All-electric Nikola One Class 8 sleeper tractor creating plenty of industry buzz

Jan. 6, 2017
TREVOR Milton, the entrepreneur behind the Nikola One, took the wraps off a prototype model of the hydrogen fuel cell/electric drive longhaul tractor during a flashy event December 1-2 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also showed concept drawings for the Nikola Two, a daycab tractor designed for regional operations.

TREVOR Milton, the entrepreneur behind the Nikola One, took the wraps off a prototype model of the hydrogen fuel cell/electric drive longhaul tractor during a flashy event December 1-2 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also showed concept drawings for the Nikola Two, a daycab tractor designed for regional operations.

Milton says both Nikola heavy-duty truck models will be in production by 2020. To date, Nikola Motor Company has accepted reservations for the Nikola One totaling $4 billion plus in future orders.

“We have gotten a solid positive response from the market, and we are steadily moving forward with our production plans for the Nikola One,” Milton said. “This truck will come to market. This is the real deal.”

Nikola One is a sleeper tractor with 30% more sleeper space than is typical in the industry. Eliminating the diesel engine and transmission makes it possible to move the driver farther forward and gives him a panoramic view. A battery of video cameras around the vehicle further enhances visibility.

Developed by Nikola Motor Company, the Class 8 tractor achieves zero emissions with a fully electric drivetrain powered by high-density lithium batteries. Energy to continually recharge the batteries will be supplied on-the-go by a hydrogen fuel cell giving the Nikola One a range of 800 to 1,200 miles while delivering over 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 ft/lbs of torque—nearly double that of any truck-tractor currently on the road, according to Milton.

Nikola Motor designed the truck around the powertrain, and that includes a robust cooling system for the lithium batteries. Designed to promote maximum battery life, the temperature control system includes multiple radiators.

Electric motors at each wheel position give the tractor all-wheel-drive capability. Meritor’s Protech high-mobility independent steering suspension reportedly is the first of its kind for the Class 8 linehaul market. In addition to eight inches of independent wheel travel, it offers high steer angle capability for maximum mobility. The Protech drive suspension comes with a low-profile dual air spring design that enables proper trailer and fifthwheel clearance and operation.

Meritor’s EX225 air disc brakes are standard equipment on the Nikola tractors and provide maximum stopping power. The independent drive axle suspensions are compatible with dual or widebase tire configurations.

The plan for marketing and distributing the Nikola tractors is as notable as the power technology. During the launch event, Milton announced that Ryder System Inc will be the exclusive nationwide distribution and maintenance provider. Ryder has a network of over 800 service locations in North America today.

Commenting on the new strategic partnership, Ryder’s President of Global Fleet Management Solutions, Dennis Cooke said: “We commend Nikola for its leadership in zero emission vehicles, and for its decision to partner with Ryder as their exclusive nationwide distribution and maintenance provider. This relationship is key to expanding our advanced vehicle technology portfolio of innovative solutions. Ryder continually monitors emerging fleet technologies and seeks to establish relationships with companies that are leading innovation within the commercial transportation industry.”

In addition to Ryder System’s national coverage, Thompson Machinery, a Caterpillar dealer and an early investor in Nikola Motor Company, will also offer sales and service in Tennessee and Mississippi. “We are most excited to have the opportunity to offer our customers innovative product lines which have the potential to be a real game changer for their industry,” said De Thompson V, president and chief executive officer of Thompson Machinery. “There are no guarantees in life, but we believe Trevor is in a great position to succeed, and we want a front row seat to watch him execute his plan.”

Steve Lainhart, vice-president of energy and transportation at Thompson Machinery, adds: “Even with a change in administration and possible adjustment to EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency’s) transportation regulation, we think the growing acceptability and popularity of all-electric cars suggest that the market wants cleaner, more environmentally friendly transportation options. We believe the on-highway truck industry will follow suit as soon as a truck manufacturer can bring an affordable solution to the heavy-haul market. We feel Nikola Motor is going to provide that solution and remain the innovation leader in this industry, and we are very excited to be a dealer for the Nikola Motor Company.”

The Nikola One leasing program will include unlimited hydrogen fuel, warranty service, and scheduled maintenance during a 72-month term. Milton suggested lease rates of $5,000 to $7,000 a month per tractor.

As part of the integrated marketing effort for the Nikola One, Milton unveiled his plan for a network of Nikola hydrogen fueling stations across the United States and Canada. Nikola Motor Company plans to begin construction of its hydrogen fueling stations in January 2018.

While production of the first 5,000 Nikola One tractors will be sub-contracted to a glider kit specialist, Nikola Motor Company is already planning its own manufacturing facility. The location of the plant will be determined in the first half of 2017.

“Nikola will build a world-class advanced manufacturing facility which will create thousands of new jobs,” Milton said. “We are currently in discussions with several states to decide who to partner with in the effort to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels, advance green energy, and revolutionize the trucking industry.   ♦

About the Author

Charles Wilson

Charles E. Wilson has spent 20 years covering the tank truck, tank container, and storage terminal industries throughout North, South, and Central America. He has been editor of Bulk Transporter since 1989. Prior to that, Wilson was managing editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter and associate editor of Trailer/Body Builders. Before joining the three publications in Houston TX, he wrote for various food industry trade publications in other parts of the country. Wilson has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and served three years in the U.S. Army.