Last month, Nikola Motor broke ground on its first factory in Coolidge, Arizona, where it plans to produce the Nikola Tre and Nikola Two Class 8 trucks. Just a few days earlier, Tesla broke ground on its newest factory under construction in Austin, Texas where it plans to produce the Cybertruck, Semi, Model Y, and Model 3.
CleanTechnica reader Human machine wondered aloud which would company would produce the first trucks in America and it really struck a chord. Is this the modern day race between Edison and Westinghouse? It truly is a compelling question. With Tesla focused on battery electric powertrains and Nikola starting with battery electric class 8 trucks in the United States, we are able to watch both factories be built almost head to head, 1,000 miles away from each other.
Nikola’s Coolidge Factory
Nikola is building its factory in Arizona in three phases over the next few years, with the first phase expected to be completed at the end of 2021. The first phase of the factory will produce the battery electric variant of the Tre, which was initially intended to be just for European customers. Apparently, American customers wanted in on the cab-over action and in response to overwhelming demand from customers, Nikola bumped production of the Tre up to the front of the pack in the US.
Nikola has built its company on partnering with the best in breed providers of the building blocks of class 8 truck manufacturing, which is likely to prove to be more challenging than the vertical integration path Tesla has chosen. For battery cells, Nikola will source cells from the usual suspects, with LG, Samsung, and Panasonic all as potential suppliers, while Tesla is more likely to extend its partnership with Panasonic to Giga Texas or try something more provocative.
Nikola inked a contract with Walbridge to build the new factory, with construction expected to kick into gear in 1-2 weeks. To date, nothing has happened at the location of the Coolidge factory, though it was already a nicely prepared, flat parcel of land. After a few years of watching Tesla erect factories faster than my kids can tie their shoes, the world has grown accustomed to watching work commence immediately and in grand fashion as soon as a new location is announced, but that’s just not practical everywhere.
Nikola’s Coolidge, Arizona factory has two more phases of construction planned, with target completion in 2022 and 2023, adding capability to take materials from Nikola’s various suppliers and turn them into complete trucks at a single location.
Tesla’s Texas Terafactory
Meanwhile in Texas, Tesla is leveling the ground and prepping its 2,100 acre property for what is shaping up to be the largest factory for the new energy automaker. Tesla plans to produce an entire army of vehicles from the new location, starting with the highly anticipated, apocalypse-proof Cybertruck. The Tesla Semi will also become a production vehicle at the new Austin factory, followed by the Model Y, and the Roadster. We don’t have a detailed schedule for production, but this seems the likely order given the start of deliveries of Cybertruck and the Semi in 2021.
At Tesla’s Giga Shanghai factory, Model 3 production was built first, with Model Y production following immediately thereafter. If that’s any indicator, they will build up the production facilities for the Cybertruck first, add Semi production, giving them a bit of a disadvantage in the proverbial head to head race to production versus Nikola. Even so, Tesla’s timeline is eerily in sync with Nikola’s projections, with both slated to move the first American made, series production Class 8 battery electric truck.
Tesla has far more experience moving vehicles from prototype to production and with its vertical integration, maintains a tighter grasp on the supply chain for its vehicles. Nikola, on the other hand, is building its first wholly owned factory, but will have the support of a wide range of partners in the space including truck builder IVECO. Building a factory that’s guaranteed to be in the global media spotlight throughout construction ensures we will have a front row seat to the action as it unfolds.
This, my friends, is the next American industrial revolution. The world is increasingly choosing clean technologies and clean vehicles to move stuff around. Tesla and Nikola are pushing to bring those vehicles to customers around the world as quickly as possible and they’re doing it right here in America. It’s beautiful. The future is now.