As we reported on in 2016, Nikola Motors has unveiled their advanced hydrogen-electric semi-truck concept. Based out of Salt Lake City, the company promises to offer 800 to 1,200 miles on a charge and generate up to 1,000 horsepower.
Nikola also claims that the vehicle will operate at half the cost of a comparable diesel vehicle. Equipped with regenerative braking and other advanced features, the truck will also generate up to 2,000 feet of torque, which will allow it to accelerate under full load much faster than a traditional diesel truck.
With vehicle deliveries set for 2020, the company promises to eventually pump out 50,000 trucks a year. And now, with a new announcement, Nikola is stating that they will support chassis recycling.
Use and Use Again
On December 1st and 2nd the company held a press conference detailing their plan to utilize a chassis recycling system and were asked a good number of questions by people in the audience who said they were either owner operators or owners of small fleets.
As Nikola owner Trevor Milton said during the session, “We will have a cab replacement program so the truck can be reutilized over and over again,” he said.
Essentially this means the entire chassis will be reutilized over and over because the frame, batteries, electric motors and other components will be durable and long-lived. The chassis would be replaced at around half a million to a million miles. At that point it would be sold on into the secondary market.
Advantages to the Concept
New cabs coming off the line could be equipped with the latest electronic equipment designed to enhance safety and vehicle operations. These would include security and autonomous driving systems. When the chassis is replaced, it will come with new components added.
Nikola themselves would control this process because Nikola foresees most these units as being leased out from the company themselves. Fleets or owner-operators would hold them for 72 months and then swap them out.
As the chassis wears, the components will be removed and given life in other applications. The lithium-ion batteries can be reused for home energy storage and integrate with current solar-panel systems. The energy generated during the day can be stored for use at night.
It’s All About the Batteries
There’s a secret to long life for these batteries, and that’s keeping them at a constant temperature. This will be done on the truck by surrounding the batteries with an electric grid housed in a refrigerated jacket.
Depending on the ambient temperature outside, the system will actively keep the batteries cool. They work their best at minus 40 degrees, and the system should be able to maintain them at that temperature.
Milton says that by doing this, you extend their life from 100,000 miles to 500,000 miles or more. During the conference, he stated that he was “a big believer in building something that lasts a long time.”
One person queried how secure the batteries were. Milton replied that stealing them was highly unlikely, equating it to trying to steal the engine out of a traditional diesel. The batteries themselves weigh, as he put it, “thousands and thousands of pounds.”
Others asked about how the hydrogen tanks would stand up in a collision. Milton responded that they are extremely strong, quoting them as “bullet proof” and said they could resist strikes by rounds as large as .30-06 caliber.
Even fuel taxes were brought up, with Milton stating they had even thought of that, developing a model where taxes, and perhaps other operating expenses, can all be included in the price.
Still, questions remain, from the fueling infrastructure to maintaining public interest. Still, chassis swapping and other potential benefits to this new technology remain intriguing.