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Nikola Plans Electric Road Tractor for Europe

Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT)  /  November 5, 2018

Nikola Motor Company announced it is developing the Nikola Tre, a fully electric hydrogen-powered day cab tractor aimed at markets in Europe.

The Tre (“tre” is Norwegian for “three”) was designed “in response to widespread interest from European customers,” but the truck maker noted that this high-cabover model will also be made available in Asia and Australia.

“This truck is a real stunner and long overdue for Europe,” said Nikola Motor Company CEO Trevor Milton.  “It will be the first European zero-emission commercial truck to be delivered with redundant braking, redundant steering, redundant 800Vdc batteries, and a redundant 120 kW hydrogen fuel cell, all necessary for true Level 5 autonomy.

“Expect our production to begin around the same time as our U.S.A version in 2022-2023,” he added.

According to the company, the Nikola Tre will offer 500 to 1,000 hp, a 6x4 or 6x2 configuration, and a range of 500 to 1,200 kilometers, depending on options. The Tre will fit within current size and length restrictions for Europe.

European testing is projected to begin in Norway around 2020. Nikola also said it is in the preliminary planning stages to identify the “proper” location for its European manufacturing facility.

The company said attendees of its Nikola World event, to be held April 16 to 17 in Phoenix, will get to view a prototype display of the Nikola Tre, along with other new zero-emission products from Nikola, “including the production intent Nikola Two.” And just as with the already introduced North American-oriented Nikola One sleeper and Nikola Two day cab tractors, order reservations can be made online for the Nikola Tre.

In addition, Nikola said it is currently working with Nel Hydrogen of Oslo to provide hydrogen stations for the United States market.  “Nel has been good to work with for our U.S.A. station design and rollout, said Kim Brady, Nikola Motor Company CFO.

“We will work with Nel to secure resources for our European growth strategy,” Brady added. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but with the right partners, we can accomplish it.”

By 2028, Nikola said it is planning on having more than 700 hydrogen stations across the U.S. and Canada.  The company said each station will be capable of 2,000 to 8,000 kgs of daily hydrogen production. Nikola’s European stations are planned to come online around 2022 and are projected to cover most of the European market by 2030.

Registration for next spring’s Nikola World event in Phoenix will open on December 3 at www.nikolamotor.com.  


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Nikola to Expand Into Europe With Hydrogen-Electric “Tre”

Transport Topics  /  November 5, 2018

“Tre” Slated for Production in 2022 to 2023; Will Be Previewed in April in Phoenix

Nikola Motor Co. announced it would begin production within five years in Europe of a heavy-duty, hydrogen-electric truck designed to be compatible with full autonomy as it expands its business beyond North America.

The Phoenix-based company has begun taking reservations for the vehicle — to be called the Tre, which is Norwegian for three. Tre is slated for production in 2022 to 2023. Nikola will preview the truck April 16-17 in Phoenix alongside its Nikola Two model, which is scheduled for fleet tests in 2019.

Tre will be the first European zero-emissions commercial truck to be delivered with redundant braking, redundant steering, redundant 800V DC batteries and a redundant 120 kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell — “all necessary for true Level 5 autonomy,” Nikola founder and CEO Trevor Milton said in a statement.

“Redundant means the truck has been designed from the ground up to allow for failure in any one of the systems and still operate safely,” Milton told Transport Topics. “This is especially important with autonomy compatibility.”

Level 5 typically is defined as full automation capable of handling any road with no driver needed — or as Milton said, “No driver. Completely autonomous-compatible.”

He added: “For instance, the power steering could go out, and the truck would be able to pull itself over, steer itself to the side of the road and safely exit the freeway. It is the only truck ever built that we know of that has the ability to have any one of the main systems or subsystems fail and still continue safely until it can pull over and be serviced,” he said.

Model Two will feature the same level of redundancy, according to the company.

The Tre will come with 500 to 1,000 horsepower, 6×4 or 6×2 configurations and a range of 500 to 1,200 kilometers (310 to 745 miles) depending on options. The Tre will fit within the current size and length restrictions for Europe.

European testing is projected to begin in Norway around 2020. Nikola also is in the preliminary planning stages to identify the proper location for its European manufacturing facility, according to the company.

Nikola is working with Oslo, Norway-based Nel Hydrogen to provide hydrogen stations in the United States.

“We will work with Nel to secure resources for our European growth strategy. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but with the right partners, we can accomplish it,” Nikola Chief Financial Officer Kim Brady said.

By 2028, Nikola plans to have more than 700 hydrogen stations across the United States and Canada. Each station is capable of 2,000 to 8,000 kilograms of daily hydrogen production. Nikola’s European stations are planned to come online around 2022 and projected to cover most of the European market by 2030.

