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Nikola Motor Company Reveals Hydrogen Fuel Cell Truck With Range of 1,200 Miles (valuewalk.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ValueWalk: Nikola Motor Company just unveiled a huge class 8 truck which will run on hydrogen fuel cells. Nikola claimed that the truck's operational range will be as much as 1,200 miles (1,900 km), and it will be released in 2020. Nikola designed the Nikola One for long-haul transport across a large landmass. The truck will deliver over 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 foot-pounds of torque. Provided these claims are true, the vehicle will provide nearly double the power of the current-gen diesel-powered semis/articulated lorries, notes Ars Technica. The leasing cost of the trucks will include the fuel price, servicing costs and warranty, but exactly how the lease will work is not known now, notes Ars Technica. The company says it has already accepted nearly $3 billion in future orders. A fully-electric drivetrain which gets power from high-density lithium batteries runs the vehicle, and a hydrogen fuel cell charges the batteries on the go. Its reach is presently limited, as hydrogen fueling stations currently exist in only small numbers. This made Nikola decide to construct a network of 364 hydrogen fueling stations across the U.S. and Canada, just like Tesla with its network of Superchargers. Milton claims it will come with a smart dashboard which has the capability of picking the most cost-efficient route for drivers. Also one or two full-size beds will be included inside the vehicle's enormous cab. It will have other luxuries and necessities as well, such as Wi-Fi, a refrigerator, 4G LTE connectivity, freezer, a 40-inch curved 4K TV with Apple TV and a microwave.
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Nikola Motor Company Reveals Hydrogen Fuel Cell Truck With Range of 1,200 Miles

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  • unoriginal (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    OK, we all know Tesla, but what's with all the other alt-fuel vehicle companies using knockoff names? Faraday was bad enough - at least it's named after another electrical pioneer. Nikola didn't even choose a different guy to name their company after.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Oh, there's plenty of names left. How about "Coulumb"; and following the Tesla/Nikola pattern, I actually think "Charles-Augustin" would be a pretty good name for a luxury vehicle marque.

    • by iTrawl ( 4142459 )

      What do you mean? These guys named their company after a Russian stripper. Nothing to do with Tesla.

    • It's not like Tesla [wikipedia.org] is a very original name for a company, anyway.
    • by skids ( 119237 )

      Well, if naming automotive related companies after famous physicists is a trend, I guess Hertz just lucked back into fashion.

      I wonder what the first... eh.... exciting?.... offering from "Bohr Autos" will look like.

  • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Friday December 02, 2016 @10:47PM (#53412951)

    Although trucks are highly regulated they also happen to be a lot easier to use a platform for this kind of experimentation. For one an extra 1000 pounds isn't going to impact performance (though it will reduce freight capacity). Some truckers tell me just ice and snow can add a couple of thousand pounds to their trucks in the winter. Anyway plenty of room to play around with different drive trains and power systems, which is what this company seem to have done.

    I've always been skeptical of hydrogen as a means of of energy storage, but if the numbers are right this is pretty good, for a range of about 800 miles. 1000 hp and 2000 ft-pounds of torque are definitely good numbers for a class 8 truck. The truck I drive sometimes is only 500 hp and 1800 ft-pounds of torque, and pulls 63500 KG GVW (only on flat roads and not fast). So this should easily go up and down mountains. And with no transmission to shift, the power will be smooth and efficient. I'm thinking they've had their prototypes on the road for some time now, so it will be interesting to see how quickly they can really bring this to actual market (start leasing them to real drivers and real companies).

    The articles I've read don't talk a lot about how the refueling is done and pouring liquid cryogenic fluids is pretty dangerous. So we shall see. And we don't know much about other details like if the drive train can act as a big engine brake. It's pretty funny how the media reacts to things like this. Instead of focusing on the truly interesting aspects of the truck like the power cell and drive train, they focus on the cab and how it has a nice sleeper with a microwave oven! Hilarious.

    Anyway, coming from someone who actually has a CDL and drives trucks on occasion, I'm quite interested to see where this goes.

