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Nikola Motor unveils prototype Class 8 fuel cell range-extended electric truck, plans for H2 fueling network

At an event at its Salt Lake City headquarters last week, startup Nikola Motor Company (NMC) unveiled the first public prototype of its Nikola One Class 8 hydrogen fuel cell range-extended electric truck, as well as renderings of the Nikola Two Class 8 day cab version. The company also announced its plan for a network of 364 hydrogen fueling stations across the US and Canada (Nikola is bundling fuel with the truck), and unveiled a 107 kWh battery pack for the Nikola Zero UTV along with a business plan to sell packs to OEMs.

The Nikola One utilizes a fully electric drivetrain featuring a 320 kWh Li-ion battery pack (32,000 cells) and a nearly 300 kW fuel cell stack powering a 6x4 four-wheel electric drive (four 800V AC motors) with torque vectoring. Delivering more than 1,000 hp (746 kW) and 2,000 lb-ft of torque, the Nikola One will have an expected range of 800-1,200 miles, the company said.

  1. Front Radiator Assembly. Electric fans attached to radiators. These fans scale through software to the correct RPM needed to keep the truck, batteries, cab, fuel cell, motors and gearboxes cool under any circumstance.

  2. Nikola Motor Gearbox / Steering Front End. A 14,000 lb front end, custom-made to incorporate two electric motors and two gearboxes allowing for torque vectoring.

  3. Power Electronics. The device takes in energy from the fuel cell stack and delivers it to the batteries at a constant 800V DC.

  4. Nikola Battery Storage System. 320 kWh. Each battery pack is warrantied for the life of the lease which is earliest of 7 years or 1,000,000 miles.

  5. Chiller and Air Tanks. The 800V chiller provides cold water to cool the batteries and, like many parts on the truck, was custom built. The air tanks keep the backup air disc brakes DOT compliant and offer redundancy.

  6. Fuel cell stack.

  7. Hydrogen Fuel System.

  8. Rear Motor Gearbox Housing and Independent Suspension. This patent-pending, custom built housing can support up to 46,000 lbs. and holds both electric motors and gearboxes. It also helps support the first ever Short Long Arm (SLA) suspension in the linehaul industry, creating a smooth ride.

  9. 5th Wheel. The innovative HOLLAND FWAL aluminum fifth wheel is the lightest weight standard duty fifth wheel in the industry. The FWAL is designed for standard-duty applications and forged from the same alloy as Alcoa’s aluminum truck wheels. The LowLube technology reduces customer maintenance time and costs.

The specs of the Nikola One have changed since first announced in May 2016. At that time, although the 320 kWh battery pack was the same, the company envisioned using a proprietary onboard 400 kW gas turbine as well as a 335 hp electric motor with dual gear reduction at every wheel (6x6). That powertrain was estimated to output more than 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) and more than 3,700 lb-ft (5,017 N·m) of torque before gear reduction.

NMC’s calculations on the fuel efficiency of the Nikola One.

The Nikola One will only be available through the Nikola Complete Leasing Program. There will be no purchase options available initially. The lease is $5,000 - $7,000 per month and includes unlimited miles, unlimited fuel, warranty and scheduled maintenance for the first 1,000,000 miles or 7 years, whichever comes first. Nikola Motor Company has accepted reservations ($1,500 per reservation) representing nearly a projected $3 billion in future orders.

NMC plans to begin delivering trucks in approximately 3-4 years based on the current timeline.

Fitzgerald, an investor in NMC, will build the first 5,000 trucks, and continue building trucks in the future. Over the next 4-5 years, NMC plans to invest more than $1 billion in its own manufacturing facility. The location will be announced sometime around the middle of 2017.

Nikola Founder and CEO Trevor Milton said that the company will build a network of 364 hydrogen fueling stations to support the rollout of the trucks. Hydrogen fuel is free for Nikola customers for one million miles. Construction of the stations will begin in 2019, beginning with fleets that order the trucks.

NMC is in the process of developing multiple 100-megawatt solar farms to produce hydrogen via electrolysis. The hydrogen will be transported from the Nikola solar farms to the Nikola hydrogen stations by a fleet of Nikola One trucks. The hydrogen is stored at Nikola stations in liquid form, and then dispensed into vehicles as compressed or liquid hydrogen.

