A Zero-Emission Heavy Duty Truck 

a zero-emission heavy duty truck

The Nikola Tre is a zero-emission heavy duty truck aimed at markets outside of North America. Manufactured by Iveco in Europe, the truck uses a choice of two Nikola zero-emission drivelines, originally developed for the company’s electric trucks for the US market. Diesel News’ European Correspondent, Will Shiers, has seen the truck in the metal and assesses its viability.

First deliveries of the battery electric Tre, which has a 400km range, are slated to commence in Europe next year. The hydrogen fuel cell version, which is capable of covering 800km on a single fill, is expected follow in 2023. 

The Tre is based on the Iveco S-Way, and will have its batteries and hydrogen tanks mounted to the existing chassis. One of the key design features is a new, larger grille, which provides increased airflow, resulting in improved cooling. The truck is also more slippery than the S-Way, thanks to cameras replacing external mirrors. 

Very little of the S-Way’s interior remains, and the redesigned dashboard now incorporates a new multifunction infotainment and navigation system.

 

a zero-emission heavy duty truck

While badged as Nikola, the trucks will be sold and maintained through Iveco’s European dealer network. Prices are yet to be unveiled, but Trevor assures me that total cost of ownership will be better than, or at least comparable to diesel-powered trucks. 

In the USA, Nikola trucks will be leased to customers on a seven-year 700,000 mile basis, which will include maintenance and the supply of hydrogen. Nikola and Iveco are expected to go down a similar route in Europe (see breakout box).

Although launched initially as a 4×2 prime mover, the Nikola Tre will be offered in a variety of configurations, including 6×2 and 6×4, and two and three axle rigids. Although I was unable to get confirmation as to whether it will be coming to Australia, it will definitely be available in right-hand drive.

Nikola CEO, Trevor Milton, believes diesel’s days are numbered, and thinks they will gradually be phased out in the next decade.

“Although the diesel engine will still exist for the foreseeable future, it will become so cost prohibitive to own them based upon emissions regulations,” says Trevor. “Nobody is putting R&D into diesel any more, it is completely done. One of the suppliers just announced that they are getting out of diesel injectors. That’s a massive problem. There is no more investment into diesel. It is all going into zero emissions. 

“So, it’s just a matter of time until all the orders coming in are for zero-emission. The problem is none of the OEMs can build enough to satisfy the market, so for the next 10 years they [diesel trucks] will still exist, but their values will plunge and their costs will go up. They’re dying pretty quick.”

Trevor says he has high expectations for the Tre, anticipating ultimately selling 35,000 units per annum. 

 

a zero-emission heavy duty truck

So, is this really the ‘Netflix moment’ that Trevor claims it to be? Probably not. By his own admission the established OEMs are ‘right behind us’. He tells me that the competition all have the same technology as Nikola, and that the only reason why they haven’t already brought it to market is because they prefer to ‘reap billions of dollars of rewards off their diesel programmes’. 

If this is true, I can’t say I blame them! Unlike Nikola, the likes of Daimler, Traton and Volvo Group have been forced to invest billions of euros tackling ever-stringent emissions standards, so naturally they want to recoup some of their colossal investment in developing a zero-emission heavy duty truck.

My view is that Nikola’s arrival in Europe will certainly shake things up a bit. But while it will definitely steal a march on the competition, its dominance is likely to be relatively short-lived. You can’t rent DVDs from your local high street any more, but pretty soon I reckon you’ll be able to stream Netflix into the cabs of hydrogen-powered Mercedes, Volvos and Scanias! 

 

a zero-emission heavy duty truck