Nikola Motor Company – the Disruptive Savior of the Trucking Industry?


I penned an article in September this year titled “Will the Trucking Industry Be Disrupted in Time?” It explored whether autonomous trucks might somehow become the panacea the long-haul trucking industry so desperately needs. Driver turnover is so high why not find a solution that doesn’t require a driver I thought? However it’s not that simple. Currently a real human being is required at all times in an autonomous truck to “keep an eye on things.” It makes sense but defeats the object of saving money by not hiring drivers – that is if you can find them.

Since that article the state of the trucking industry still hasn’t got any better. Over-capacity, 100% driver turnover and burdensome government regulation continue to beset it. Could the Nikola One be the disrupter the long-haul trucking industry has been waiting for?

The Nikola One Class 8 Hybrid Hydrogen/Electric Tractor

The Nikola One is a Class 8 hybrid hydrogen/electric truck. It’s a zero emission rig that produces 1000 horsepower – twice that of its diesel counterpart. The company claims it operates at 50% the cost of a comparable diesel semi, and it will be appearing on a highway near you sometime in 2020. It also looks really cool!

The Nikola One is the brainchild of Trevor Milton, the CEO and founder of Salt Lake City-based Nikola Motor Company (NMC). Never backward in coming forward Milton’s stated goal is to “revolutionize the trucking industry.”

Powered by a 300 kW hydrogen fuel cell in conjunction with a 320 kW hour battery, the Nikola One can drive 800 to 1200 miles on one fill with a full load. It has 2000 ft-lbs of torque and a top speed up a 6% grade of 65 mph, compared to a top speed of 20 to 40 mph for a comparable diesel truck.

Hotel on Wheels

The Nikola One also sports 30% more cabin space and enough amenities to compete with a four star hotel! Two full-sized beds, full-size fridge and freezer, microwave, 40 inch TV and Wi-Fi and 4G LTE Internet are just some of the luxuries available. All of this is powered by battery and requires no engine idling while stationary.

Owners will be happy that the rig is 2000 pounds lighter than a comparable diesel rig because the payload could increase by that amount. At $.50/lb that’s an additional $1000 per trip.

Built in “Profitability Tools.”

NMC have also developed “Nikola Shipments” a system which features listings of available open loads uploaded by freight brokers. The driver punches in his/her location and destination, and the system calculates the best route to take for maximum profitability. NMC projects that could add an additional 25% income per trip.

Hydrogen Fueling Stations

Of course the Nikola One would not be hauling much freight if there were no fueling stations! NMC have plans to build a network of 346 hydrogen fueling stations across North America starting in 2018. They are replenished by NMC’s own solar farms.

On average each fueling station is spaced about 400 miles from each other so with a range of 1200 miles the Nikola one is guaranteed not to run out of fuel. NMC will provide free hydrogen fuel for the first 1 million miles for any Nikola One truck in the NMC leasing program. NMC will also make these hydrogen fueling stations available to non Nikola customers at a price of $3.50 per kilogram, approximately half the market price.

Ryder and Fitzgerald – Two Major Partners

NMC have partnered with Ryder to provide sales, service and warranty work at their 800 locations nationwide. All service and warranty work is 100% covered under the NMC leasing program.

The first 5000 trucks will be manufactured by Fitzgerald and NMC plan to do their own manufacturing once they find a suitable location next year. They project to build 50,000 trucks per year.

$4 Billion in Pre-Orders

Trevor Milton has taken preorders worth $4 billion so far with US Express being one of his customers. He knows he has competition on the way. Tesla has plans for entering the truck market and Daimler, Mack and Volvo are all working on electric trucks. But he relishes the competition.

“This is good news for us,” he said “It’s going to be easier to raise money and build our company and it brings legitimacy to the industry. We’re going to be the leader in electric trucks for 10 or 20 years, hopefully longer. We have our money, we have our trucks, we have no debt.”

A new zero emission truck with 50% TCO and better performance specs of comparable diesel trucks, that is much safer to drive and has built in “profitability tools,” sounds like something the trucking industry needs. If all goes to plan Trevor Milton and the Nikola One could very well be the disruptive savior the trucking industry is waiting for.

Oh. And did I mention it looks really cool too!

If you’re interested in learning how shipping by rail might better meet your freight transportation needs, or need warehousing to bring your goods closer to your customers, call New Mexico Transloading at 505 – 908 – 1911. We’d be delighted to have a conversation with you.

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