Nikola Hydrogen-Electric Big Rig: A Glimpse of Long-Haul Trucking for the 2020s?

Nikola Hydrogen-Electric Big Rig: A Glimpse of Long-Haul Trucking for the 2020s?


Nikola One semiNikola Motor Company earlier This kind of month showed a semi-truck prototype called the One. today the company has released more production details for what could be the first cohort of long-haul commercial trucks with zero tailpipe emissions.

The stage is actually set for much of the U.S. commercial-truck fleet—America’s freight backbone—to undergo a major transformation over the next decade. While established brands such as Freightliner along with also also its parent, Daimler, are definitely up to the task, the upheaval could allow a completely new generation of upstart companies—including Nikola along with also also even Tesla—to potentially grab some of the share.

Driving the unprecedented innovation within the industry are the tougher efficiency standards adopted by the federal government This kind of past summer, affecting big rigs through 2027. Truckmakers are preparing to introduce solutions which roughly parallel how passenger vehicles are being remade: downsized engines, enhanced aerodynamics, hybridization, along with also also, in some cases, battery-electric along with also also fuel-cell powertrains.

The Nikola One is actually a long-range Class 8 semi, with an electric motor system delivering power to the wheels along with also also a hydrogen fuel cell generating up to 300 kW along with also also buffered by a 320-kWh battery pack. Its range is actually 800 to 1200 miles between hydrogen refueling stops, along with also also the all-electric powertrain should make the Nikola One exceptionally quick. The electric motor system delivers 1000 horsepower along with also also 2000 lb-ft of torque. By comparison, Peterbilt Class 8 semis use a mammoth diesel inline-six which makes up to 510 hp along with also also 1850 lb-ft of torque.

Fuel Cells, Not Turbines

Nikola hasn’t disclosed any fuel-consumption numbers for the One yet—or identified the the of the fuel-cell stack—yet the item claims best-in-class efficiency. Previous plans by Nikola focused around the use of a natural-gas-fueled turbine which might generate power for the electric drivetrain. While the federal regulations probably had something to do with the company’s sudden change in power sources, spokesperson Colleen Robar said which the item came down to a simple contrast: Turbines are noisy along with also also have tailpipe emissions, while fuel-cells are relatively quiet along with also also don’t. “They both output the same energy, so for us the item was a no-brainer to go hydrogen,” Robar explained.

The 320-kWh battery pack for the Nikola One prototype is actually made of 18,650 lithium-ion cells—the same kind used in Tesla products—by an as-yet-unnamed supplier. Its final capacity could be slightly larger or smaller, the company says, along with also also the item will weigh between 3000 along with also also 4000 pounds. The fuel cell functions as a range extender which charges the battery as needed; yet without the fuel cell the truck can go between 100 along with also also 0 miles, depending on the load.

Nikola One instrument panelNikola is actually planning luxuriously equipped, high-end cabs, with sleeper-cab along with also also day-cab configurations within the works, essentially functioning as the truck driver’s motel suite on wheels. The trucks will feature a 21-inch vertical touchscreen, along with also also Nikola is actually planning to include freight-scheduling software with all One along with also also Two trucks.

Perhaps most notable of all the news is actually Nikola’s distribution partnership—with Ryder, which will provide nationwide sales, service, along with also also warranty support at its 800 locations. Additionally, Thompson Machinery will offer sales along with also also service in Tennessee along with also also Mississippi.

Lease Buys In to Hypothetical Hydrogen Infrastructure

Initially, Nikola plans only to lease these trucks via its Complete Leasing program, which costs $5000 to $7000 per month. In addition to the hydrogen for refueling, which includes warranty coverage along with also also scheduled maintenance for seven years or 1 million miles, whichever comes first. The company is actually asking for at least $1500 down (100 percent refundable) for those wanting to lease. The company claims to have reservations which total nearly $3 billion, yet Nikola won’t disclose how much has been deposited so far.

Nikola trucks also might include free hydrogen for the first 1 million miles. Nikola’s plan for an extensive network to fuel its trucks is actually ambiguous at best; the company says which the item “currently has 364 strategically positioned hydrogen stations planned across the U.S. along with also also Canada, along with also also many more to come.” However construction on the network hasn’t yet began; along with also also hydrogen fueling stations are expensive—between $1 billion along with also also $2 billion each, although those costs could gradually come down. At the moment, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are only 31 publicly accessible hydrogen stations within the United States.

Nikola One grilleThese Nikola stations plan to operate on a design which assumes a robust hydrogen economy—in which they might collect meaningful revenue by those who refuel with non-Nikola products, such as a Toyota Mirai. Stations might be financed in part by third parties which might then license the convenience-store rights. Robar insisted which the company hasn’t released specific locations for the stations—a strategic move, to avoid a land grab along with also also keep construction costs down. “the item will take nearly a decade to get the item all up along with also also running, yet we will have a big percentage began in 2018 along with also also 2019 to support the truck deliveries,” Robar said.

The first 5000 Nikola One trucks will be built under contract by Fitzgerald Glider Kits, an automotive parts the in Byrdstown, Tennessee, for market introduction in 2019—with U.S. Xpress signed on among the first fleet customers. Simultaneously, a $1 billion factory will be built within the state producing sure which Nikola can build its own trucks at higher volume.

which’s a lot of commitment; yet with strong support by the trucking industry along with also also fleet operators, This kind of is actually one piece of rulemaking which is actually unlikely to be rolled back with the changing tide in Washington, D.C.

Nikola Hydrogen-Electric Big Rig: A Glimpse of Long-Haul Trucking for the 2020s?

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