555-hp Nikola electric side-by-side tears through dirt for up to 200 miles a charge
When Nikola Motors started advertising outrageous specs for its Zero all-electric side-by-side, we figured there was no way those specs would survive the journey to market. A 520-hp figure may sound plenty normal for sports car, but it's pretty out there for a side-by-side. However, not only have the Zero's off-the-charts specs survived as Nikola prepares for production, some have actually grown. The spec sheet now includes well more than triple the horsepower of the current power leader, more battery power than a Tesla Model S 100D and a price tag equivalent to a Model 3.
Nikola announced the Zero's final specifications this week ahead of the opening of dealership orders in January 2018. Prior to that date, it will host a dealership ride and drive event in Southern Utah, giving dealers the opportunity to see what a 555-hp UTV can do in the dirt.
The 400-volt Zero will be available with two four-motor powertrain options, both quite extreme by UTV standards: the baseline 415 hp setup packs 368 lb-ft, and Nikola has become fond of advertising the 3,675 lb-ft torque figure that comes after the 10:1 gear reduction. If that's not enough, buyers can step up to the 555-hp/490 lb-ft option.
The big, 555-hp option is a leap up from the already large 520-hp figure Nikola had been using since first revealing its plans in 2016, and both are quite far beyond the current power levels of other performance UTVs. The UTV market still has plenty of models with double-digit power figures, and the Can-Am Maverick X3 Turbo R is claimed to be the most powerful factory-built side-by-side out there right now with its 172 hp. The Polaris RZR XP Turbo follows closely behind with 168 hp, and we had a pretty damn good time in a Yamaha YXZ1000R with a mere 90 hp on tap. Needless to say, 555 hp is a crazy leap up the power ladder.
"The advantage of the electric motor is that you only use what you need, when you need it," the company explains on its website. "You are not penalized by having electric motors with greater horsepower and torque. The motors only take the exact amount of energy they need to perform as directed and not a kilowatt more. So when you need that extra horsepower and torque to climb a hill or tow, you have it. When you don't need it, you don't use it."
The Zero's spec list has also filled out in the battery department, growing from the initial 50-kWh battery to multiple lithium-ion options topping out at 125 kWh, larger than any electric passenger car currently on the US market and right up there with the Lucid Air's planned 400-mile (644 km), 130-kWh pack. We guess battery reserves are potentially more important when you're sending 555 horses galloping into canyon-lined deserts and forested middle-of-nowheres than they are on highways, so perhaps the extra capacity is understandable. Nikola says you can expect up to 200 miles (322 km/h) of range when driving in 4x4 mode. The other battery options are a 75-kWh and 100-kWh.
One spec that hasn't changed for the better is the Zero's 0-60 mph (96.5 km/h) time, which Nikola is now listing at 3.9 seconds, close to a second behind the "around three seconds" it was touting last year. Despite all the Zero's electric torque, that's also only half a second better than the aforementioned Can-Am Maverick X3 Turbo R.
Beyond just sheer battery and motor power, the Zero will have a host of other advanced features. The standard equipment package is set to include front and rear suspension with 20 in (508 mm) of travel, 14 in (356 cm) of ground clearance, 32-in tires on beadlock wheels, electric power steering and LED headlights. Options will include 4x4 torque vectoring, anti-lock brakes, traction control, anti-roll protection, and front and rear 4,500-lb (2,040-kg) winches. A standard 10-in infotainment display will put monitoring and control at the driver's fingertips, and an available audio system will add a soundtrack. A 4-kW solar charging system will also be offered as an option.
The latest renderings show design evolution from the prototype Nikola showed last year. The more styled front-end includes redesigned headlights and a new grille. The rear styling has been tightened and includes more defined taillights, and the roll cage has a few extra angles and joints to it. All in all, it's a more polished, production-ready look.
The Zero will start at $35,000 when it comes to market, and Nikola is planning to begin deliveries in 2018. We're still maintaining our skepticism about this one until it's actually available (and maybe until we've actually ridden it), but so far Nikola appears to be moving forward steadily.
As you might recall, Nikola is also hard at work on a hydrogen fuel cell semi truck called the One. Not only does that truck promise to help scrub the stench of diesel from highways, it also promises to be pretty damn cozy for those driving it, as renderings of its sleeper cabin revealed this month show. With its sleek layout of dual bunks, Wi-Fi, central control tablet, ambient lighting, TV, microwave and more, the One looks as much a cozy RV as a big rig.
You can see more of both the Zero UTV and the One sleeper compartment in the photo gallery.