The start-up Nikola Motors is cooperating with Bosch in the development of fuel cell modules for trucks. The market launch in Europe is planned for 2024.
The American start-up Nikola Corporation has a lot of new things to announce at the IAA Transportation, which is open until September 25th. In addition to the EU version of the Tre BEV battery-electric model, the company, which has its headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, is also showing a beta version of the Tre FCEV fuel cell offshoot. This European model variant is scheduled to be launched in the first half of 2024. With the US version, it should be about half a year earlier.
The beta version of the three-axle Nikola Tre FCEV Artic 6x2 has a steering trailing axle and a new driver's cab with improved aerodynamics. With a wheelbase of 3,932 millimeters, it holds around 70 usable kilograms of hydrogen, which it stores at a pressure of 700 bar in three cylindrical tanks located behind the sleeping cabin. This capacity, combined with a refueling time of less than 20 minutes, enables a range of up to 800 kilometers.
Fuel cell instead of diesel engine
The fuel cell itself is located between the front wheels, where the diesel engine is otherwise located. A battery pack with a capacity of 164 kilowatt hours is located in front of the two rear axles – as a sort of buffer storage. Nikola is developing the modular overall package together with the supplier Bosch.
The three-axle tractor has an electronically controlled air suspension and an unladen weight of 11.8 tons; the permissible total weight is up to 44 tons. The engine of the fuel cell truck is the same as that of the battery counterpart: the electric motor installed on the middle axle has an output of 480 kW (653 hp) and – measured at the wheel – delivers a maximum torque of 45,180 Newton meters.
Extensive safety package
The safety systems of the Nikola Tre FCEV are largely the same as those of the BEV variant. On board are among other things an automatic emergency brake assistant, a lane departure warning, a stability control and a monitoring system for the tire pressures. There is also a drowsiness and high-beam assistant for the LED headlights, traffic sign recognition and a predictive energy management system. On top of that, everything is prepared for the installation of a breath alcohol testing system and the truck should be particularly well protected against cyber attacks.
The Nikola Tre FCEV generates software updates over-the-air. A 17-inch touchscreen inclined towards the driver's seat serves as the infotainment interface. The instruments are displayed on a 12.4-inch screen. As with the Tre BEV, Nikola offers an aerodynamics package for the fuel cell variant with an extended driver's cabin and sleeping area as well as side skirts.
Nikola is not only launching the electric truck Tre in a version in which battery modules serve as energy storage devices, but also in a fuel cell variant. The latter offers the advantage of greater range and significantly shorter refueling times. However, it will not be launched in Europe until 2024.