Diesel News’ US Correspondent, Steve Sturgess, reports the recently unveiled Nikola electric truck may be heading for Australia. This week saw the unveiling of a new cabover truck from the pioneering Nikola brand in the US, aimed squarely at the European and Asia Pacific truck markets.
Not content with wowing the north American truck market with plans and a prototype electric over-the-road truck tractor for North America, entrepreneur CEO and Nikola founder, Trevor Milton, plans to put his brand on a cabover model for Europe and the Asia Pacific region that includes Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
But where the Nikola One is a from-the-ground-up new heavy-duty truck creation that is part conventional (bonneted) truck and cabover, the new model is unabashedly a cabover that is designed very much in the European mode, done in-house but with European design support, said Milton in an interview exclusive to Diesel.
Like the Nikola One long-haul sleeper tractor and the Nikola Two regional day cab, the newly announced Nicola Tre will use a battery-electric-traction powertrain with a hydrogen powered fuel-cell electric generator range extender whose only emission is pure water.
The rollout of the new models with see the Nikola One and Two in North America by 2021 to 2022 and the cabover variants available in production in the same timeframe. The location of the plant has yet to be determined, wrote Milton in an e-mail response to questions.
In the interim Nikola is working with NEL Hydrogen of Oslo, Norway, to have a fuelling infrastructure to supply the hydrogen fuel for the range extension electrical generator subsystem by the time the trucks roll out to the different marketplaces.
There is little detail as yet about the Nikola Tre, which is Norwegian for three. Following the North American product concept, the truck will use a battery pack, electric motor and controller system for traction. The range extender is a 120 kW fuel cell. It will be available as a 6×4 and 6×2 though initial prototype photography is of a more Euro-centric 4×2.
The Nikola Tre has 500 to 1,000 hp and up to 2,700 N-m (2000 ft lb) of torque. The range will be 300 to 750 miles (500 to 1,200 km) depending on options. The Tre will fit within the current size and length restrictions for Europe.
Drivetrain will be the Nikola proprietary independent electric motor suspension system with integrated e-axles. The running gear is derived from the Nikola One, with fully independent suspension at every wheel position. According to Milton there is much commonality between the two models, though because of the restrictive length regulations in export markets such as Europe and Asia-Pacific, the cabover Tre will have less maximum range because there is less room to accommodate the hydrogen pressure tanks. The hydrogen is stored at 10,000 psi (700 bar) and can be refuelled in as little as 20 minutes.
The Tre has been conceived as a fully autonomous, level 5 platform with automated steering and braking. As with the Nikola One and Two, braking is predominantly regenerative, returning kinetic energy back to the batteries during stopping events.
“This truck is a real stunner and long overdue for Europe,” said Nikola CEO Milton. “It will be the first European zero-emission commercial truck to be delivered with redundant braking, redundant steering, redundant 800V DC 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 USA version in 2022-2023.”
“European testing is projected to begin in Norway around 2020,” wrote Milton. “Nikola is also in the preliminary planning stages to identify the proper location for its European manufacturing facility. We believe we will have the same success in Europe that we have in USA. Both markets are emerging into zero emission markets. The fueling infrastructure will be much the same as the North American model.
“It will be the same station design as we have here in the USA, so it should be easier to deploy (the fuel station designs) since we don’t have to ship it. We plan on starting in Norway as the country is very friendly to zero emissions and our station partner is in Norway.”
By 2028, Nikola is planning on having more than 700 hydrogen stations across the USA and Canada. Each station is capable of 2,000 to 8,000 kg 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.