Nikola NZT First Impression: Electric UTV with Over 400+ HP, 33-Inch Tires, and Raptor Shocks (Ride)

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2019 nikola not electric itv prototype
Nikola NZT: electric UTV prototype

What if there was an all-electric side-by-side UTV with approximately the same dimensions as the popular Polaris RZR 4-seater, but it had over 400 horsepower and was silly quick? Nikola Powersports had this idea and the NZT prototype you see here is the next step of development. I had a rare first ride opportunity in this “alpha level” prototype at a recent Bosch Mobility Experience #BoschME event in Michigan.

Bosch USA flew me out to their facility in Flat Rock, Michigan for this sponsored opportunity that also included sampling of dozens of latest and future automotive technologies. A more detailed story on this is coming a little later.

The Nikola NZT has been in development over the last two years, according to Nikola representatives. Currently, Nikola is working closely with Bosch USA in order to productionalize the NZT batteries.

Although, the NZT has a 62-inch width and a 118-inch wheelbase, which is very similar to that of a Polaris RZR XP 4 1000. The 74-inch height and the 33-inch tires make for a large and imposing presence as you approach the NZT. The doors open easily, and there is plenty of room up front and in the rear seats, which are raised for a stadium-like seating.

This prototype has a large capacity 105 kWh battery pack, mounted low within the floor of the vehicle. Nikola says this current prototype is pushing out about 400 horsepower from four individual electric motors (one per wheel). The prototype uses e-axles and a direct-drive transmission experience (no gear shifting).

Nikola says they have a plan to pack a mind-boggling 590 hp and 722 lb-ft of torque from the top-level NZT model. This version will have a 125 kWh battery pack and torque vectoring capability. The top version will also run 35-inch tires (not seen here). It will continue to use the 3-inch diameter internal bypass FOX shocks. These shocks are very similar to the ones currently used on the Ford F-150 Raptor.

How can this vehicle handle so much power? Does it need it? There is one other specification that will likely surprise you. The NZT weighs approximately 4,500 lbs. For comparison, the RZR XP 4 1000 weighs around 1,600 lbs and produces around 110 horsepower. The NZT is heavy, but it also has a ton of power push it along.

First Impression

I was not allowed to drive this early prototype (bummer), but I strapped into the passenger seat (video is coming soon) and held on as the NZT accelerated hard down a stretch of pavement. Nikola says – maximum 0-60 MPH acceleration times will be in 3.5 second range.  I was not able to measure the performance, but we did reach around 70 MPH by the end of a short straight. Next came a bumpy gravel road and a muddy section. The suspension soaked up all surface imperfections beautifully. The NTZ is softly sprung. It exhibits lots of squat under acceleration, even more dive under braking, and lean in turns. However, it never felt unsafe and the first ride was ultra smooth. It definitely does not feel as heavy as it is.

All accessories, including the two winches are run off the same battery power. The NZT is also equipped with a power take off unit, which will allow you to  run any number of electric accessories and appliances. Nikola says that the military has shown an interest in this all-electric platform.

Nikola is aiming to release the NZT for sale as a late 2019 model year or early 2020 model year vehicle. The starting price for a model with 266 horsepower is currently set at $28,900, according to the Nikola website at the time of this writing.