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    Monday, December 12, 2016

    Nikola Motor Unveils 1,000 HP Hydrogen-Electric Truck

    Nikola Motor Company unveiled its zero emissions Class 8 truck at company headquarters this week. Dubbed the Nikola One, the once all-electric prototype now hydrogen powered, boasts an incredible 1,200 miles of range and will be stiff competition for Tesla’s planned entry into the long haul trucking segment with its all-electric Tesla Semi.
    Back in May of this year, trucking startup Nikola Motor Company came out of nowhere claiming it planned to build a turbine-powered hybrid big rig. At the time, it only had renderings to show off, but the startup showed off what it says is a working prototype.
    Sadly, power output has been revised over the last six months. Instead of making the 2000 horsepower and 3700 lb.-ft. of torque we saw in the beginning, Nikola says the One is now only good for 1000 horsepower and 2000 lb.-ft. of torque. Still, if the production version can put out that kind of power, it'll be impressive.
    The other major change is how Nikola plans to power its big rig. Electric motors will still drive the wheels, but the battery that runs them will no longer be charged by a natural gas turbine. Instead, Nikola has switched to hydrogen.

    The company had previously designed Nikola One as an electric truck that would have a range extender via a turbine powered by natural gas. But at the reveal, the company announced the turbine has been replaced by a hydrogen fuel cell that will keep the battery charged and provide a range between 800 to 1,200 miles.
    The prototype on display this week is technological marvel. An array of sensors and cameras permit the driver to have a full 360º view around the entire rig at all times, eliminating blind spots all together. Inside the cab there is room for a one or two full size beds, a refrigerator/freezer, a 40″ curved 4K TV with Apple TV, as well as Wi-Fi and 4G LTE connectivity. Comfort and convenience for the driver will be unparalleled.
    Assuming the Nikola One does go to production-and the jury's still out on that one-the company has a distribution agreement with Ryder. And the trucks themselves will be built by Fitzgerald.
    Nikola also announced a second truck called the Two. It will use the same powertrain but will be smaller and won't include the sleeping area.
    There's still a long way to go before the Nikola One (and Two) make it to production, but it looks like things are headed in the right direction. We still have a lot of questions, mainly about whether or not the production truck will deliver on its big promises. But we have to admit it's a pretty cool idea.
    The Coast of Hydrogen
    Nikola says it intends to develop a network of 350 hydrogen fueling stations across North America for its trucks, beginning in 2018. It would be similar to the Supercharger network Tesla has been building to support long distance travel for its fleet of electric cars. But here’s the rub.
    Hydrogen refueling stations cost $2 million or more to construct. It is estimated that a typical Tesla Supercharger location costs about one tenth as much to build. Exactly who will be paying for the hydrogen refueling system is unclear. And there are other issues with using hydrogen. Yes, the waste products of a fuel cell are water vapor and heat. But getting the hydrogen requires tremendous amounts of energy.
    In the US, most hydrogen is derived from natural gas. Take the process back a step or two and that natural gas is often the result of fracking, a process that at the very least is controversial and at worst results in heavy pollution of the land and groundwater in the vicinity. Whether the Nikola One can accurately be called “zero emissions” is a matter for debate.
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