Meanwhile, at the Nikola World event in Phoenix, attendees will witness the Nikola Two model pulling loaded trailers, along with a prototype display of the Nikola Tre. Hydrogen filling also will be shown at the event at 700 bar or 10,000 pounds per square inch.

Nikola’s power sports division will provide customer rides throughout the day and show off pre-production units of the Nikola Nzt off-road 4×4.

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Nikola claims US$12 billion in hydrogen truck pre-orders

Truck News  /  November 15, 2018

PHOENIX, Arizona – Hydrogen truck maker Nikola says it has raised another US$210 million and now boasts US$12 billion in pre-orders.

About $380 million of those were for the recently announced Nikola Tre European cabover.

“Once the Nikola Tre arrives in Europe, diesel will finally be on its way out,” said CEO Trevor Milton.

“Now that we are funded and oversubscribed, we are kicking it into high gear and preparing for Nikola World 2019. At Nikola World, you will see the USA Nikola Two prototype in action and be able to step foot in our European Nikola Tre. We also have a few surprises for the show from our powersports division and other new product announcements.”

The company says it will have hydrogen coverage in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia by 2028.

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Who buys a vehicle that runs in fuel that no one has and there is no infrastructure to support it? Is Nikola stretching the truth a bit to give consumers the idea that everybody is buying one?

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Nikola Moves Closer to Marketing Hydrogen-Electric Trucks

Roger Gilroy, Transport Topics  /  January 16, 2019

LAS VEGAS — Nikola Motor Co. founder and CEO Trevor Milton said two key customers — private fleet Anheuser-Busch Cos. and truckload carrier U.S. Xpress Enterprises — will begin fleet tests of Nikola’s zero-emisssions hydrogen-electric Class 8 trucks by the end of the year, as the first shoots of the necessary fueling infrastructure are emerging in Phoenix.

Milton spoke with Transport Topics in an exclusive interview here Jan. 8 during CES, the world’s largest technology event.

“I wanted to redesign everything from the ground up. I can’t do that if I keep a lot of the same stuff that is on trucks right now,” Milton said. “We are just lucky that we started a long time ago so we are ahead of everyone. We developed our own fuel cell, our own batteries — they are more energy dense than any other battery on the market in the world.”

Nikola’s battery is almost 400 watt-hours per liter, he said, calling that 50% to 70% more energy dense than rival batteries.

Its 240-kilowatt fuel cell is the biggest he knows of, and there are two on board his Class 8 trucks.

Andrew Lund, chief engineer in the product development office at Toyota Motor North America Inc., told TT he wished Nikola well.

“They are a very interesting company. Certainly they are going to produce heavy-duty trucks. So in one way they are competitors. But I view them as more of a partner in, really, growing hydrogen infrastructure. Their announced plan is to build hydrogen stations across North America. I would want them to be successful because that would bring about the hydrogen society that Toyota has believed in for so many years.”

Milton said his company plans to build 700 hydrogen fueling stations in the United States over the next seven years.

The first 14 stations will be up and running by 2021, according to the company, which is based in Phoenix, where two stations are being built and each of which will produce more than 1,000 kilograms of hydrogen.

“Then we go to stations that produce 24,000 kilograms a day. We focus mainly on dominating the hydrogen-production side, and the truck is a catalyst to drive the cost of the hydrogen down. Our hope is we can share stations with Daimler or others that are interested, like Hyundai,” Milton said.

In September, Hyundai Motor Co., in cooperation with H2 Energy, will provide 1,000 hydrogen-electric heavy-duty electric trucks to the Swiss commercial vehicle market, to be delivered beginning this year through 2023. News reports said the South Korean truck maker could bring its hydrogen trucks to the United States.

A day-cab version of the Nikola truck for North America plus its flat-face, heavy-duty truck intended for the European market will be on display April 16-17 in Phoenix during an event the company calls Nikola World.

“That’s when the whole world gets to see the production truck, a beautiful, stunning truck,” Milton said. “So what we have done now is proven out that the truck works, the components function together, the aerodynamics of the truck work. The cab, the body, all that’s done. That’s the hardest part. It took five years to do, to actually make all the systems fully function together.”

As of early January, 2,500 people had reserved to attend the event, he said.

At the same time, Milton said he is looking forward to competing against the North American arm of Daimler Trucks, the world’s largest truck maker.

Daimler Trucks North America is the leader in Class 8 U.S. retail sales.

“They have their own fuel cell, although they have tens of billions of dollars invested in diesel so they can’t scrap it. They have to transition out of [diesel] over 10 years. They will be right there alongside of us,” Milton said. “Once we do it and prove it, and they see the model working, Daimler will come right in. But there is enough room. I actually welcome it. When Daimler comes in, the world takes notice and they know it’s legit.”

