been built is some sort of proof the company is moving in the right direction, but one prototype does not a successful company maketh. We'll be monitoring the Zero's progress closely as it develops.

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