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Nikola Motor does a 180°, scraps plans for battery-powered truck, turns to hydrogen


You might remember Nikola Motor for unveiling renderings and estimated specs of the Nikola One, their first electric truck, earlier this year. Or maybe for when they claimed that they received over 7,000 pre-orders worth over $2.3 billion for the vehicle.

In our last report, we highlighted their weird claim that the vehicle will achieve “zero emissions” despite being powered by both a 320 kWh battery pack and a natural gas range extender, which undoubtedly produces emissions. Today, Nikola Motor explained how they can claim that: they dropped their entire powertrain technology for a new hydrogen fuel cell concept.

We are talking about a less than 2-year old company, which came out of stealth mode only a few months ago to announce a battery-powered truck with a natural gas range extender to be unveiled by the end of the year with grand plans for natural gas refueling stations around the US, and now they do a 180° in their powertrain and refueling strategy?

It’s not doing a lot to help their credibility.

The company wrote in a press release today:

Today, Nikola is announcing that the electric drivetrain used in the U.S. and Canadian markets will be powered by a custom-built hydrogen-electric 800V fuel cell. Nikola’s hydrogen class 8 trucks will be more powerful than any other production diesel truck on the road and have a range of over 1,200 miles between fill-ups. It will achieve nearly 20 MPG with zero emissions under full load,surpassing all the government mandates set forth for the next 10 years, including the EPA’s recently announced Phase 2 GHG standards.

As we discussed before, hydrogen fuel cell is a very inefficient technology compared to battery-powered vehicles. In most cases, a battery-powered vehicle is almost 3 times more efficient. With this said, if there’s a type of vehicle in which it makes more sense, it’s probably trucks.

Now it’s also inefficient and emission producing at the production level. Nikola Motor claims to have fixed that too apparently. Nikola Motor CEO Trevor Milton in the same press release today:

“The desire to be 100% emission free in the U.S. and Canada is a critical piece of our long-term engineering and environmental efforts, not just in vehicle energy consumption, but also in how energy is produced. Nikola will produce hydrogen via zero emission solar farms built by Nikola Motor Company. These solar farms will produce over 100 megawatts each and will use electrolysis to create hydrogen from water. Even our manufacturing facilities will be run off of zero emission hydrogen energy,”

Additionally, the company claims that the natural gas version of the truck will still be available “for other countries where hydrogen is not readily available.” But they just announced that they will create their own hydrogen from water using electrolysis with solar power – things that are available everywhere.

The company claims it will have 50 of those “hydrogen stations” up and running by 2020. They still plan to unveil the Nikola One in December, but admittedly, we are not very excited about it anymore… ‘Tesla Semi‘ anyone?

Here you can read the press release in full:

[scribd id=322551825 key=key-dRWCARQiZDEi2aF3lAzx mode=scroll]

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