Battery-powered semi can tow 80,000 pounds, travels 1,200 miles between stops

Perhaps now Nikola Tesla has finally realized his posthumous revenge on Thomas Edison. Years after Elon Musk founded Tesla, a new start-up has snagged the scientist’s first name. Nikola Motor Company, like Tesla Motors, is focusing on all-electric propulsion. It recently announced two projects aimed at very different industry segments but both focused on high-performance, high-efficiency vehicles.

The first, the Nikola Zero, is an all-electric ATV slotted to compete against the Polaris RZR. The second is far more practical. The Nikola One is a long-haul semi-truck with a 1,200-mile range and the ability to pull the standard 80,000-pound load. The Nikola One uses electric motors at each of the six wheels, giving it AWD and torque vectoring capabilities. What’s more, the truck features the first fully independent suspension system on a semi, giving it a much smoother ride than conventional semi trucks.

Thanks to the lack of traditional drivetrain components and a cabin formed from carbon fiber, the truck weighs thousands of pounds less, furthering its handling characteristics and battery charge. Recharging is done via a “fuel agnostic” turbine engine that can run on gasoline, diesel, or natural gas.

What’s more, the Nikola One is designed to accept fully autonomous control systems in the future, giving owner/operators the ability to run multiple trucks with one driver watching live video feeds back at headquarters, according to Nikola. The trucks can accomplish this thanks to a system Nikola calls “Virtual Hitch,” which allows the driver to remotely hitch the semi to a trailer, all while sitting in a control station states away.

While this technology is years away from realization, Nikola is striving to lead the way. In fact, the company is already taking orders and deposits for the Nikola One. Reservations only cost $1,500. The company’s website states the truck costs $5,000 a month, including the lease payment with unlimited miles, maintenance, and unlimited fuel from one of its 50+ planned CNG throughout North America.

The plan seems rather daring and ambitious, but hey, Tesla Motors has dared greatly and seemingly succeeded in the face of overwhelming odds. We’ve detailed out the Nikola One below, so continue reading for the full scoop.

Continue reading for the full review

Exterior

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Nikola Motor Company Nikola One
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Nikola Motor Company Nikola One
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Since the Nikola One is still in the design phase, these renderings are all we’ve got to work with. Still, it’s clear to see Nikola is charting new territory in semi-truck design. Since the truck doesn’t have a traditional diesel engine, the cab has been pushed forward over the nose, giving the driver much more forward visibility. The sweeping panoramic windshield wraps around to the side glass, which then carries an imaginary line towards the window in the sleeper cab.

The large grille up front still houses a high-capacity radiator and cooling fan, which keep the batteries’ temperature in check. The LED headlights, taillights, and side market lights help conserve energy, while lighting the road ahead. Out back, the rear wheels are covered in a fender, which helps keep the truck clean and cuts down on aerodynamic drag. At the business end, the fifth wheel hitch is made from aluminum and is the lightest standard-duty hitch in the industry. And speaking of light-weight, the entire cab is made from carbon fiber, which not only keeps weight down, but adds strength to the structure and safety for the driver.

Interior

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Nikola Motor Company Nikola One
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Nikola Motor Company Nikola One
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Nikola is definitely stretching into the future here. The truck comes with four display screen. The main gauge cluster shows info like speed, battery level, and kW usage, along with mileage and other typical parameters. The two smaller displays in the center stack offer views of other information like navigation and entertainment. The large, 10-inch screen down below shows a variety of information, including gimbals and a torque distribution chart.

Nikola says the cab has 30 percent more space than a traditional sleeper cab thank to the design, giving drivers more comfort on long-haul trips. In the back, the truck features two full size beds, a full refrigerator, microwave, computer desk, a 40-inch curved LED 4K TV with integrated Apple TV, and plenty of storage space. The truck is also equipped with WiFi and a 4G LTE connection.

And since the truck’s systems are all computerized, updates are easy and happen wirelessly, just like Tesla’s products.

Powertrain

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The Nikola One is powered by six electric motors, one on each wheel, that generate 335 horsepower a piece, giving the truck a combined output of 2,000 horsepower and 3,7000 pound-feet of torque. Add in the dual gear reduction at each wheel, and the torque is multiplied to nearly 86,000 pound-feet.

Power is stored in a liquid cooled, 320-kWh lithium-ion battery pack comprised of 30,000 lithium cells. Keeping the battery charged is Nikola’s proprietary turbine that generates 400 kW of power when running. Not only does power come from the turbine, the batteries are recharged through regenerative braking. The process also helps slow the truck on hills, both recharging the battery and extending the life of the mechanical brakes. Those living near hilly interstates will love knowing this process eliminated the loud engine braking clatter.

Not only is the Nikola One the first all-electric semi, it’s also the first to implement a torque vectoring system. Thanks to its individual six electric motors, power can be applied individually, giving the computer the ability to send power where it’s needed. This can help in turning, recovering from a skid, or even powering through slippery conditions.

The turbine can be fueled with a variety of fuel, but Nikola’s website seems to suggest the truck is primarily designed to run on compressed natural gas. It’s said to have a cruising range of 800 to 1,200 miles, depending on load and terrain.

When parked, the batteries run the cabin accessories and are said to have enough stored energy to keep everything running for nearly a week – all without kicking on the turbine.

Price

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The Nikola One hasn’t hit the market yet, but is said to cost $375,000 if you were to buy it outright. Leasing is another option, with prices starting at $5,000 per month. That does include unlimited mileage, warranty and maintenance work, and unlimited fuel from Nikola’s proposed 50+ CNG filling stations. Nikola says fuel costs are calculated into the lease price.

Conclusion

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It’s great to see start-up companies dream big about big stuff. Semi trucks have been under plenty of scrutiny over the years, from emissions and fuel consumption to running costs and safety. While Nikola isn’t the first company to tackle these problems, its ideas are perhaps the most innovative. Granted, there’s a ton of work to be done and a lot of validating and testing, but if Nikola can raise the capital and move forward with production, the trucking world might have a game-changer in its ranks.

We can’t wait to follow Nikola and its Nikola One semi project. We hope to see it accomplish great things for the trucking industry.

  • Leave it
    • Still a concept
    • CNG network must be built
    • Lots of work ahead for Nikola Motor Company

Source: Nikola Motor Company

Press Release

For the full press release, check out Nikola’s website, here.

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