Automotive

2,000-hp Nikola semi changes course to hydrogen power

2,000-hp Nikola semi changes c...
The Nikola Semi has changed powertrain: it'll now draw on a hydrogen fuel-cell
The Nikola Semi has changed powertrain: it'll now draw on a hydrogen fuel-cell
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The Nikola Semi has changed powertrain: it'll now draw on a hydrogen fuel-cell
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The Nikola Semi has changed powertrain: it'll now draw on a hydrogen fuel-cell
The cabin of the Nikola Semi is noticeably higher tech than the average big rig
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The cabin of the Nikola Semi is noticeably higher tech than the average big rig
The Nikola's cabin is aerodynamically optimized for ideal range 
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The Nikola's cabin is aerodynamically optimized for ideal range 
The Nikola Semi has changed powertrain: it'll now draw on a hydrogen fuel-cell
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The Nikola Semi has changed powertrain: it'll now draw on a hydrogen fuel-cell

Earlier this year, Nikola Motor Company outlined its optimistic plans to bring a hybrid electric semi to market. It promised 2,000 all-electric horsepower, and an impressive range from a 320 kWh battery and proprietary range-extending turbine, but the lack of detail suggested this spec wasn't exactly set in stone. Today, the details changed dramatically, with the switch from range-extended electric power to a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain.

The new powertrain, which will slot into American and Canadian trucks, is a custom 800 V hydrogen-electric fuel cell. Just like the first range-extender promised earlier this year, Nikola says the hydrogen setup will offer more than 1,200 miles (1,931 km) of range thanks to hydrogen consumption figures of 20 mpg (11.7 l/100 km).

Although it's clean, and allows us to maintain existing fuelling patterns, there are a few issues with hydrogen power. The most notable – especially for truckers, who are expected to traverse the widest reaches of North America – is a lack of infrastructure. There are fuel-filling stations on every street corner, and electric vehicles can be topped up on any wall plug given the time and space.

Hydrogen stations are seriously hard to find, and building them isn't particularly simple. Tanks need to be pressurized, and the filler nozzles all need their own special locking valves too. Then, of course, there's also the small matter of sourcing the fuel itself.

To circumvent these issues, Nikola plans to take the hydrogen fueling process into its own hands, producing hydrogen through its own zero-emission solar farms. The company says each farm will produce more than 100 megawatts of energy, and use electrolysis to produce hydrogen from water.

The cabin of the Nikola Semi is noticeably higher tech than the average big rig
The cabin of the Nikola Semi is noticeably higher tech than the average big rig

"The desire to be 100% emission free in the U.S. and Canada is a critical piece of our long-termengineering and environmental efforts, not just in vehicle energy consumption, but also in howenergy is produced," said Trevor Milton, CEO, Nikola Motor Company.

"Nikola plans to have a nationwide network of over 50 hydrogen stations for customers tobegin fueling by 2020. This will make Nikola Motor Company the first company in the world tobe 100% emission-free from energy production to transportation to consumption. Say goodbyeto the days of dirty diesels and after treatment in the heavy duty class 8 market."

As you might imagine, all of this is just on paper at the moment, so we're taking these claims with a hefty grain of salt until we see something concrete.

Nikola says the gas-turbine range extender powertrain will still be offered in countries where hydrogen isn't readily available. The truck will be fully revealed on December 1 this year. Stay tuned.

Source: Nikola

7 comments
Pablo Mora
who is giving this guy money!!!!??? It's the clearer scam i've seen in years
Joe Blough
The big bear in fuel cells used to be (and may still be) the fact that very tiny amounts of impurities poisoned the cells and they stopped producing power. If this situation has changed and fuel cells (particularly hydrogen cells) are now immune to impurities, then this is a potential game changer because then regular natural gas (and other hydrocarbons) can be processed into hydrogen and the fuel distribution problem is largely solved.
VincentWolf
Kurdo's. The environment needs this more than ever. 2000 HP is nothing to laugh at ICE lovers cry me a river.
EcoLogical
Nikola is using liquified hydrogen and cryogenic storage in (non-pressurized) insulated containers. Also, I realize this is picky but, 100 megaWatts refers to the 'power' capacity (not 'energy' capacity) of the proposed solar farms. The 'energy' capacity of the batteries is 0.320 megaWatt-hour (320 kWh) and the cryogenic hydrogen containers is 100 kg (220 lb).
Gary Duff
It looks like this company hasn't done their research into the fallibility of using hydrogen as a fuel source for vehicles. Elon Musk explained it very clearly a while ago. Creating hydrogen for use in a fuel cell to create electricity rather than just charging a battery for direct use is so inefficient as to doom any venture that attempts to use this method almost right of the bat. Not to mention many other concerning hydrogen related disadvantages, such as it's pernicious and explosive nature. Time will tell but I guarantee you that this will not work. I liked their previous idea much more, what changed?
ElaisaKasan
You do not need to refuel hydrogen tanks. Do what Stanley Meyer showed us 20 years ago. His patents are expired, so anyone can use the technology he developed. Using this technology, hydrogen generators can supply 30 times more energy in the form of hydrogen, than the purchased energy required to produce the hydrogen. Law of conservation is not violated, since there is a source of energy (the quantum vacuum) for which we do not have to make payment. For more details, research Tom Bearden, and Stanley Meyer.
DaleBarclay
Lockheed Skunk works worked with Hydrogen for a couple of years. wanted to use it to power airplanes like the SR-71. Liquid Hydrogen is really quite safe. Forget the fuel cell and burn it in a combustion engine. Use a metallic compound inside a pressurized tank to have the metal compound absorb the hydrogen gas. Use the exhaust to heat the tank in order to release the gas from the metal. Work good for any firm whose vehicles returned home every time after a trip.