Kenworth Truck Co., a unit of Paccar Inc., and Toyota announced at CES they are collaborating to develop 10 hydrogen-electric tractors for drayage operations in the Los Angeles basin — with Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell technology going into Kenworth’s T680 trucks.

Milton referred to the effort as “research and development.”

Nikola has about 11,000 orders for its truck.


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Nikola Teases New All-Electric Truck Models

Jack Roberts, Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT)  /  February 11, 2019

Nikola Motors exploded onto the scene three years ago, initially promising an all-electric, long-haul, tractor. Almost immediately, that mission statement was amended, detailing a hybrid hydrogen-battery electric drive system, which Nikola said would give its truck 1,000 miles of range between refueling stops.

But it appears the company never gave up on its initial, proposed, all-electric truck. In a surprise tweet late last week, the company announced that at its Nikola World technology showcase in April it will announce short-haul, battery-electric versions of the Nikola Two and Nikola Tre in addition to the hydrogen-electric model.

Nikola said the all-electric truck is designed for inner city delivery routes and weight-sensitive applications. However, the company stressed that it is not phasing out hydrogen drivetrains. Indeed, Nikola said it is expecting to see 50 times the number of orders for hydrogen drivetrains over electric ones – but noted that in some applications, battery-electric trucks “work great.”

Details are sketchy – Twitter being what it is – but Nikola did give away some additional information on the news in a series of additional Tweets. Both trucks will be offered in 500kWh, 750kWh and 1mWh versions. And there will be an option to spec Nikola’s hydrogen-electric drivetrain instead of a battery-electric one.

H2 is 5,000 lbs lighter than BEV and is cheaper for long haul applications even with H2 costs. BEV is for inner cities and non weight sensitive applications. Nikola is not phasing our hydrogen at all, we will see 50:1 more hydrogen orders but some applications BEV works great.

— Nikola Motor Company (@nikolamotor) February 8, 2019

Looking specifically at the Nikola Two model, the company tweeted that it will be an 80,000 lbs. vehicle that uses 2.25 kWh per mile in most applications. The 1 MWh model has a range of 400 miles, which falls to 300 miles in cold weather, the company said.

1) BEV @ 80,000 lbs. uses ~ 2.25 kWh per mile in real weather and normal hills on routes. 1MWh gets about 400 miles. Only 90% battery is useable. In cold weather, you get 300 miles / 1Mwh. Takes 69,000 "21700" cells @ 68grams = 1MWh. 10.5k weight in cells. 20k truck weight

— Nikola Motor Company (@nikolamotor) February 8, 2019

2) Fuel cell 80 kg H2 gets 7-10 miles per kg and uses same 2.25 kWh per mile as BEV. Fuel cell weight 15k -17k so about 3k – 5k pounds less than BEV. Fuel Cell can't be beat long haul and BEV is good option for short haul. World needs both. ICE is enemy, not hydrogen or BEV

— Nikola Motor Company (@nikolamotor) February 8, 2019

The Nikola Tre previously was announced as a fully electric hydrogen-powered day cab tractor aimed at markets in Europe.

Nikola unveiled its first hydrogen-electric prototype, the Nikola One, in December 2016.

The official word debut for the Nikola Two and Nikola Tre is stated for the Nikola World technology fair in Scottsdale, Arizona, April 16 and 17, 2019.



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Nikola Unveils Nikola Two Hydrogen-Electric Hybrid Truck

Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT)  /  April 16, 2019

At the Nikola World event in Scottsdale, Arizona, Nikola Motor Co. showed off two new vehicles, the Nikola Two hydrogen electric Class 8 truck and the Nikola Tre, designed for the European market.

The Nikola Two and Nikola Tre will be available with the company’s hydrogen-electric hybrid powertrain as well as all-electric versions for short-haul urban applications. The trucks feature up to 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 ft.-lbs. of torque. To accommodate the hydrogen-electric hybrid system, Nikola emphasized that the vehicles were built around the fuel cell.

All of Nikola’s products will also include autonomous driving hardware. The company says there are currently more than 13,000 Nikola trucks on order. Anheuser-Busch has ordered 800 of Nikola’s trucks alone, as part the company's strategy to convert its entire long-haul dedicated fleet to renewable power by 2025.

“I cannot wait to see your truck pull a load of Budweiser," said Ingrid De Ryck, vice president of procurement and sustainability with Anheuser-Busch, prior to the unveiling. "Give those Clydesdales a break," she said with a laugh.

Anheuser-Busch expects to integrate the Nikola trucks into its dedicated fleet beginning in 2020. The trucks will be able to travel between 500 and 1,200 miles and can be refilled in 20 minutes.

