In a tumultuous 2020 that has shattered the global economy and bankrupted century-old businesses across America, Phoenix, Ariz.-based electric truck startup, Nikola Motor, has been an unexpected rising star in the depressed tech sector.
Founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneur and trucking enthusiast Trevor Milton, Nikola makes heavy-duty semi trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells, a controversial alternative to the more popular lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles.
Since making its public market debut on Nasdaq on June 4, Nikola’s share price has skyrocketed over 100 percent, pushing the company’s market value past that of Ford, Fiat-Chrysler and many other established automakers. At press time, Nikola stock is traded at $74 per share, valuing the company at a whopping $26 billion.
Yet, unlike those gas car giants that sell millions of vehicles every year, Nikola hasn’t delivered any trucks yet. And, as the company’s name goes mainstream, its core technology, hydrogen fuel cells, faces growing doubts from electric vehicle experts—led by Tesla CEO Elon Musk—who argue that hydrogen is too inefficient and expensive to be used as a major energy source for automobiles.
In an interview with Observer earlier this month, Milton, now Nikola’s executive chairman, responded to these controversies and spoke up about Nikola’s competition with Tesla. He also shared thought on the company’s sky-high valuation right now—and why he isn’t bothered by the fact that Ford and Chrysler may be offended.
(The following Q&A has been edited and condensed for clarity.)