New electric Class 8 truck: 1,000 hp, 1,200-mile range

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Updated Dec 4, 2016
Trevor Milton, founder of Nikola Motor Company, unveiled the fully-electric Nikola One Class 8 truck at company headquarters in Salt Lake City.Trevor Milton, founder of Nikola Motor Company, unveiled the fully-electric Nikola One Class 8 truck at company headquarters in Salt Lake City.

Nikola Motor Co. on Thursday unveiled a working prototype of Nikola One, the company’s fully electric, zero-emissions Class 8 truck.

The truck’s fully electric drivetrain is powered by high-density lithium batteries. The truck’s electricity is supplied on-the-go by a hydrogen fuel cell, giving it a range of more than 1,200 miles and delivering more than 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 ft.-lbs. of torque.

“This is a real truck. This is not a pusher,” said Nikola founder Trevor Milton. “My goal is to literally revolutionize the trucking industry.”

During the unveiling of Nikola One, Milton announced a partnership with Ryder System to offer the vehicle to owner-operators and fleet owners through a full-service, 72-month lease that will include unlimited, nationwide hydrogen fueling. The monthly lease will be between $5,000 and $7,000, depending on options, he said.

Ryder will serve as the exclusive distribution and maintenance provider for Nikola, unlocking Ryder’s North American network of more than 800 service locations to lessors and owners of the Nikola One tractor. It will provide sales, service and warranty coverage for NMC as it looks to develop a support network for the hydrogen fuel cell, electric-drive truck.

To supply the hydrogen, NMC is building a nationwide fuel network with 364 locations, Milton said. Construction will start in 2019. The sites’ locations are available on its website.

Besides offering a full-service lease and nationwide fuel network, Milton said NMC will also be “100 percent vertically integrated” for routing and load optimization. Through its in-cab software platform and 21-inch driver display, owner operators will be able to choose loads offered by freight brokers and optimize their truck routes.

The truck also has new safety features not currently available on other vehicles, including the fuel itself. Hydrogen is safer than gasoline and diesel, Milton said, as long as it’s stored right.

With its electric drivetrain, Nikola One can apply power and braking to wheels 15 times faster than diesel-powered trucks and is 2,000 pounds lighter. Steering and handling is improved by a torque vectoring system that controls the speed of every wheel.

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The vehicle reduces the possibility of injury with a low, mid-cab entry. Its center of gravity is nearly three feet lower than a conventional diesel and the lithium batteries are built into the frame rail, reducing the risk of rollovers.

The independent wheel suspension system, the frame stiffness and soft ride are unmatched by other trucks on the market, Milton added. NMC partnered with Meritor to develop the frame and suspension.

The vehicle comes equipped with 12 cameras for a panoramic view of the vehicle in the cab and has a built-in radar for collision avoidance and mitigation.

NMC has nearly $4 billion of pre-orders for Nikola One, Milton said, including a large commitment from Chattanooga, Tenn.-based U.S. Xpress. Jay England, chief executive officer of Salt Lake City-based Pride Transport, said his fleet has five trucks on order and plans to use the full-service lease arrangement from Ryder System.

To build the vehicles, NMC partnered with Fitzgerald Glider Kits, which currently builds between 6,000 and 9,000 glider trucks a year. Fitzgerald is contracted to build the first 5,000 Nikola One vehicles.

NMC is in discussions with states to build its own manufacturing facility, Milton said. The announcement for the facility will be made in mid-2017 and construction will be complete within four to five years, he said.


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