Nikola is currently building out a network of hydrogen fueling stations to support its vehicles. The company wants to build 100 hydrogen truck stations a year form 2020-2028 and plans to sell its trucks into routes or cities where they will be able to refuel. The company will start in areas with high concentrations of distribution centers.

"We recently opened our first hydrogen station at our Phoenix headquarters,” said Jesse Schneider, Nikola’s executive vice president of hydrogen.  “We are leading the way and working with industry and other OEMs to develop hydrogen standards to enable fueling in less than 15 minutes. The goal is safety and interoperability, so that anyone can fuel at our station. This is a big deal.”

Nikola previously announced that the Tre will be put into production from 2022-2023. The first Tre will undergo testing in Norway in 2020.

At Nikola World, the company also unveiled two non-commercial hydrogen electric vehicles, the Nikola Reckless, an autonomous-capable military all-terrain vehicle, a redesigned NZT off-highway vehicle, and the Nikola Water Adventure Vehicle, a personal watercraft.

"We want to transform everything about the transportation industry," said Trevor Milton, Nikola CEO. "With Nikola's vision, the world will be cleaner, safer and healthier."



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Nikola Two Demo

Commercial Carrier Journal (CCJ)  /  April 17, 2019

Two Nikola Two tractors took part in a brief demonstration at Nikola World, a two day event hosted by the company this week in Scottsdale, Arizona.



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Nikola Rolls Out Trucks for Zero-Emissions Future

Roger Gilroy, Transport Topics  /  April 17, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Nikola Motor Co. CEO Trevor Milton, 28 months after unveiling a prototype Class 8 sleeper, presented to about 2,000 attendees and a global audience watching online two heavy-duty trucks and three other specialty vehicles he said are ready to spark a zero-emissions future.

The heavy-duty trucks that drove out from behind the curtains one at a time, amid swirling lights and loud music as people put their cellphones on video, were the stars of the event.

PHOTO GALLERY: Images of Nikola Two, Nikola Tre and more

As a bright red Nikola Two day cab took center stage, Milton said, “This is a real truck. This is a real [hydrogen] fuel cell,” seeming to speak to those who doubted the emerging truck maker would ever get this far.

Nikola introduced a hydrogen fuel cell Class 8 prototype Dec. 1, 2016, in Salt Lake City, its former headquarters. It is now based in Phoenix.

The day after the presentations here, Nikola offered the public a first look at the trucks as well as two zero-emissions power sport vehicles and another one designed for special forces operations, which included the ability to be operated remotely like a drone.

“We want to transform everything about the transportation industry. With Nikola’s vision, the world will be cleaner, safer and healthier,” Milton said.

The flat-front Nikola Tre, bound for Europe, and the Nikola Two day cab will be available either with a hydrogen-electric fuel cell or battery-electric power. As battery-electric vehicles, customers can order either one with 500 kilowatt-hours, 750 kWh or 1 megawatt hour battery-pack options.

The U.S. truck is slated to go into initial production in 2022, after field trials. The Tre is expected to reach fleets by 2023, although Milton said during a later press conference he is looking to partner with a European truck maker to reach that market.

Both the Two and Tre have enough space in the cab to accommodate bunks and other amenities found in sleepers. Nikola noted a hydrogen fuel cell will be cheaper to operate for longhaul operations, and it expects to see 50-to-1 more hydrogen orders compared with battery-electric.

Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles for FTR, said, “You have the [traditional] truck makers trying to develop electric or alternative-fuel vehicles, and this just shows the push is on and it’s a race.”

Anheuser-Busch announced nearly a year ago it placed an order for up to 800 hydrogen-electric heavy-duty day cabs.

“They will be getting the first trucks because they have agreed to share risk with us and understand that we are going to have a lot of bumps in the road at first,” Nikola President Mark Russell told Transport Topics. “New products are always kinky, and those kinks have to be worked out.

“This is a complex vehicle. It’s got a lot of parts. And that is some of the work going forward — to make it more simple to manufacture than the current iteration [would be]. If there was a range of requirements for something, we built it to the top end.”

Russell said Nikola would be building what he called “Alpha Two” trucks as lighter test vehicles “pretty soon.”

Meanwhile, there is much more to be done.

Nikola’s Coolidge, Ariz., manufacturing facility is scheduled to come online in 2022 and will be capable of building up to 35,000 trucks per year at full production. The bare site now has road access, utilities and a rail spur. It encompasses 400 acres.

Russell said just before speaking with TT, he met with a representative of a European government who said it was interested in “being in the running for our facility” to bring the Tre to that continent. He declined to identify the country.

“And then you have people in the former Eastern European bloc who are really anxious to get something like this,” he added.

