December 5, 2016 4:00 AM, EST
Electric Class 8 Introduced
Nikola Motor Co. Touts Range of 1,200 Miles
Nikola Motor Co.

This story appears in the Dec. 5 print edition of Transport Topics.

SALT LAKE CITY — Nikola Motor Co. displayed its Nikola One hydrogen-electric Class 8 tractor at its headquarters here.

The vehicle is powered by high-density lithium batteries and can run up to 1,200 miles, according to company officials.

“There are many out there that wondered if we would deliver, but today we proudly show off the most advanced semi-truck ever built,” said Trevor Milton, founder and CEO of Nikola.

He made the comments on Dec. 1, hours before he would unveil the hydrogen-electric Class 8 tractor for a host of industry partners, customers, government leaders and media.

Nikola has selected Ryder System Inc. as its exclusive nationwide distribution and maintenance provider. Ryder, which has a network of more than 800 service locations in North America, will provide nationwide sales, service and warranty work for Nikola.

Thompson Machinery, a Caterpillar Inc. dealer and an early investor in Nikola Motor Co., will also offer sales and service in Tennessee and Mississippi.

“This relationship is key to expanding our advanced vehicle technology portfolio of innovative solutions,” said Dennis Cooke, president of global fleet management solutions for Ryder, which is based in Miami. “Ryder continually monitors emerging fleet technologies and seeks to establish relationships with companies that are leading innovation within the commercial transportation industry.”

Allan Wainscott, general sales manager at Thompson Truck Centers, a division of Thompson Machinery, told Transport Topics the dealership has already received interest from several fleets. “They are very excited about the all-electric solution,” he said, adding that Thompson’s ownership has always believed electric transportation was the direction the industry is headed.

He added that Nikola One’s on-board power generation provides a significantly longer range than any other clean energy truck on the market today, and it doesn’t need to be plugged in or recharged. “Some people think they’ll need extension cords running to the trucks in their fleet, but that’s not the case,” he said.

The Nikola One utilizes a fully electric drivetrain powered by high- density lithium batteries. Energy will be supplied on the go by a hydrogen fuel cell giving the Nikola One a range of 800 to 1,200 miles while delivering more than 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 pound-feet of torque, which is nearly double that of any semi-truck on the road.

“I look at this truck as a heart transplant. Nikola has taken a reciprocating engine, driveline and transmission out and put in an on-board power generation, electric motors and batteries. This will save weight, reduce emissions, increase fuel economy and improve drivability,” Wainscott said.

Scott Perry, chief technology and procurement officer for Ryder, told TT that Ryder was initially interested in Nikola for its dedicated transportation solutions, and the conversation evolved from there. Ryder Supply Chain Solutions ranks No. 13 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in the United States and Canada.

“There is an expectation from our customer base that Ryder be at the forefront and help them evaluate the emerging technologies and what they can deploy to differentiate their product, differentiate their brand and drive a competitive advantage,” Perry said.

To date, Nikola has accepted reservations totaling nearly $3 billion in future orders, although the company said the truck will not be available for purchase initially. Instead, customers will lease the vehicle for between $5,000 and $7,000 a month, which includes fuel and maintenance for the first 1 million miles or seven years, whichever comes first.

The company said it has received more than 8,000 refundable deposits of $1,500.

Ryder has not earmarked specific operations where it plans to run Nikola vehicles, but Perry said the company will continue working on its plans before the vehicles go into production.

Milton said the company is in discussions with several states regarding where it will build its manufacturing facility and will make a final selection in the first half of 2017. Plans also are underway for a network of Nikola hydrogen fueling stations across the United States and Canada, which will break ground in January 2018.