Nikola says that all non-Nikola vehicles can fill up at any Nikola Hydrogen Station for $3.50 per kg of hydrogen.

NMC also announced Ryder System, Inc. as its exclusive nationwide distribution and maintenance provider. Ryder has a network of over 800 service locations in North America today. 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.

Milton also announced Nikola Shipments—advanced freight scheduling software that will come standard with every Nikola One and Nikola Two vehicle. A driver can simply input departure and arrival locations and times and the Nikola Shipments software will provide all available shipments, Nikola Hydrogen Stations and Nikola Service Centers located along the route. The driver can then filter the available shipments by value and added time, and then add them to their route, all from the 21" in-cab touchscreen display.

For the Nikola UTV, the 107 kWh battery pack is estimated to provide more than 300 miles of range on a single charge. Milton said that Nikola plans to offer its patent pending battery packs to OEMs for purchase beginning in 2017.

Our battery engineers have made major advances in storage and cooling. We believe our lithium battery packs are more energy dense and weigh less than any available vehicle production pack per kWh.

—Trevor Milton


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I feel sorry for them. They will not succeed because FCV are grossly cost inefficient compared to dirty diesels or BEVs. In less than 4 years this startup will go bankrupt and all their efforts are for nothing.


Attacks by ideologues aside, this sounds to me like another Californian dreamin' money pit, which reminds me of another one.

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Facts about the economics of FCVs are not ideology. On the other hand, it takes a large dose of ideology to believe in FCV. But I am glad to see we arrive at the same conclusion on this one. That was unexpected.



Having blinkers on does not make your preconceptions facts.

I evaluate technologies and companies on a consistent basis, and don't rule out whole vast areas based on some back of the envelope calculation.

I do have minimum criteria for companies, and providing loads of wowie zowie 'ain't it a big market, all we have to do is market our anti gravity machine, specs to follow' does not cut it for me, regardless of the preconceptions of others about what technologies they assume I favour.

Actually I favour anything which will do a specified job at reasonable cost both financially and to the environment.

For hydrogen powered trucks there are others being trialled right now which are less ambitious in range etc, and run by far more established companies.

For instance:

Cowboy companies riding a wave of hype do not impress me.

Nikola had demonstrated several innovations in both vehicle and marketing, so kudos for that. The challenge, as always, remains building out a nationwide network of H2 stations. A multi-billion dollar investment is not going to happen without decent ROI. The finance cost of supporting underutilized stations as the trucks are built is daunting to say the least.

A hydrogen station capable of dispensing 100kg at a time, hundreds of times per day, is not one of the cheap ones.

Nikola doesn't mention where those funds will come from.


I was asked about this company yesterday and had looked at their web site and press releases. I will say that fuel cells make more sense than what they had originally proposed with a small turbine as small turbines are not very efficient. A smaller diesel would make more sense than a small turbine. Also from what I have seen, the vehicle should be considered a 6x6 as all wheels on the cab are powered.

Anyway, I am still trying to figure out how real this company and the products are. Is their prototype fully functional as they seem to imply? They certainly seem to have some major backers including US Express and Ryder but they also have a number of major hurdles to overcome to make it to market. It will take a lot of money to scale up to produce even 5000 units a year let alone 50,000. Maybe I will do a casual drive by as I do work all that far away.


"..bundling fuel with the truck.."
Good idea, imagine if GM built refineries and gas stations in the 1930s then told Standard Oil they did not need them.


H2 long range heavy trucks are part of normal evolution in ground transportation. It is just a matter of time before they become common place. NIKOLA's will be followed by many others.

H2 trucks will be followed by H2 locomotives by 2025 or so.

Locomotives, Trucks & public/private FCEVs could share many H2 stations to increase the profit margin and lower H2 cost/price.

OILCOS could eventually be interested in financing the generation and distribution of future clean H2? Shell may be the leader.


HarveyD: Oil companies are already a major if not the major producer of hydrogen which they get by reforming natural gas and which they use in the refinery processes.