Russell said all of Europe will be facing a diesel ban in the not too distant future. “Emissions are the enemy.”

In the meantime, as of April, Nikola had built one hydrogen fueling station in Phoenix. It took six months from permitting to completion.

“Imagine doing that in other places,” Russell said, as an illustration of Arizona’s favorable climate for entrepreneurial businesses. Nikola expects to create 2,000 jobs in the state.

For Anheuser-Busch, Nikola will create an initial fueling network of eight stations by 2021.

Nikola intends to have a network of 700 hydrogen fueling stations in place nationally by 2028.

Then there is a fourth round of funding — this time $1.5 billion — to be raised, Russell said, noting investors had come to the event with its strong marketing overtones.

“I promise you our model shows us becoming profitable. We start flowing cash in 2023, and then we become profitable some time after that,” Russell said.

“Our seven-year, 700,000-mile lease is going to be on a per-mile basis, and includes the hydrogen fuel,” he said. “All you have to do is provide a driver and insurance, and you have a truck.”



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Nikola wants to disrupt your truck payments by including fuel costs

John G. Smith, Today’s Trucking  /  April 17, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona – There’s water, water everywhere, and little of it being transformed into fuel. Nikola Motor wants to change that – as well as the way fleets pay for trucks and their fuel.

As the company prepares to produce its hydrogen-electric Class 8 trucks by 2022, it’s also establishing plans for the related fueling network and a leasing model that promises to roll truck payments, full-service maintenance, and the fuel cost itself into a single price.

Initial estimates from the company suggest that price will run between US 90 and 95 cents per mile over the course of a truck’s seven-year lease – what Nikola personnel refer to as “parity” with the price of running diesel-powered equipment.

“We are talking about real disruption,” said Nikola CFO Kim Brady, referring to the pricing that would be available for those that run minimal distances, likely in the neighborhood of around 150,000 km per year. “No one is willing to take risk from fuel.”

But doing this will mean delivering hydrogen “at scale” with the support of Norwegian-based Nel, establishing fueling infrastructure to support fleets that adopt the technology.

“We’re building our hydrogen infrastructure where the trucks are,” said Jesse Schneider, Nikola’s executive vice-president – hydrogen and fuel cell technology, during briefings at an event dubbed Nikola World. “If you want to build a new type of disruptive vehicle, you have to build the infrastructure.”

“This is really one of the most exciting projects that we’ve ever been involved with,” said Nel CEO Jon Andre Lokke. “It solves the chicken and the egg. Everything comes at the same time.”

The fueling stations

A standard Nikola fueling station is to produce eight tons of hydrogen per day – enough to support about 150 heavy-duty vehicles — although truck-focused depots could produce four times that much. “That’s where you see a lot of cost benefits to the hydrogen,” Schneider said. Public users would pay less than $6 per kilogram.

Nikola’s first eight-ton station is to be in place by 2021, while the ramp-up to a target of more than 700 stations in the U.S. is to begin in 2022.  Each station will cover a footprint similar to a truck stop covering a little more than seven acres, and also be able to fill mobile trailers for fueling at other locations.

“The thing that worries me the most, the thing that would help us the most, is if [government regulators] would just get out of our way,” Nikola CEO Trevor Milton said during a press conference the night before.

“Just let us go build stations and pull these diesels off the road. Some of them have standards so stringent, like bureaucracy so deep, you take three to four years to permit an hydrogen station. That should be done in three weeks … We went from start to completion of a hydrogen station [in Arizona] within about four months.”

The goal is to be able to fuel a Class 8 Nikola truck with 80 kg of fuel within 10 to 20 minutes.

There will undeniably be fewer hydrogen stations than diesel islands, but Lokke stressed that planning will make a difference. The U.S. could get by with fewer fuel islands than exist today, he said. “You have the opportunity to plan.”

“We are trying to take the vehicle out of the carbon equation by removing carbon from the feedstock,” Schneider added. This means relying on renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines to develop the hydrogen on site, perhaps supplemented by adjacent solar farms. An entire station will run on about 17.6 megawatts, and at least 30-40% of that is to come from renewable resources.

“It really drives down costs,” Lokke said of the business model, noting how it will make the hydrogen competitive with diesel in part because there is no need to transport the fuel.

“You will find smaller stations around the world, that will produce hydrogen on site, but never at this scale.”

Full-service leases

It will be up to Ryder to maintain the equipment.

“We perform literally thousands of total cost of ownership studies each year,” said Dennis Cooke, Ryder president of fleet management solutions. The fuel simply “brings another dimension” to the equation.