    • We definitely know the drive train can act as a "big engine brake". It uses regen braking, which as we know is very well establish technology. It's like compression brakes on steroids that charge the batteries and make no noise. In theory, the regen braking should provide stopping power very similar to acceleration power. The actual brakes should only need to be employed in emergency situations and at, and approaching full stop.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        In theory, the regen braking should provide stopping power very similar to acceleration power

        Or in practice in electric locomotives for what must be more than three quarters of a century by now.

  • Does it come with a big bag of amphetamines too?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Flamebait" - a failure in moderation rears its ugly head. Some people really need to lighten up.

      • No, its a legit question. There are very few places where truck drivers are allowed to drive for 1,200 miles. Unless the speed limit happens to be 120mph.

        • At 55-70 mph, a 600 mile trip out on day one, load or unload, and a 600 mile return trip on day two to do the same is easily doable. It is not more than 11 hours driving and with the higher speed limits, just a little over 9 hours (you will not average 70 mph for the entire trip).

          But you are also forgetting team truck drivers where one person sleeps on the first shift and then takes over when the first shift driver's time is up. The team drivers could easily cover 1200 miles within a single day.

          The summery

  • Woosh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Friday December 02, 2016 @10:55PM (#53412999)

    These guys have finally designed the world's best 2005 Semi Truck.

    Also one or two full-size beds will be included inside the vehicle's enormous cab.

    For who? Are they trying to milk the last owner operators? Walmart quibbles with OEMs over 0.1 MPG claims. The second they can, every single Walmart truck is going to be replaced by an autonomous driver, even if it's just between cities. (Given where most Walmarts are located it'll replace 90% of their need for drivers). They spent a lot of time and money designing something that will never get used by time this hits the market.

    , the vehicle will provide nearly double the power of the current-gen diesel-powered semis/articulated lorries

    And? Truck OEMs are moving to Natural Gas. [nationalgeographic.com] Locomotives are too. [bloomberg.com]

    Everyone thought Warren Buffet was crazy buying a rail company in 2009 [wikipedia.org]. Turns out that he owns Northern Natural Gas [berkshireh...ergyco.com] the largest interstate natural gas pipeline system in the United States. Northern Natural Gas' pipeline system stretches across 11 states, from Southern Texas to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, providing access to five of the major natural gas supply regions in North America. (At which point he starts to sound a bit more like Rockefeller).

    10 years ago Natural Gas was a 3rd party add on. Now the engine OEMs are selling it in addition to dual fuel engines (NG/Diesel). That goes for engines for a small tractor up through their largest stationary engines.

    Natural gas is:

    1. Domestic.
    2. Cheap
    3. Run to households in a lot of the US.

    With a tiny compressor you could come home and 'fill up' at night. [cngnow.com].

    If I was an investor the 2 power sources for vehicles going forward are going to be natural gas & batteries. You cut out a lot of gasoline and diesel refineries. You can run locomotives and semis on natural gas (since batteries alone can't (yet)).

    Hydrogen, in 2016, is a non-starter. First you can't just 'get' it. We're quickly getting an EV grid and the Natural Gas 'grid' is already there.

    Finally it's not about horsepower. Those Semi truck engines "only" pushing a few hundred HP can easily put out more. The Caterpillar D11 bulldozer [wikipedia.org] only has 850 HP. The reason they're de-tuned is they're designed to do that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for a million miles. You can easy tune them up to easily out do the 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 foot-pounds. [And why geeks that aren't into machinery shouldn't just look at specs like they're computers.]

    By 2020 this is going to look like a dinosaur.

    • You're right hp isn't terribly important, torque is. And since this will use electric motors, that means it delivers the 2700nm of torque they say it'll have, instantly. So even though the most powerful Scania outputs a pretty incredible 3500nm id wager this will feel pretty good in comparison. And btw, so what if an engine can be up tuned, so can electric motors if you wanna burn them out, but you don't for precisely the same reason you don't with ICEs.
      • by caseih ( 160668 )

        Both are important. Moving a large load requires horsepower, by definition. Horsepower is a certain amount of torque per minute.

        • by tomhath ( 637240 )

          Horsepower is a certain amount of torque per minute.

          To some extent that's true (horsepower is related to torque * RPM). But torque is more important because a low torque motor would have to spin unrealistically fast to generate sufficient horsepower; you need high torque to get the horsepower you need at a reasonable RPM.

