Nikola delivers its first battery-electric Tre trucks in US
American electric truckmaker Nikola has finally delivered its first two battery-electric Tre trucks in the US in a pilot project with Southern California trucking company Total Transportation Services Inc. (TTSI) at the Los Angeles harbor. Two FCEV trucks for the project are to follow later. Nikola’s Tre truck is basically a European-built Iveco.
This is the first tangible result in the US for the much-hyped start-up founded by now 39-year-old Trevor Milton, who had to step down in September 2020, as he and his company got caught in a storm accused of fraud and misleading investors. Last year was rather one of losing one ‘mega deal’ after another.
TTSI operates a fleet of about 2 000 trucks in the Port of Los Angeles, with major retailers such as Amazon and Target as clients. It wants to add 30 more battery-electric trucks next year, followed by 70 fuel cell trucks later in 2023.
California: zero-emission trucks for all ports
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed in September 2020 an executive order that all heavy-duty trucks transporting containers to and from California ports must be 100% zero-emission by 2035. In the Port of LA alone, 12 000 freight trucks are operating today.
The BEV Nikola Tre features a 480 kW (645 hp) motor and 753 kWh battery capacity, providing it with a range of 350 miles (563 km). The FCEV is projected to have a 500-mile range (804 km).
Built in Ulm with Iveco
The Nikola Tre, initially meant for Europe, is based on Iveco’s S-WAY platform and is jointly produced with Nikola in Ulm, Germany. The site in Ulm is Iveco’s chassis engineering hub that is to become ‘a leading hub for fuel-cell technology’ of the group. Nikola delivers the electric drivetrain for the truck.
According to a previous press release, the initial Nikola Tre for the US customers is produced in Germany. Nikola’s production plant in Coolidge, Arizona, is still under construction. Yet it started the first pre-series production of Nikola Tre BEVs, to be ramped up to 2 400 trucks a year in 2022, and 20 000 in 2023.
Fuel cells from Bosch or GM
The hydrogen version of the Tre will follow in 2023, using for Europe the S3 fuel cell stacks developed by Bosch with Swedish PowerCell. Bosch used to have a 6,4 percent share in Nikola but reduced it to 4,9% later when the media storm took share prices down.
Eventually, General Motors would work with Nikola supplying its Hydrolec fuel cell systems and eventually its Ultium battery systems for the BEV trucks in the US. But since the intended mega-deal with GM smashed to smithereens, it remains relatively silent except for a new letter of intent for delivering fuel cells, which is still under review.
In December last year, General Motors announced its withdrawal from the mega-deal with Nikola to become a shareholder and co-develop and build the latter’s Badger pickup. As that project was only viable with an established carmaker’s help, Nikola decided to ditch the Badger and refund people who preordered it.
In that deal, General Motors was to get an 11% ($2 billion) equity stake in newly issued common stock from Nikola in exchange for specific in-kind contributions. Those would have started with the engineering, homologating, validating, and manufacturing of the Nikola Badger pickup.
And this would come both as a battery-electric (BEV) and fuel cell (FCEV) version. The final version of the Nikola Badger was initially to make its public debut between December 3 and 5, at the Nikola World 2020 event in Arizona, where the company is based, but never materialized.
The deal with GM also would extend to Nikola’s Class 7/8 heavy-duty semi-trucks, with GM supplying its Hydrotec fuel cell technology and Ultium batteries for the Nikola One, Nikola Two, and Nikola Tre (outside of Europe), and the electric off-roader NZT. The trucks’ battery-electric versions should become available in 500 kWh, 750 kWh, and 1 000 kWh configurations.
25 BEV Tre trucks for Hamburg
Later that month, Nikola started to further slide down the slope after announcing that a mega-deal for 2 500 battery-electric garbage trucks was abandoned. Nikola would develop refuse trucks based on the electric Tre for Republic Services, one of America’s biggest waste collection companies, with an option of up to 5 000 units later.
There was some good news for Nikola in Europe, though, as it could announce in September of this year a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Hamburg Port Authority in Germany to deliver 25 BEV Tre trucks in 2022.