There are a few experimental fuel cell locomotives operating including one that built for BNSF but I doubt that will be any major users of fuel cell locomotives by 2025.


Refineries make hydrogen, but do not transport it to stations.
This company will build the stations where the fleet customers want them


If the next gen 5X batteries come soon, they should dump the H2 system and adapt quickly.


I question the claim of 'free' fuel for 1 million miles or seven years.
I assume that means the lease period will be 7 years.
That works out to ~150k miles per year(400miles /day).
Obviously there is no 'standard daily use for this class of vehicle - the model 1 has a sleeper so may travel 1000 miles with second driver and it is impossible for the truck to be on the road for seven years without downtime.
With plug in battery charging available it would seem the fuel costs are covered for the lease period.for a total cost of $600k. 600k / 1000,000 (miles) or 60c per mile for the truck - fueled.
(Plus the rego tyres insurance driver etc)

Taking the higher number $7k month / 30 that's $233 per day.

I would have thought that is less than the expected daily fuel bill for this vehicle class.

Maybe the back of my envelope isn't working correctly?

Love the dream but the numbers seem way off.

The only way this works is that the truck is a 'giveaway'


So another way to look at this is
1000,000 miles / 13.5 miles/ kg = 74k kg H2 @ 3.50kg
74000 X 3.50 = 260,000($)fuel value

total lease $7k/month 12 months X 7 years = $580k.


The off road long suspension travel race ready plug in (E.V.) buggy is apparently taking deposits at a realistic price - about the same as Chev bolt.

For the Nikola UTV, the 107 kWh battery pack is estimated to provide more than 300 miles of range on a single charge.


I wonder if they'll have a refilling station in Lakehurst NJ


The Hindenburg fire was mostly from the coating on the envelop made from varnish and aluminum powder.


SCJ: Way off the subject but most of the combustion energy from the Hindenburg Disaster came from the hydrogen and not the skin. There was also diesel fuel which continued to burn after the hydrogen had burned off.

From the Wikipedia article on the Hindenburg Disaster

"Modern experiments that recreated the fabric and coating materials of the Hindenburg seem to discredit the incendiary fabric hypothesis.[56] They conclude that it would have taken about 40 hours[clarification needed] for the Hindenburg to burn if the fire had been driven by combustible fabric. Two additional scientific papers also strongly reject the fabric hypothesis.[55][clarification needed]"


What ever, the reference to the location was off topic.


I wonder if they could make this with 4 wheels not 6. From my understanding a 6 wheeler requires a special licence to operate. A 4 wheeler could be used as an RV hauler and this would make my family vacations a lot more green.


Interesting, looks like the design is more space efficient as compared to diesel. Having front wheel drive a big bonus. Recouping the downhill and braking energy a big plus. Fuel cell and H2 energy system is compact, lighter, and may provide more range. No plug in required, a must, for constant use. Refueling should be very quick being one tank and high gas pressure exchange. The rig should be extremely quiet, zero tailpipe emissions, ultra low maintenance. Very high torque when needed.

There are limitations and compromises for each technology. Such as charging rate, power generation rate, charging cycle, weight, temperature control, to just mention a few. So, the lithium battery has strict limitations as well as FC. Meaning the company that balances these technologies and exploits the strengths of each within a cost effective envelope will sell vehicles. This is why the Mild hybrid is such a winner within light vehicle fleet. This is why a 48v gel cell battery the better chemistry for the buck to harvest the majority of benefits. Fuel cell and lithium, probably a better choice for this application. Super caps may work their way into the mix as well. Also, a hybrid system that affords a max return on investment may be just the ticket. It may prove that harvesting 80% of the benefit could be accomplished with much lower cost.


Mass produced improved 5-5-5 batteries and equivalent super caps will probably not be available before 2030 and even a few years latter.

Meanwhile, heavier vehicles will have to use FCs for all weather extended range. The Nikola heavy truck may be one of the early practical unit on the market. The same technology could easily be adapted to long range intercity heavy buses and passenger trains.

Mass produced 100 KW to 300 KW FCs could be much cheaper than equivalent batteries and would need less complementary batteries/super caps.


Keep waiting for those 5X batteries, they should be here REAL soon /s

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