We may spend a lot of time talking about advanced new technologies in trucking, but one such example may come in the form of our very first electric Class 8 truck. That’s right, and this one isn’t sprouting up from the nest of famed Tesla-owner Elon Musk, although the company proposing this truck does have a similar moniker.
Named after the famed inventor’s first name, rather than his last, Nikola Motor Company is set to revolutionize America’s highways. The company, founded to design and manufacture electric vehicles on a massive scale, has made major inroads in energy storage systems and electric drivetrain components.
What Do They Have in Store?
With the company expecting to deliver on their first working prototype later this year, their inaugural electric semi-truck will come with a 2,000 horsepower electric motor and drivetrain. Called the Nikola One, expect this vehicle blaze a new path in electric truck design.
The company reports that the Nikola One should be able to pull a gross weight of 80,000 pounds and offer a range of more than 1,200 miles between stops. And don’t think this truck is all about electric power because there’s a whole host of other innovations going on under the hood and cab.
Nikola is also co-designing the industry’s first-ever independent suspension system. The company is working with some of the top engineering companies in America to design a vehicle that once was thought an impossibility. For many, this effort can also be seen as a way to level the playing ground between owner operators and fleets.
What Are the Details?
Nikola One will come equipped with a fully electric 335 horsepower motor with a built-in dual gear reduction system positioned at every wheel. When combined, the truck can put out over 2,000 horsepower and provide a whopping 3,700+ pound feet of torque before a gear reduction is required. After gear reduction, you are looking at almost 86,000 pound feet of torque, a huge number.
The main difference here is that torque is available immediately with an electric motor. The operator does not have to wait a short window while RPMs spin up and torque is delivered from the diesel engine. This basically means that the electric motor is providing 100 percent of the required torque 100 percent of the time.
Another major innovation lies in the truck’s suspension system. Based on all-wheel drive variant, the system both reduces vibration and increases ride quality. It also uses a novel new steering geometry to improve overall tracking, feel and feedback.
Benefits of No Diesel
There are several benefits that came from not including any diesel engine components and transmission assemblies. First, the cab can be manufactured out of lightweight carbon fiber panels. This means many of the truck’s heaviest components can be installed at or below the frame rail, which in turn lowers the center of gravity and makes the truck safer, overall.
Surprisingly, the Nikola One actually ways around 2,000 pounds less than a regular diesel truck. Since the engine, transmission, drivetrain and all the liquids required to maintain those components has been removed, the weight of the batteries is not enough to counteract that.
You can also build a larger and more aerodynamic cab, decrease greenhouse gas emissions and offer up a quieter and more comfortable ride in the Nikola One. There also is no shifting in the Nikola One. Instead of a shifter, all you need is the electric and brake pedals.
The electric motors themselves are powered by lithium-ion battery packs that are liquid cooled and charged by an onboard turbine. The turbine itself does burns about 25 gallons of fuel per hour, and automatically charges the batteries as needed. When coupled with the batteries themselves, it offers up a range of around 1,200 miles.
When traveling downhill, the Nikola One utilizes a regenerative braking system to re-capture that energy and deliver it back into the batteries.
With the first truck having been built and now undergoing testing, how long could it be before we see one of these advanced electric rigs on our roads? As the brave new future rapidly approaches, only time will tell.