Nikola’s proposed business model will follow the one already in place for Ryder customers in other respects, with leases involving full-service maintenance, pre-defined in-house maintenance service, or service on demand, said Karen Jones, Ryder’s executive vice-president and chief marketing officer. “What we’ve been perfecting in a diesel world, I think will be very transferrable.”

“This is the potential to simplify your business model down to hiring and training drivers and keeping them on the road. We can fix all the other costs for you. That’s why we’re proposing lease as the base model,” said Nikola president Mark Russell. “We know that we can generate hydrogen for a cost that is competitive with diesel, and if you buy our truck with a bundled lease we’ll commit to selling it to you for the life of the truck.”

Fleet shops that want to service such equipment on their own will require some upgrades, but the changes would be similar to those associated with natural gas vehicles. Hydrogen is 14 times more buoyant than air, which will require some ventilation in the case of any spills.

“We’re making a giant step forward here in saving the planet, and we can save you money probably,” Russell said.

It isn’t the only differentiator when it comes to options like battery-electric vehicles.

“Every pro-forma we have does not depend on any government incentive,” Russell said. “Our bogey for everything is diesel parity and then try to beat it. We want to match it or beat it.”


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RE: we can save you money probably,” Russell said


And pigs might fly....probably


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How much water will they use to produce hydrogen? Water is our most precious resource. It's mandatory for life. We can't drink oil, so we might as well burn it. I'd much rather see "fossil fuels" run our nation's infrastructure than our water. 

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8 hours ago, Dirtymilkman said:

How much water will they use to produce hydrogen? Water is our most precious resource. It's mandatory for life. We can't drink oil, so we might as well burn it. I'd much rather see "fossil fuels" run our nation's infrastructure than our water. 

I was just thinking the same thing when I read the new headline from the BmT forum trucking news bot headline said “water water everywhere...”. 

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What’s Behind the Grille of the New Nikola Hydrogen-Electric Truck

Jim Park, Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT)  /  April 24, 2019

There's nothing ordinary about the Nikola Two, the first Class 8 tractor unveiled by Nikola Motors on April 16. It has 10 tires and disc brakes, but that's where the similarities to existing Class 8 tractors end. Nikola Motor Company CEO Trevor Milton is quick to point out that this truck is not a diesel conversion, but something brand new from the ground up.

"We had to build this truck differently, not just to be different, but because we found we couldn't make it work within the framework of existing diesel platforms," he said. "This truck will be competing with diesels and it will have to be better than diesels, so we knew we would have to completely redesign it."  

The styling cues for the exterior came from Japanese bullet trains, said Steve Jennes, Nikola’s Chief Designer. "When I first started drawing this truck, I wanted a clean, simple profile with an impactful stance," he said. "The early drawings resembled the trains I had ridden on in Europe and Asia when I was younger, where you could travel at 180 mph in complete silence and safety."

While Nikola did not provide any numbers or context to back up its claims of aerodynamic superiority, the truck certainly looks slippery enough. Even though the motive power is supplied by zero-emissions hydrogen, energy conservation remains an important consideration, Milton noted.     

Power comes from hydrogen fuel-cell stacks developed by Nikola in partnership with Bosch that are designed to deliver extended vehicle range. The potential energy stored in the truck's 80 kilograms (176 pounds) of hydrogen yields 3 mega-watt/hours of electricity. Milton said 30,000 pounds of lithium batteries would be required to store the same amount of energy.

"By comparison, the current version of the Tesla Semi has 1.2 mW/hr of onboard energy storage," Milton said. "That’s one-third the energy storage we offer, and that's a big weakness when it comes to the distance that truck can travel."

Bosch and Nikola also worked in tandem to develop the first true dual-motor commercial-vehicle eAxle for a long-haul truck. The eAxle features Bosch rotors and stators.

"We built this truck with 1,000 horsepower per drive axle, that means with a 6x4 configuration it could have up to 2,000 horsepower," Milton said. "We expect about 90% of the fleets in America will order this with just one drive axle. You'll save somewhere around 2,000 pounds by eliminating one set of drive motors and the gearing."

Each of the 450 kW motors on the axle(s) produce up to 500 hp and 2,000 lb-ft of torque.

"This truck had to be both zero emissions and high performance," said Milton. "If you're just zero emissions but less performance, like the other fuel-cell trucks, nobody will buy them unless they are running out of a port or some other limited area. And on top of that, if the cost of ownership is too high, again, nobody will buy them. This is the only semi that can beat a diesel in every category."

Advanced Electronics

But the Nikola truck is more than just a fuel cell vehicle; it’s a rolling super computer. One of the key elements of Nikola’s advanced system is the Bosch Vehicle Control Unit, which provides higher computing power for advanced functions while reducing the number of standalone units.

