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Freight.Tech 25: Hydrogen Drives Nikola Motor to #24 Spot

Freight.Tech 25: Hydrogen Drives Nikola Motor to #24 Spot

The Nikola Motor tractor is powered by a hydrogen-electric engine. Expected to be formally introduced at Nikola World next spring, the tractor has earned the company Number 24 on the FreightWaves' Research Institute Freight.Tech 25.

Much innovation is occurring in the freight technology space, with most of it happening on the software side. But there are companies working on technological solutions that go beyond just software solutions, and Nikola Motor is one of those.

Nikola Motor is using technological achievement to develop what is expected to be a breakthrough in vehicle power with its hydrogen-electric heavy-duty trucks. For its disruptive and innovative approach to vehicle technology, Nikola Motor was awarded 24th place in the FreightWaves Research Institute Freight.Tech 25 Awards.

The winners were announced at FreightWaves' MarketWaves 18 event in Dallas last month. The Research Institute narrowed an original list of over 500 nominations down to the Freight.Tech 100, which was then cut to the Freight.Tech 25. The final 25 were voted on by an independent panel of judges in a process overseen by acclaimed accounting firm Katz, Sapper & Miller (KSM).

The list of the Freight.Tech 25 winners can be found here.

While many companies are working on electric vehicles few, to date, have been met with the level of excitement that Nikola Motor has. The company recently closed a $205 million round of funding and eyes a $1 billion round next year.

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Its flagship Nikola One hydrogen-electric tractor will be formally introduced next April at Nikola World in Phoenix along with its Nikola Two (a day-cab version) and the recently announced Nikola Tre, which will be developed for the European and Australia markets.

While the trucks are not yet on the road, Nikola's technology has received rave reviews in terms of fleet pre-orders. Reportedly, the company has received over $8 billion in orders for its North American models and over $380 million in orders for its Nikola Tre model within one week of announcing it.

The biggest endorsement of its technology was when Anheuser-Busch announced it would deploy up to 800 Nikola tractors through 2025 in a contract that also calls for Nikola Motor to develop 28 hydrogen fueling stations.

U.S. Xpress was also an early proponent of the Nikola tractor, as is Ryder, which will provide the maintenance, sales and distribution for the vehicles.

The electric engine in the Nikola tractors is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and produces 2,000 lbs.-ft. of torque and 1,000 hp. with a 320 kWh battery. Regenerative braking is used to supply power. Zero to 60 acceleration under load is said to be 30 seconds as compared to 60 seconds for a diesel unit.

The battery storage system features 32,000 individual lithium-ion cells welded together for the battery pack – three times the size of a Tesla Model S P90D. MPG will be about double that of a diesel model, ranging from 13 to 15 mpg depending on specific operating conditions. With a 2,000 lbs. estimated weight saving (18,000 to 21,000 lbs. vs. 19,000 to 23,000 lbs. for a diesel unit), Nikola says that vehicles could potentially haul additional weight leading to up to $1,000 extra revenue per load.

The European model, which will also be offered in Australia, will feature between 500 and 1,000 hp. and a range of 500 to 1,200 kilometers, depending on configuration. It will come in either 6x4 or 6x2 configuration.

The company also expects to develop a national network of more than 700 hydrogen fuel stations by 2028 in North America.

If hydrogen-electric power becomes a major threat to diesel power in the near future, it's a safe bet that Nikola Motor will be among the leaders.  

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