STAN THOMPSON COLUMN: Can badgers thrive in Iredell County?

STAN THOMPSON COLUMN: Can badgers thrive in Iredell County?

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Stan Thompson

Stan Thompson

The four-wheeled kind probably can; the four-legged variety, maybe not.

Earlier this month the NASDAQ Stock Exchange welcomed a new Initial Public Offering, “NKLA.” That’s the symbol for Nikola Motor Company. It’s the given name of “Nikola Tesla,” the 19th century Serbian genius who sold the world on alternating current in place of Thomas Edison’s preferred DC. The 2017 movie, “The Current War,” documents their historic disagreement.

Five days after its debut, NKLA went up 103%! It did so the day the company’s founder, Trevor Milton, announced that orders would be accepted for its new battery/hydrogen pickup truck, the Badger. Five days out of the IPO chute the Wall Street Journal noted, “Nikola Bolts Past Ford in Market Value.” That’s the whole company ... not just the pickup truck.

The Badger won’t be your father’s pickup truck unless you live in Race City and are flush. Per the web site https://nikolamotor.com/badger, it does “0-60 MPH in 2.9 seconds.” I won’t even tell you its horsepower or torque. You’d fact check it anyway, so have at it.

I will quote this: “UP TO 600 MILE RANGE.” That’s NKLA’s way of cocking a snoot at TSLA. “Yo, Elon! Battery bunnies are road kill on the hydrogen highway.”

I’d call Nikola Motor Company’s Trevor Milton the “hydrogen equivalent of Elon Musk,” though not to his face. But, while Elon has his eyes on the skies, Trevor keeps his eyes on the road.

The company’s flagship product is the Nikola hydrogen fuel cell powered semi- truck or tractor. The first production model may not have rolled off the line but, per The Motley Fool business commentator, “The company has more than, 14,000 pre-orders for its trucks, representing over $10 billion in potential business.”

Now, if I were Trevor Milton and looking to sell an almost obscenely quick vehicle with a price tag to match and I happened upon Iredell County, here’s what would stand out: miles of lake frontage salted with multi-million dollar houses; a far-above-average population segment who earn their living driving without turning right; a state where going fast on four wheels accounts for serious slice of the gross annual product; and a lot of people who equate bling with their ride.

Most of all, maybe, Iredell sports an unmatchable slice of population with the tech savvy to “get” what Trevor has created.

You probably haven’t noticed this (because truck manufacturers don’t buy advertising in the general media) but Trevor Milton has probably taught the motor freight equipment builders of the world to speak hydrogen more fluently than Elon Musk has taught civilian motorists to speak battery. I’ve almost certainly not noticed all that are out there but a few are Azetec, Cummins, Daimler/Freightliner, Honda-Isuzu, Hino/Toyota, Hyundai’s Neptune HDC-6 (believe me, it’s worth Googling that one), Hyzon, Iveco (a long-known brand that just merged with Nikola), Kenworth and Volvo.

In Europe, Volvo and Daimler are partnering to enter the fuel cell truck business because, per Forbes online, “the costs of new technology and uncertainty related to the coronavirus pandemic are pushing large manufacturers to pool resources.”

This should draw attention in North Carolina since Daimler’s Freightliner trucks are made in Cleveland and Charlotte with a parts plant in Gastonia and Volvo Group in North America lives in Greensboro. This could be a good news / bad news story.

The good news is that NC may at last be drawn into the rest of the world’s energy system. All the G-7 countries except the US have committed to the hydrogen transition—for “decarbonization” reasons, primarily, but increasingly it’s the expectation of lower operating costs. Fuel cells are way easier to build and to fix.

If Cleveland, Charlotte and Gastonia are included in the pivot to hydrogen, employment security and growth looks bright. But if NC doesn’t wake up to the hydrogen transition, rotary dial phone and filament light bulb jobs may soon have company. As of June 10th, Googling “death of diesel” pulled up almost half a million hits.

Trevor Milton may notice, I hope, that all those go-fast pickups are going to need mechanics with entirely new skills. Sounds like a job for Iredell’s NASCAR Tech.

Cars have to be fueled and serviced everywhere or nobody will buy them. But semi- trucks have always had separate powder rooms and, besides, Nikola is also going into the truck fueling business, offering a package deal.

I know Nikola’s PR folks will get alerts and read this so I won’t be coy: y’all really ought to advertise and sell your Badgers here in Iredell (that’s “EYE-ra-dell”). And let us train the mechanics that all your new dealerships will be hiring.

Working in Thomas Edison’s lab, Nikola Tesla (who died broke and exploited) would have been amazed and grateful if he could have known that than not one but two famous electric vehicles would be named after him! Almost as grateful as I was last Monday.

By way of fair disclosure, I bought a few shares of NKLA on the last day of trading before it doubled. Thanks, Trevor!

Mooresville’s Stan Thompson is a retired strategic planner and environmental and transportation futurist for AT&T. Email him at HST2nd@aol.com

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via Twitter at @mediarethink

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