"The entire infotainment system is a HTML 5 super computer," Milton said. "That's the standard language for computer programmers around the world, so using it let's us build our own chips. And HTML 5 is very secure. Every component is linked on the data network, all speaking the same language. It's not a bunch of separate systems that somehow still manage to communicate."  

The VCU will enable future innovations by providing a scalable platform for the highly complex electric/electronic (E/E) architecture needed to support the advanced features of the Nikola truck. According to Bosch, the Nikola family of trucks will be connected with an advanced and secure operating system that provides real-time, over-the-air updates and monitoring.

Bosch also provides a camera-based mirror system, co-developed with Mekra Lang, known as the Mirror Cam System. It will replace conventional main and wide-angle mirrors and will provide drivers with a digital side and rear view from the truck cab. Two cameras, fitted left and right in place of traditional mirrors, feed real-time images to high-resolution displays mounted inside the cab. Aside from the aero benefits of dispensing with the large external mirrors, the Mirror Cam system offers enhanced night vision, glare reduction, and several driver assistance features.

"This technology is a good fit with what the Nikola teams wants to do with the truck in terms of reducing the drag coefficient of external traditional mirrors and improving safety," said Jason Roycht, vice president of commercial vehicles for Bosch in North America. "Current trucks have multiple mirrors, but with these cameras and software we can stitch images together for enhanced views. We can enhance the image on the screen for increased clarity and we can even add colors to the displays; red for example, to increase the noticeability of possible threat subjects."

Fleet operators will be able to digitally manage vehicle keys for the Nikola trucks thanks to the Perfectly Keyless system, also from Bosch. Freight and commercial vehicle rental companies can use a smartphone app to give their drivers access to specific fleet vehicles and to flexibly manage who has access and when. Sensors on the Nikola vehicles will connect with an app on a driver’s smartphone so that when the driver approaches the vehicle, Perfectly Keyless recognizes the smartphone, identifies the unique security key assigned to the driver’s phone, and unlocks the door. As soon as the driver moves away from the truck again, the vehicle is automatically locked securely.

Bosch's other significant contribution to the Nikola truck is the Servotwin electrohydraulic steering system. The steering system will enable driver assistance systems that actively support the driver to enhance driving comfort and improve safety. On the Nikola vehicles, the Servotwin will help to enable such features as lane-keeping assistance, side-wind compensation, and traffic jam assist. The system also provides a key building block for the rollout of automated features in the future.

Driver Environment

When drivers finally get to climb aboard a Nikola truck, they won’t suffer. The demo truck on display at April’s Nikola World event featured a leather and suede interior (they made visitors put on rubber gloves before entering the truck for a tour), rather than the "horrible plastic interiors" they have now, said Jennes. "The idea was to build something so beautiful that drivers will really want to drive it."

The truck features independent front suspension, disc brakes, a wrap-around windshield, and doors located behind the seat. A set of steps auto-deploys when the driver approaches the truck and retracts once he or she is on-board. That's keep the DOT guys from hanging off the mirrors during a roadside inspection.

The entire dash is electronic, with a 21-inch, 4K display in the middle and a 13-inch display in front of the driver. The truck uses voice-activated controls rather than pushing buttons and reaching for various controls to help maintain a driver's focus on the driving task.  

And while the truck displayed was the day-cab version, Milton said the Nikola 1 sleeper cab is being developed simultaneously and will go into production at the same time.

"It will be identical to the Nikola 2, we just have to extend the back wall," he said. "All the systems and tooling will be exactly the same for both trucks. The sleeper will offer a queen-sized bed, desk, office chairs, and more."






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Nikola lands $1.7 million grant to advance fuel cell research

Commercial Carrier Journal (CCJ)  /  August 7, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Phoenix-based Nikola Motor Company a $1.7 million grant to advance its research into fuel cell membrane electrode assembly (MEA).

Nikola’s Executive Vice President of Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Technologies Jesse Schneider said the award provides an opportunity for the Nikola team to leverage expertise in academia and resources within the DOE Fuel Cell Consortium for Performance and Durability “to accelerate a breakthrough that will benefit the entire hydrogen and fuel cell industry and community.”

The joint grant was funded by the US Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Transportation Office under the recently announced FY19 Commercial Trucks and Off-Road Applications FOA.

Nikola is pursuing a new approach and unique MEA architecture to satisfy the high-power output and durability requirements of heavy-duty applications with its academic partners: Carnegie Mellon University Prof. Shawn Litster, Northeastern University Prof. Sanjeev Mukerjee and Georgia Institute of Technology Prof. Younan Xia.

In this project, Nikola will bring together advanced concepts in catalysts, ionomers, proton exchange membranes, and gas diffusion layers within a robust MEA by using appropriate, scalable fabrication methods.

