SALT LAKE CITY. During the unveiling of the new Nikola One hydrogen fuel cell powered all-electric Class 8 highway tractor during a media event held here the world headquarters of Nikola Motors Co., Trevor Milton, the company’s president and CEO, told Fleet Owner he also expects it to be the first “all-inclusive” model – incorporating fuel, maintenance, even a freight-matching service, into the purchase price.
“Everything is going to be built right into the truck, just like an iPhone,” he explained. “We’re going to consolidate a lot of the industry’s problems; rather than attack issues individually we’re going to create solutions through a single package.”
Milton referred to this as a “white glove” approach to trucking. “It’s all about giving a driver all the tools they need to get the job done,” he said.
During the unveiling of the Nikola One prototype – a truck Nikola expects will go into full production by 2020 – Milton listed all of the items that will be incorporated into its sticker price:
- Ryder System will sell, service, and provide warranty coverage for the Nikola One through its 800 locations throughout the continental U.S., Canada and Mexico, with “different leasing programs” planned as well;
- Roughly one million miles worth of hydrogen for the vehicle’s fuel cell will be provided at no cost to Nikola One customers through a network of 364 refueling locations Nikola is currently constructing;
- A freight matching service called Nikola Shipments will be “pre-loaded” aboard the vehicle – one reason why the company is incorporating a 21-in. computer screen into the dashboard.
Max Fuller, chairman and CEO of TL-carrier U.S. Xpress, told Fleet Owner he “likes what he sees” so far from this “all-inclusive” approach taken by Nikola and believes the Nikola One could be a “game changer” for the trucking industry.
“The highest risk for trucking companies is fuel prices,” he explained. “We don’t control them and they lead to so much [freight] rate volatility. Going to an all-electric truck would get us out of that cycle.”
Fuller added that Nikola “didn’t skimp on anything” in terms of safety and driver comfort features and believes the zero-emission footprint of the Nikola One – its only tailpipe emission is water vapor – will appeal to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“Every four or five years it seems we get hit with some new environmental rule that leads to equipment changes, then problems and downtime,” he said. Going to an all-electric truck “will get us away from that volatility as well,” Fuller noted.
He said drivers should like this new truck as well as it is quiet, has more “instant power” so it can keep up with traffic and climb hills, with a lot more stopping power as well.
“A lot of driver-friendly features are built into this truck; it’s very proactive,” Fuller said. “This is what we need to make the driver’s job better and the highways safer.”
Nikola’s Milton noted during the unveiling that the Nikola One is expected to have a range of 1,200 miles with a full load of hydrogen aboard, as the vehicle gets an estimated 15.4 mpg.
The Nikola One’s electric motor also provides “instant acceleration,” he explained, in as little as 30 milliseconds.
That power comes from the vehicle’s 320 kilowatt-hour battery pack, Milton noted. And by replacing the traditional diesel engine, exhaust aftertreatment and transmission found on today’s typical Class 8 truck with an electric motor, fuel cell, hydrogen storage tanks, and battery pack, the Nikola One ends up 2,000 lbs. lighter than a typical Class 8 diesel tractor.
In terms of safety, the Nikola One is equipped with air disc brakes yet also uses “regenerative braking” to not only help stop the vehicle but “capture” braking energy and store it in its battery pack.
“A typical air disc brake caliber activates in 0.45 seconds; using regenerative braking means we can activate braking power in 30 milliseconds; 15 times faster,” Milton said.
That means whereas it takes 65 ft. for a typical Class 8 tractor’s air disc brakes to engage, the Nikola One can start braking in as little as two to three feet.
That “regenerative braking” also reduces wear and tear on the braking system as a whole, Milton noted. “Brakes get hot because energy is transmitted as heat,” he explained. “We absorb 85% of that heat into the batteries. That means we can double or triple brake life.”
In terms of building the Nikola One, glider kit maker Fitzgerald will manufacture the first 5,000 of them – Milton says his company has nearly $4 billion worth of pre-orders for its new truck – as Nikola builds its own $1 billion assembly plant with an expected production capacity of 50,000 vehicles. Further details about that plant will be released next year.
Milton expects the Nikola One to be in full production by 2020, with a daycab version of its highway tractor – the Nikola Two – to follow. And he is not concerned about the nearly three-year gap between the unveiling of the Nikola One prototype and its expected full-production target date.
“Trucking has been around for 100 years and it has taken 60 years to bring the diesel engine up to where it is today,” he said. “Our truck is more efficient than anything out there now and it will be as high quality as it can be.”