News Round-up: Nikola Motors Mirage, Mexico City Experiencing Shanghai Noon, and Nissan Gets Corny With Fuel Cells

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson

Is this big rig the real life? Or is it just fantasy?

Nikola Motors, the company that recently sprouted out of the proverbial ether to announce a $350,000+ turbine-electric-powered Class 8 truck, claims it’s taken in $2.3 billion in pre-orders. Say what now?

That, the air in Mexico is thick with pollution, Nissan is bridging the gap to hydrogen with a corny solution, and BMW has solved the leasing bubble … after the break!

For $1,500, you can jump in line with 7,000 other people waiting for this truck

Holy moly. Either Nikola Motors has struck gold with its 18-wheeled high-tech marvel, or it’s pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.

According to Jalopnik’s Andrew Collins, Nikola Motors has taken in some $10,500,000 in cash on pre-orders for its Nikola One Class 8 hauler. That represents 7,000 pre-order holders, with a potential of $2.3 billion in sales.

When Collins pressed Nikola Motors founder Trevor Milton if the truck exists in reality, this is what he had to say:

“The truck does exist and is in final assembly,” he said in the email. “It will be unveiled later this year for the first 5,000 reservation holders, the press and media.” Now we’re hearing the reveal will indeed be December, 2016.

So, in December we will either see a production truck, or some Faradayian flight of fancy to placate those who don’t like asking tough questions.

Mexico City celebrates ‘Shanghai Days’

After years of progress on air pollution, Mexico City is now “shrouded in a gray-yellow murk,” reports the New York Times. The issue is so bad that government officials are coming up with ways to keep between 20 and 40 percent of cars off the road. As expected, road users are not happy, and they don’t think the driving restrictions are helping.

From NYT:

Every day, roughly 20 percent of the region’s cars are grounded. Ozone and particulates have climbed so high that the environment commission has declared eight pollution emergencies since March, imposing special rules that include taking 40 percent of the cars off the road.

But drivers waiting at an emissions inspections station recently said that they were taking all the heat.

“Keeping cars at home does not resolve absolutely anything,” said Óscar Rojas Ayala, 50, a criminal defense lawyer who uses his 2009 Mitsubishi sport utility vehicle to visit his clients in the city’s far-flung jails. “They should prove it.”

“This is all just a business for the government to make more money,” said Armando Cortés de la Rosa, 58, who does not live in the city but needs an inspection sticker to visit relatives. “You take two million cars off the road and the pollution has continued.”

“What’s the strategy?” asked Elsa Pliego, 46. Some antipollution measures just create more traffic, she argued, like the bike lanes that herd cars into single file. “Today they do one thing. Tomorrow another.”

The problem stems from recent governments not making pollution part of the agenda, say researchers, and Mexicans not complaining about what they can’t see.

BMW solves its leasing bubble crisis

The bubble exists. Thanks to a high rate of leasing over the last few years, many vehicles are forecast to return to dealerships in 2016. BMW, the queen of “lease, don’t own” brands, has a solution: sell lease returns to non-BMW dealers.

From Automotive News:

The captive’s BMWGroupDirect.com is now accessible to non-BMW franchised dealers as well as independent used-only dealers who have valid AuctionACCESS accounts. AuctionACCESS allows dealers to buy used vehicles online and is accepted at over 250 auctions in North America, according to its website.

If there were a lease-return 3 Series sitting next to an ATS in a Cadillac dealer lot, what would you buy?

Nissan’s new e-bio fuel cells could help get us to a hydrogen future via ethanol

The Japanes automakers are split between what will fuel our collective mobility in the future. Nissan and Mitsubishi are betting on battery electric vehicles while Toyota and Honda think hydrogen fuel cells are the answer.

It seems Nissan might be changing its tune ever so slightly. EVs are more viable right now mainly because the infrastructure for hydrogen vehicles does not exist. The automaker plans to bridge the gap with a new ethanol fuel cell technology, which converts the corn-based fuel to hydrogen on-board before again converting it to electricity to drive the wheels.

From Automotive News:

But the biggest difference is that Nissan’s system generates its hydrogen inside the car. It does so through an additional step handled by a component called the reformer.

The reformer transforms ethanol in the fuel tank into hydrogen, which is then fed into in the fuel stack. In a traditional hydrogen fuel cell car, there is no reformer. The car’s fuel tank carries pressurized hydrogen pumped directly from a fueling station.

Cool technology, for sure, but what does that mean for Nissan’s battery-electric future?

[Image: Nikola Motors]

Mark Stevenson
Mark Stevenson

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  • Tresmonos Tresmonos on Jun 14, 2016

    The DF suffers from corruption (people greasing the inspectors' pockets). Drive along the periferico and it won't take long to figure that sh1t out. cash is king in the DF. Drugs, violence, even the f*cking pollution all stem from corruption.

    • HotPotato HotPotato on Jun 16, 2016

      I could have sworn that five or ten years back I read that researchers had fingered the main cause of pollution in Mexico City: it wasn't even all the Vochos (though they didn't help), it was leaks related to fuel tanks mounted to buildings. Apparently the geology isn't stable enough for piped-in natural gas and so tanks are used instead? Am I halluci-remembering or is this really a thing?

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Jun 16, 2016

    WalMart paid to develop exactly such a truck for experimental evaluation: http://corporate.walmart.com/_news_/news-archive/2014/03/26/walmart-debuts-futuristic-truck So, not vaporware in the sense that such a thing can be and has been built.

    • Vulpine Vulpine on Jun 16, 2016

      Good to see that, HotPotato; I'd forgotten that announcement. This might even have been the trigger for Nikola to start their work. If so, we have an interesting future ahead for the trucking industry. Problem is, this Nikola thing came seemingly out of the blue with almost no fanfare. Claiming they'll have a working prototype by the end of this year seems a stretch, especially when they're also claiming so many pre-orders without even a hint of the project leaking from one of those supposed buyers. So while I love the concept, I still have to question the reality.

  • MaintenanceCosts "But your author does wonder what the maintenance routine is going to be like on an Italian-German supercar that plays host to a high-revving engine, battery pack, and several electric motors."Probably not much different from the maintenance routine of any other Italian-German supercar with a high-revving engine.
  • 28-Cars-Later "The unions" need to not be the UAW and maybe there's a shot. Maybe.
  • 2manyvettes I had a Cougar of similar vintage that I bought from my late mother in law. It did not suffer the issues mentioned in this article, but being a Minnesota car it did have some weird issues, like a rusted brake line.(!) I do not remember the mileage of the vehicle, but it left my driveway when the transmission started making unwelcome noises. I traded it for a much newer Ford Fusion that served my daughter well until she finished college.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Couple of questions: 1) who will be the service partner for these when Rivian goes Tits Up? 2) What happens with software/operating system support when Rivia goes Tits Up? 3) What happens to the lease when Rivian goes Tits up?
  • Richard I loved these cars, I was blessed to own three. My first a red beauty 86. My second was an 87, 2+2, with digital everything. My third an 87, it had been ridden pretty hard when I got it but it served me well for several years. The first two I loved so much. Unfortunately they had fuel injection issue causing them to basically burst into flames. My son was with me at 10 years old when first one went up. I'm holding no grudges. Nissan gave me 1600$ for first one after jumping thru hoops for 3 years. I didn't bother trying with the second. Just wondering if anyone else had similar experience. I still love those cars.
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