At a major unveiling at WestWorld, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA last week, two new zero emission heavy-duty trucks landed on stage from Nikola Motor Company, branded Nikola Two and Nikola Tre.
Nikola CEO, Trevor Milton emphasised that the Nikola programme, which includes an autonomous military all-terrain vehicle and electric power sports leisure vehicles, is no Trojan Horse, with clear commitment to establish a production facility and roll out the products to global markets. The presence of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on stage compounded the promise endorsing the 2,000 new jobs created to establish the manufacturing plant and hydrogen and fuel cell R+D centre.
Uniquely, Nikola’s alternative powertrain offers either Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) or hydrogen power, whichever suits the customer application.
“The vision consists of the world’s first purpose-built fuel cell heavy-duty truck, the Nikola Two, enabling more hydrogen storage, optimised placement of the powertrain and a robust hydrogen fuelling network,” said Jesse Schneider, Nikola’s Executive Vice President of Hydrogen. “We recently opened our first hydrogen station at our Phoenix headquarters. We are leading the way and working with industry and other OEMs to develop hydrogen standards to enable fuelling in less than 15 minutes. The goal is safety and interoperability, so that anyone can fuel at our station.”
For Nikola’s European charge (literally) the Nikola Tre prime mover turned from photo to flesh with its dynamically sculpted lines created by Chief Designer Steve Jennes. Nikola President Mark Russell said that it will have a range distance of up to 1,200 kms and a fast hydrogen fuelling in under 15 minutes, ‘even in Europe’. Both the Nikola Two and Tre boast 1,000 horsepower and 2,700 Nm.
Inside the cabin on both the Two and Tre two large interactive screens dominate the dash area, with conventional switchgear conspicuous by their absence as they are all contained within the touch screen. High quality finish elements from double-stitched leather panels to yacht type flooring and inserts.
Nikola Tre (meaning three/tree in Norwegian) has an intentional Norwegian connection in that NEL Hydrogen in Oslo is set to provide up to 700 hydrogen filling stations across the United States and Canada and secure its services for Europe.
Over 100 orders for Tre have been secured in Norway alone. “This truck is a real stunner and long overdue for Europe,” said Trevor. “It will be the first European zero-emission commercial truck to be delivered with electronic steering, 800Vdc batteries and a 120 kW hydrogen fuel cell, all necessary for true level 5 autonomy. Expect our production to begin around the same time as our USA version in 2022-2023.”
The absence of exterior mirrors was evident in line with current developments by Mercedes-Benz Actros. Standard and convex vision is provided by in-cab cameras positioned on the A-Pillars.
“Think about Europe, with no more diesel trucks,” said Trevor. “The roads will be clean, quiet and beautiful.”
All of the Nikola products have the necessary autonomous drive hardware in place. Pound for pound or kilo for kilo, Trevor assured that the payload will be comparable to existing trucks.
With more than 13,000 Nikola trucks pre-ordered the company reckons it is on the right road and recently signed a US$16 million order to purchase specialist equipment towards the first phase of its fuel cell development.
“By creating our own facility, Nikola will be able to test and validate its fuel cell components in half the time it would take other OEMs and third-party labs,” said Trevor. “We now have products in development that will change transportation for the better. We believe the fuel cell will replace the diesel engine in the next ten years.”
Story and Pictures: Jarlath Sweeney