    • by caseih ( 160668 )

      You're probably right about your assessment of Natural Gas's ability to change the industry. But the fact that these guys have several billion dollars of orders stacked up shows there are companies that are interested and see the value it in. I think Nikola's engineers aren't operating in the dark here. They are well aware of what natural gas can do. It's easy to pretend they don't know what they are doing. We can't just use our armchair logic to summarily dismiss them. I hope they succeed.

      Good point ab

    • Hydrogen, in 2016, is a non-starter. First you can't just 'get' it. We're quickly getting an EV grid and the Natural Gas 'grid' is already there.

      Not sure what you mean here. We are "quickly getting an EV grid", but somehow "quickly getting a hydrogen grid" is such a huge problem? If Tesla can pull off the EV grid, then who's to say Nikola (or some other company, for that matter) can't do the same with hydrogen?

      There's also the possibility for these trucks to be plug-in hybrids. They're not talking about it, but adding support for an external charge supply would be more or less trivial.

      • Re: Woosh. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chuq ( 8564 )

        An "EV grid" isn't actually a thing - it should refer to the electricity grid which is over a century old and practically ubiquitous.
        90% of charging by EVs can be done on the existing network. Fast chargers make it more convenient but are not a new grid in itself.
        Hydrogen, on the other hand, requires dedicated infrastructure to support 100% of fuelling requirements. Not just the stations, but the generation, storage and shipping.

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          Hydrogen, on the other hand, requires dedicated infrastructure to support 100% of fuelling requirements. Not just the stations, but the generation, storage and shipping.

          And maybe not such a big deal or practical for trailers travelling the same corridor, but if you miscalculate or there's detours or you run into defective equipment or whatever you're not dead in the water with an EV as long as somebody got a working extension cord. Or even a modified generator if you just need enough juice to limp to the nearest grid connection, seems a few have done that as insurance. Emergency services have also started having charge service instead of tow service if you've run out. With

    • That goes a long way toward providing yet another reason that Buffet opposed a pipeline from Canada.
    • Also one or two full-size beds will be included inside the vehicle's enormous cab.- For who?

      Have you really no clue about what trucking does or how it works?

      Yes trucks will be self-driving in the future. But the truck driver is not just a driver, he is also a GUARD. Do you really not understand what a fantastic target fully automated trucks would be, when they would obviously be programmed to stop for any blockage in the road?

      As for the gas angle, natural gas is OK but has nothing on Hydrogen, which will

      • has nothing on Hydrogen

        You're going to have to lay it out a bit better than "Has nothing on Hydrogen".

        Natural gas infrastructure is there, it exists. I cooked dinner with it tonight. Truck OEMs have natural gas trucks on the road right now.

      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        As for the gas angle, natural gas is OK but has nothing on Hydrogen, which will be the mass replacement for the gasoline engine.

        Methane has two things going for it: 1) higher hydrogen density than hydrogen in the same phase (liquid versus liquid or gas versus gas), 2) better handling properties. It leaks far less than hydrogen does - hydrogen leaks through anything. Methane also become liquid under far milder conditions than hydrogen does.

        And the big drawback is that methane is a significant greenhouse gas. Hydrogen can react with oxygen to form water vapor, which is also a significant greenhouse gas, but I believe most hydrogen

        • Very true! Hydrogen WILL leak though anything. And Methane can literally be made from any natural decaying material. Methane is carbon neutral too, but better in simplicity. Big farms run on this stuff. It's a terrible shame they vilified methane :(
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      These guys have finally designed the world's best 2005 Semi Truck.

      Welcome to modern America where the Space Age is happening elsewhere.

    • Hydrogen, in 2016, is a non-starter. First you can't just 'get' it.

      Which is why a point-to-point delivery system such as a large truck is the right vehicle to start with. You don't need thousands of refueling stations, just a few at the major truck terminals.

  • Will the Nikola hydrogen charging stations be compatible with the Toyota Mirai [wikipedia.org]?

    There could be some pretty strong synergies there.

  • I couldn't see any mention in the article, but I'm guessing the stated range is when it isn't loaded, or only very lightly loaded. I wonder how much that would drop when pulling 120 tonnes in 3 trailers? That's a pretty standard configuration here in Australia.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton

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