Every day now we’re hearing news about a different electric car or electric motorcycle being developed, and each one is billed as the next best thing. They’re all going to go 300 MPH, they’re all going to get to 60 MPH in 0.1 seconds, and they all get 500+ miles to a charge.
The news related to electric dirt bikes, trucks, and scooters continues to be pumped out daily. You can’t escape what’s happening in the industry these days, but until recently there wasn’t a lot of buzz about electric UTVs. That was until the Nikola NZT electric UTV hit the scene.
This one’s for real.
Some of you are avoiding reading articles about electric UTVs like the plague. You like your high-revving noisy dinosaur burners, and I totally get that. But admit it, you’re dying to find out how electric power can deliver more convenience, value and performance without that costly fuel bill.
It’s time to take at a look at what’s happening in the electric UTV industry, and what better place to start than with a model that’s quite possibly the future of electric UTVs: the American-made Nikola NZT.
Electric UTVs… Really??
It might sound odd, but this isn’t a new idea. There have been electric models on the market since the UTV as a concept first appeared decades ago. It’s just that there hasn’t been a model that made sense for off-roaders and workers alike.
Nikola hopes to change all that by becoming the first electric UTV manufacturer that designs something with off-road enthusiasts in mind.
Lately we’ve seen other manufacturers trying the exact same thing: Polaris produced the Ranger EV, Can-Am manufactured the Commander E LSV and Textron released the Prowler EV. Honda is also looking at creating an all-electric Pioneer.
And yet, Arizona-based automotive startup Nikola says they can do it better.
The Trouble with Electric UTVs
Up til now, most of these electric-powered UTVs faced serious limitations. Top speeds were often less than 30 mph and the range was limited to about 60 miles. On top of that, they usually take forever to charge.
If I’m being honest, most electric UTVs of the past are nothing more than beefed up golf carts. I mean that as nicely as possible. They are plenty useful for hunting and driving around your property line to keep things in order, but when you think of a UTV you probably think more about dune riding, rock crawling or mud bogging. Unfortunately, the electric vehicles we mentioned earlier simply won’t cut it for these activities.
Whatever the purpose is in buying a UTV, most people find that purchasing one with an electric motor doesn’t fit their needs. That is, until now.
The Nikola NZT Electric UTV (Could) Change Everything
The Nikola was created with enthusiasts in mind. It’s not just going to overcome the previous shortcomings from electric vehicles, but it truly has the potential to take the conversation about electric UTVs in the direction we’ve all been wanting.
As a quick note, we keep saying words like “could” and “might” because like any niche vehicle from a tiny startup, there’s always a chance the NZT may never see the light of day – especially in its current form.
But we can always hope.
The NZT has stunning looks, massive power, and lengthy range, and if it holds onto all that into production we fully believe it will change the world of UTVs forever.
Looks That Make Mad Max Hard as Diamonds
Before I get all doe-eyed about this thing, check out the promo video Nikola released in 2017. It looks like someone forgot to bring the bodywork to the photo shoot, but upon closer inspection there’s not much missing in the video.
That’s how the NZT actually looks under the plastic. Raw. Unfiltered. Hot.
Unobstructed by the ways of the past.
More Power Than You’ll Ever Need
For comparison, the Polaris Ranger EV only produces 30 horsepower. Even the reigning king of petrol power, the RZR XP Turbo, boasts only 168 horsepower.
Those are rookie numbers.
The Nikola NZT pumps out 590 horsepower. Yep, you read that right. If that doesn’t get your blood pumping, then consider the 722 ft-lbs of torque. And since four electric motors power each wheel separately, you get all that torque the second you touch the accelerator.
All in all, this leads to a 0-60 mph time of just 4 seconds. Turns out their slogan of “No gas. Haul ass.” is pretty accurate after all.
And the Range to Back It Up
It also comes equipped with massive batteries that give it a 150-mile range. This is far more than the other UTVs that might as well not let you drive down the street without needing a recharge.
It’s a given that you’ll run out of juice faster if you push the NZT to the limit, but that’s a small price to pay to leave every other electric UTV – and even some supercars – in the dust on demand.
Check out TFL Off-Road’s complete video review of this beast:
So, What’s the Downside?
The biggest problem you’ll find with the NZT is the price. All the other electric UTVs we mentioned earlier cost around $10,000. The Nikola NZT starts at just under $29,000. That’s a price difference of nearly $20k – equivalent to about 8,000 gallons of gas or roughly 10 used Mules on Craigslist.
Note that I said it “starts” at $29,000. Starts.
Turns out this massive price is for the lower-end model that only features 266 horsepower and a 90-mile range. That’s comparable to the price of a high-end Polaris RZR XP Turbo S, so it’s not a horrible value in that regard, but you’ll always know you left a lot on the table.
The next step up is faster and closer to that comfy 150-mile range, but your price point is getting closer to $45,000.
And if you want the full monte for blowing the doors off Lamborghinis on your way to the trails, the top-trim 590-horsepower Nikola NZT is going to cost you $62,000.
If you haven’t stopped reading already, you might be thinking about it now. We get it! Most people don’t have that kind of cash to spend on a UTV. This electric vehicle is going to have a very small customer base because of its price point alone, which goes to show that electric vehicles aren’t for the everyman quite yet.
But it’s a start.
The first gasoline-powered cars were astronomically expensive, too. The important thing right now is that the industry is making progress while we wait for the Henry Ford of Electric Vehicles to come around and make everything cheaper.
Production & Charging Times
Unfortunately, the NZT is still considered a prototype, so we won’t see it for at least another year if not two. But you can reserve a model right now if you have the money (and the moxie) to place that kind of bet.
In addition, Nikola isn’t exactly a proven company yet. The skeptic in me has seen several companies get further than this before folding up for a million reasons.
We don’t know how dependable the warranties and service will be either, but don’t count on your local Polaris dealership knowing how to fix one of these things.
Another concern for many people is the charging times. If you use a 240-volt plug, it’s expected that you’ll have a full charge within eight hours. But on a regular household 120-volt plug, that time jumps to 18 hours. As with most EVs, it’s recommended that you don’t use a standard household socket for charging, though Nikola does state that solar panels will be available for those that want to charge while camping.
What Does the Future Hold?
When all is said and done, no one can deny that the Nikola NZT is a hot commodity. It’s a flamboyant harbinger of what’s to come in the powersports world, and we expect major companies will be chasing this 590-horsepower beast for years to come.
Even if the NZT falls on its face, it opened the door for others to follow by getting the conversation going. That’s what matters right now. What we really need is someone to produce an electric UTV that’s affordable. Once that happens, you will hear the electric hum on trails across the country.
But for now, 590 horsepower will do just fine.
Would You Drive One?
Can you picture yourself behind the wheel of the Nikola NZT? Let us know your thoughts and how you feel about the price tag. Are you gunning for that reserve list or will you hold out for something more budget-friendly? Let us know in the comments section below.