Friday, December 2, 2016

New Hydrogen/Electric Powered Freight Truck Prototype Debuts

Revolutionary Vehicle Expected in Service by 2020
Shipping News Feature
US – The Nikola Motor Company (NMC), a company which suddenly appeared as a start-up and which can trace its history back to June this year, has unveiled its prototype hydrogen fuel celled semi-truck at its Salt Lake City headquarters. The event was attended by 600 members of the media, industry partners, customers and government leaders and revealed the all-electric driven, zero emission vehicle to the world. NMC state that the vehicle will be in full production by 2020. Nikola, the name presumably a nod to the guiding light of electric vehicles, Nikola Tesla, is building a business literally from the ground up.

The plan is to have Trucking giant Fitzgerald build the initial 5,500 trucks with no plans as yet as to where the ongoing vehicle plant will be situated. Money has come in part from Caterpillar dealership Thompson Machinery which will offer sales and service in Tennessee and Mississippi but there must be concerns over a vehicle that just months ago was to be powered by gas turbines and which now depends on an hydrogen/electric drive system. No matter, the truck was an impressive sight when it rolled out at Salt Lake City and if it can succeed anywhere it will surely be in the US.

The Nikola One utilizes a fully electric drivetrain powered by high-density lithium batteries. Energy is supplied on-the-go by a hydrogen fuel cell giving the Nikola One a range of 800 - 1,200 miles while delivering over 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 ft. lbs. of torque, nearly double that of any semi-truck on the road. This should provide the vehicle with dramatically improved performance over its diesel competition, the makers say 0-60mph in 30 seconds, and all with zero-emissions.

To further sweeten the deal, and appreciating that investing in new technology is a risk many freight operators are hesitant to take, the Nikola One leasing program will include unlimited hydrogen fuel, warranty and scheduled maintenance during a 72-month term. The generous lease terms mean that NMC claims it has reservations totalling nearly three billion dollars in future orders. Nikola Founder and CEO Trevor Milton said:

“We are extremely excited to finally show off the Nikola One to the public for the first time. There are many out there that wondered if we would deliver, but today we proudly show off the most advanced semi-truck ever built. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have one of the best brands in America, Ryder, as our trusted partner providing nationwide sales, service and warranty for Nikola Motor Company.”

Commenting on the new strategic partnership, Ryder’s President of Global Fleet Management Solutions, Dennis Cooke said:

“We commend Nikola for its leadership in zero emission vehicles, and for its decision to partner with Ryder as their exclusive nationwide distribution and maintenance provider. This relationship is key to expanding our advanced vehicle technology portfolio of innovative solutions. Ryder continually monitors emerging fleet technologies and seeks to establish relationships with companies that are leading innovation within the commercial transportation industry.”

However though an interesting development, NMC has several issues to sort before they can deliver a viable alternative to their fossil fuelled competitors. NMC are planning to develop both a nationwide refuelling network for vehicles leased from them and huge solar-powered production plants that will produce the hydrogen to power said fleet. In addition, there is as we say as yet no actual production plant to build Nikola One trucks.

It remains to be seen whether NMC can deliver on their considerable promise.