Nikola’s hydrogen station partner NEL Hydrogen of Oslo, Norway was also awarded a $2 million award from the DOE. Nikola executives are serving as the technical lead on that project as well.

There are currently more than 14,000 Nikola Class 8 trucks on order.  The Nikola trucks feature up to 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 ft-lbs of torque.  Nikola recently announced a battery-electric vehicle option for the urban, short haul trucking market.  Nikola’s trucks will be manufactured in Coolidge, Ariz.  Testing will begin on Arizona roads this year with full production expected in late 2022.

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Politicians hand Nikola $1.7 million in free taxpayer money rather than CEO Trevor Milton visiting a bank or dipping into his personal wealth. Where's the justice in that?

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Nikola to get $250 million, expertise via Partnership with Iveco parent CNH

David Cullen, Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT)  /  September 3, 2019

Hydrogen-electric truck builder Nikola Corp. has entered into a strategic and exclusive partnership with a major global truck OEM "to accelerate industry transformation towards [the] emission neutrality of Class 8/heavy-duty trucks in North America and Europe through the adoption of fuel-cell technology.”

In plainer English, the deal means Nikola will get an infusion of funds and real-world expertise to bring to market its vision of a zero-emission future for trucking here and abroad.

The agreement inked between Phoenix-based Nikola and CNH Industrial N.V includes a $250 million investment in Nikola. CNHI, based in the Netherlands, is the parent of Italy-based truck maker Iveco and of agricultural and construction equipment makers Case and New Holland.  

In a Sept. 3 news release, the two companies state that Nikola’s zero-emission heavy-duty trucks, powered by proprietary hydrogen fuel cell and battery technology, will be the first such vehicles to go into production. Further, they contend that Nikola’s “disruptive business model foresees an industry-first ‘all-in’ lease rate, which includes vehicle, service, maintenance and fuel costs, providing long-term total cost of ownership certainty at or below diesel costs.”

Iveco and FPT Industrial, the commercial vehicle and powertrain operations of CNHI, respectively, will provide engineering and manufacturing expertise to help put into production Nikola’s fuel-cell and battery electric trucks: The Nikola One, a North American Class 8 sleeper truck; the Nikola Two, a North American Class 8 daycab; and the Nikola Tre, a European cabover heavy-duty truck.

Nikola will contribute technologies for a European joint venture with CNHI that will include fuel-cell expertise, e-axles, inverters, independent suspension, on-board hydrogen fuel storage, over-the-air software update functionality, infotainment, vehicle controls, vehicle-to-station communication protocols, power electronics, and access to a hydrogen fueling network.

Noted in the release as “strategic near-term project milestones” are putting into production the fuel-cell powered version of the Class 8 Nikola Two (there is also an all-electric version) for the North American market, as well as the integration of Iveco’s S-Way truck technology into the battery-electric powered Nikola Tre model, which is designed  for both the North American and European markets.

The companies said that, in the long-term, a European joint-venture will cover both battery electric vehicles and fuel-cell electric vehicles to be launched by the end of 2022. In addition, Nikola plans to leverage Iveco’s European sales, service and warranty channels to boost its access to the European truck market.

Under the agreement, CNH Industrial will take a $250 million “strategic stake” in Nikola as the lead Series D investor. Pre-money valuation was set at $3 billion, with Nikola anticipating raising over $1 billion in the D round, granting approximately 25% ownership to new investors and business partners, including CNHI.

The partners stated that, “Fuel-cell technology is the logical next step to liquefied natural gas-powered engines, as it builds on existing refueling networks, enabling local on-site production of hydrogen." The companies touted FPT industrial's alternative-fuels credentials, noting it has produced over 40,000 natural gas-powered engines to date. "Iveco is the absolute European leader in natural-gas vehicles, with some 28,000 of its trucks and buses powered by FPT Industrial engines.”

The release also pointed out that just as FPT Industrial and Iveco have worked to develop and expand Europe’s natural-gas refueling network, “Nikola is actively working with partners to develop the required hydrogen refueling infrastructure in North America and Europe.”

“The time has come to finally provide a zero-emission solution to the heavy-duty market,” said Nikola CEO Trevor Milton. “While other OEMs believe zero-emission solutions cannot happen in the timeframe regulators have mandated, Nikola, FPT Industrial and Iveco are proving that these timelines are not unreasonable.

“Nikola has the technology but needs a partner with a European network to achieve it in a timely manner,” he continued. “With CNH Industrial’s investment and partnership, we can now bring zero-emission trucks to Europe… By bringing CNH Industrial on board, we now have access to manufacturing know-how, purchasing power, validated truck parts, plant engineering and much more. Few will doubt our ability to commercialize a truck now.”

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