By the millions, semi trucks move the world over. They haul whatever needs to be hauled anywhere it needs to go, whether it’s a trailer full of cereal to a distribution center for shipment to grocery stores or a massive piece of mining equipment to the frozen tundra of northern Canada. Trucks are, effectively, the lifeblood of the world, moving around on the highways, parkways, motorways and other roads that section countries like veins. And that is an issue: that means that millions of trucks, complete with diesel engines that can’t hit even double-digit fuel economy on their best days loaded, are running no matter what, and even when they are down, the generators that keep the sleepers of long-haul truckers from freezing, roasting, or dying of boredom while down are up and going. That is a problem that Nikola Motor Company founder and CEO Trevor Milton is hell-bent on fixing, and this is his solution: the Nikola One.
What do you need to know about the Nikola One? Let’s start at the surface. At first glance, you’ll notice that the engine house is small, the body is tall and that the truck’s body has a shape that almost appears to be cribbed from a Boeing product than anything currently out on the road. Take special note of that centrally-mounted door, which is designed to make entry and exit into the One easier than a conventional truck, and the panoramic view that the operator will have compared to a current rig. And the tractor is expected to be about a ton lighter than a current truck, so you can take that weight and add that to either the load or use it for fuel savings.
Except, strike that last part altogether, because there will be no such thing as “fuel savings” with the One. The truck is a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, with a lithium battery built into the truck’s frame that will power the electric motors at the drive wheels. What does that mean? An expected 1,000 horsepower, 2,000 ft/lbs of torque, a 1,200 mile range with the largest battery/tank option, and nothing coming out of the exhaust pipe but water vapor. No services, no oil changes, and no DEF fill-ups. If the truck is leased, then the hydrogen itself will be free. And the One is expected to be able to pull an equivalent of 15.4 MPG, which is about twice what trucks can do now.
The trucks are expected to ring in somewhere in the $300,000-$400,000 range, but Nikola is taking only $1,500 fully-refundable deposits…which many companies and drivers have put down. Nikola still has a ways to go before the expected 2020 roll-out deadline, such as the system of refueling stations that will be needed to support the vehicles (which, a’la Tesla, they are personally handling, though details on that are scarce) but if the company can pull it off, the result could be massive for the trucking industry.