The global drive against rising levels of Green House Gases in the atmosphere has led vehicle manufacturers to rethink engine design in every way, for the last twenty years or so, engine developers have been working hard to reduce carbon emissions while increasing the overall output of the vehicle. A lot of innovation has gone into increasing the amount of power each litre of fuel can generate thus allowing them to reduce the size of the engines as well as fuel consumption of the vehicle. Other developers have taken a step further to use alternative fuels like biodiesel blends and hybrid vehicles, while there have done away with fossil fuels altogether and gone electric.
The electric vehicle (EV)market has been growing in leaps and bounds. EVs were very popular in the 19th century with the earliest working models hitting the streets in the 1830s. The industry grew steadily winning vehicle awards and breaking and speed records until the turn of the century when internal combustion engines stole the show.
The internal combustion engines were more powerful than the electric engines and thus could achieve higher speeds. However, the main challenge that limited the growth of the EV industry was the range limited by the battery capacity. Introduction of lead-acid batteries did a lot to increase the potential range of the vehicles but it was not enough to compete with internal combustion engines.
Almost a hundred years later, the 1970s energy crisis coupled with the discovery of the hazards of carbon emissions, research and development into EVs was revived. The commercial production of EVs down under began in 2008 with the release of the Blade Runner which was later renamed the Electron. Although very challenging at first, the EV industry has matured and producers are now able to produce fully operational EVs and E-Trucks to rival most of the conventional vehicles on the road.
Nikola Trucks are coming to town
The Nikola Corporation is a truck production company that was established in 2014 and has built a name for itself as a revolutionary hybrid vehicle production company. From its home base in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, the company has expanded its business, developing a strong presence in Europe and the Asia Pacific region. Nikola has successfully released unique ranges of heavy-duty trucks equipped with several technology solutions that ensure its strength, endurance and range along with more safety and comfort features that you can imagine.
The Nikola Company started out by developing a small 555 hp four-wheel drive UTV truck that was equipped with 72 or 107 kWh batteries and weighed about 1,587 Kilos. Now the Company uses this UTV truck design as the basis for a wide range of products developed in the Nikola Powersports division including the Nikola NZT and Reckless.
The company’s first commercial electric truck, Nikola One, was built for endurance with energy generated from a 320 kWh battery and 300 kW Hydrogen cells. The Class- 8 truck made a huge splash in the trucking world as it had a range of 1,200 Km and could maintain a top speed of 105 Km/h carrying a full load of 36 tonnes on a 6% grade, while a conventional diesel truck could only reach 65 Km/h in the same conditions. Nikola then upgraded to the Nikola Two which is a super-charged version of the Nikola One with greater horsepower, range and a larger hydrogen tank. While the Nikola One as a long haul truck with a sleeper cabin for the driver’s comfort at night, the Nikola Two was designed as a Regional Day Cab.
Nikola Tre, the latest version of the company’s heavy-duty truck range, has a new iconic design and comes equipped with a wide range of new features. This new hydrogen-powered electric semi-trailer truck is the first ‘zero-emission commercial truck in Europe’. The truck’s new design sets electric motors, a fuel cell and batteries below the frame rail giving it a lower centre of gravity than any truck using a diesel engine.
Moreover, the Tre is fitted with enough redundancies in the power and control systems to make the truck achieve true level 5 autonomy, which means it can be operated under any environmental conditions without a human driver.
The Nikola is among the cleanest vehicles on the road combining electric motors and hydrogen fuel cells in place of the traditional fossil fuels, the trucks are more efficient, faster and easier to control while greatly reducing the negative impact the trucking industry has on the environment. While the Nikola Tre is still in its initial stages with European tests planned for Norway in 2020, the company owners plan to make the Nikola Tre available in Europe, Asia and Australia complete with a truck spare parts distribution network once the truck is ready for market deployment.