Who would have imagined Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-American scientist famous for his contributions to alternating current electric supply, would have two companies named after him in the twenty first century? While Tesla has done everything right so far in challenging traditions, shaking the established car-makers out of their slumber and earning the respect, Nikola, cheekily named to possibly take advantage of Tesla's popularity, aims to do the same in trucks.
When Nikola announced the arrival on the big scene with renderings of it's One semi-truck earlier this year, they obviously made headlines everywhere. But we would be lying if we said we took them seriously. Blame it on the one too many promising proposals and renderings we had seen that never made it to reality. Squashing such thoughts however, Nikola unveiled it's 'One' zero-emission semi truck at an event held at Salt Lake City, Utah, United States of America.
With its sleek cab and flush wrap-around windshield split by thin A-pillars, the One looks quite chic and stylish for a semi truck. The cabin, from what we infer from the sole rendering available, is futuristic with a large touch screen-enabled dashboard and a smart instrument cluster. As its enormous size indicates, the cabin also has provisions for one or two beds for the driver and the co-driver to take turns for a nap, Wi-Fi and 4G LTE connectivity, a 40-inch curved TV, refrigerator, freezer and microwave. That's a living room there, literally. But the Nikola One is not about stylish looks or a fully-equipped cabin. It is all about what's underneath.
The Nikola One has a fully electric drivetrain that's powered by a high-density 320 kWh lithium battery pack. Unlike a Tesla car that needs us to plug onto a socket for charging the batteries, Nikola One uses hydrogen fuel cells onboard to charge on-the-go. Nicola claims 1000 horsepower, 2000 pound-feet of torque, a 800 to 1200 mile range and fuel-efficiency equivalent to 15.4 miles per gallon for the One, almost twice as much as any other semi-truck on sale right now. Improved performance, increased fuel efficiency, usable range and zero emissions sure sounds a potentially lethal combination for rivals.
The biggest dampener for alternate fuel vehicles in general and hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles in particular is the lack of infrastructure to recharge or, in hydrogen fuel cell's case, refill. Nikola is aware of that and has plans to build a network of 350 plus Nikola stations spread across the United States and Canada. To make things better, Nikola One's purchase or lease agreement also gets 1 million miles worth of free hydrogen along with warranty and scheduled maintenance for 6 years.
Nikola is still scouting for a location to build a manufacturing facility and has set itself a deadline to finalize on one in the first half of 2017. 2018 will see Nikola start building its hydrogen fueling stations, in time for a slated market launch of the One in 2020.
Nikola claims pre-orders for the One totaling nearly three billion dollars, not a bad start at all considering the brand was pretty much unheard of until a few months ago and traditional rivals include biggies like Daimler, Volvo and Freightliner.
If you are still in doubt over the Nikola One, we have something for you. "This truck will come to market. I promise you that" were, apparently, the closing comments by Nikola founder and CEO Trevor Milton at the big unveiling ceremony. We are looking forward to it, Trevor!