Ars makes every effort to cover its own travel costs. We covered the flight out to Scottsdale, AZ, but Nikola covered one night in a nearby hotel.
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ.—Nikola Motor Company announced a slew of all-electric and hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles on a cool Tuesday night in a warehouse surrounded by desert. The company seems to be positioning itself as the "trucker's Tesla," serving up Budweiser (supplied by partner-customer Anheuser-Busch) and country music to the same industry watchers and investors that Tesla usually courts.
Of the five products that Nikola CEO Trevor Martin talked about on Tuesday night, very little came as a true surprise to watchers of the company. There were two trucks: the Nikola Two and the Nikola Tre (for European markets), as well as a Utility Task Vehicle (UTV) for off-roading, a military-grade UTV, and a previously unannounced jet ski.
The most important of these debuts were the trucks: Martin admitted later in a private discussion with the press that truck sales would make up the bulk of Nikola's business and revenues. Back in 2016, Nikola announced its Nikola One truck, promising that by 2020 it would have a truck for sale with 1,200 miles of range from a combination battery pack charged by a hydrogen fuel cell.
Now, the Nikola One has been sidelined by the Nikola Two, which appears to be a better fit for actual commercialization: its powertrain can be made with a battery bank for all-electric operation, or it can be made with a hydrogen-powered fuel cell that constantly regenerates a smaller battery.
Although the new commercialization date is 2022, Martin said last night that Nikola is on track to meet that deadline.
Nikola says the fuel-cell version of this truck will have 500 to 750 miles of range, which is on the upper limit of what a person can drive in one stretch anyway. Refueling the hydrogen truck will take just 15 minutes at any of the 700 hydrogen refueling stations that Nikola has promised to build. (We assume the company will have more to say on hydrogen fuel today, when it's scheduled to host a second talk given by its Vice President of Hydrogen Technology Jesse Schneider and Nel Hydrogen, a European supplier of renewable hydrogen manufacturing equipment.)
The all-battery powertrain does not have a specific range yet, but the trucks will likely be sold to freight companies who want zero-carbon options for their shorter-haul operations.
Speaking to press, Martin said that Nikola decided to offer an all-battery option for its trucks so that the company could fit any route. "Weight is so important in the trucking world, every pound is worth 50 cents," Martin said. But, he added, as batteries get more efficient over the next several years, the balance between battery weight and fuel cell weight might even out over time.
Martin said twice last night that he expects hydrogen fuel cell trucks to make up 80 percent of the company's truck orders, and all-battery trucks to make up the other 20 percent.
"The powertrain of the truck, whether it's hydrogen or electrical, is identical," Martin said, adding that customers can order trucks with hydrogen as a fuel, or they can order trucks with a 500, 750, or 1,000 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery pack. An efficiency figure for those batteries was not disclosed, nor did the company say who would be supplying the battery packs.
As is common these days, Nikola says that all of its trucks will have hardware for full level-four or level-five autonomy.
Still, the most important thing to come out of last night was the presence of actual demonstration trucks, which will be driving around a convention center track for spectators today. The company has faced criticism for talking big without proof that it can actually make a truck, so offering coRead More – Source