Is the Semi EV truck too similar to Nikola’s hydrogen hauler?

Nikola Motor Company, a company that unveiled a hydrogen truck concept in 2016, has filed a lawsuit against Tesla in Arizona alleging that Elon Musk’s firm infringes on its patents with the all-electric Semi truck. The lawsuit claims Tesla willfully copied Nikola’s patents in creating its electric truck. The Utah-based company is seeking $2 billion in damages.

2019 Tesla Semi
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2019 Tesla Semi
The complaint filed by Nikola claims that Tesla used its truck design to develop the Semi

The complaint filed by Nikola claims that Tesla used its truck design to develop the Semi. The firm says it was able to identify numerous similarities, pointing to the Semi’s front fenders, wraparound windshield, and the aerodynamic cab shape with similar drag coefficients. The startup company also claims that it sent a cease and desist letter to Tesla in November 2018, as soon as it noticed that the Semi might be infringing on its design. Nikola asked Tesla to delay its unveiling until the issue was resolved, but claims that Elon Musk’s firm never responded.

What’s more, Nikola claims that a recruiter for Tesla, Aaron Hoyos, tried to poach its chief engineer only a few months after the hydrogen semi truck was unveiled. The company goes on to say that this is evidence that Tesla was aware of Nikola’s unique design features.

"Tesla’s infringement has harmed Nikola’s ability to attract investors and partners because investors can now partner with Tesla to have an alternative fuel semi-truck," Nikola said in the lawsuit, adding that Tesla’s new Semi is causing confusion in the market. As a result, Nikola is asking damages in "excess of $2 billion."

A representative for Nikola Motors declined to comment when contacted by The Verge, saying that "we are not commenting because it is in the courts. The lawsuit speaks for itself." Tesla’s response was short too: It’s patently obvious there is no merit to this lawsuit."

Design Comparison

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And upon glance, the two vehicle don't seem to have that much in common

With both trucks unveiled, it’s easy to do a side-by-side comparison. And upon glance, the two vehicle don’t seem to have that much in common. Sure, both have extremely aerodynamics cabs and are more streamlined than anything else on the market, but they’re far from identical. The front fenders are different too, with Tesla’s extending toward the rear of the cab. The windshields indeed have wraparound designs on both trucks, but Tesla’s has a different shape, being significantly taller up front.

The Tesla Semi has a slightly sharper nose, with the windscreen sitting closer to the ground. By contrast, the Nikola truck has an actual grille. The headlamps are also notably different. While Tesla’s are vertically oriented, Nikola’s are horizontal and feature vents underneath. There are no side steps visible on the Tesla, with the doors extending all the way down to the side skirts.

I’m not trying to say who is right here, but to me, these trucks have very little in common design-wise. Whether Nikola is right or it’s simply trying to stop Tesla from launching the Semi, it’s something that will be settled in court. Needless to say, it’s a case we will keep a close eye on.


Nikola Motor Company Nikola One
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Read our full review on the 2018 Nikola One.

2019 Tesla Semi
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500-mile range towing 80,000 pounds

Read our full review on the 2019 Tesla Semi.

Nikola Corporation v Tesla truck patent lawsuit by Anonymous ohKLS5K on Scribd

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