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Nikola teases a third-generation hydrogen semi truck for Europe and Asia

Nikola teases a third-generation hydrogen semi truck for Europe and Asia


Coming in 2023

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Photo: Nikola Motor Company

American trucking startup Nikola Motor Company hasn’t been around for very long, but it just announced a third version of its hydrogen-electric semi geared at the European, Asian, and Australian markets. Dubbed the Nikola Tre, the new truck has a much different look from its two North American predecessors, but still promises to deliver similar specs.

The Tre will use a hydrogen fuel cell to power electric motors that generate up to 1,000 horsepower, and it also offers torque vectoring. It will be able to travel between 500 and 1,200 kilometers on a single tank (about 310 to 750 miles) depending on how it’s configured, and can be refueled from empty in about 20 minutes. The truck will also be fitted with sensors that will enable full autonomy, the company says.

The Tre looks completely different from the Nikola One and Two, which have a more slicked-back aerodynamic style. That might not just be an aesthetic choice, or careful regional marketing, either. The startup sued Tesla earlier this year, alleging that the California automaker’s own electric semi violated Nikola’s patents. The case has gone back and forth, with Tesla repeatedly calling for a dismissal. Whatever the outcome, giving the new truck some distance from the spat probably can’t hurt.

Both Tesla and Nikola have capitalized on the desire for cleaner long-haul transportation with their varying approaches to electric trucks. PepsiCo, Walmart, and Anheuser-Busch, have all made reservations for Tesla’s electric big rig, which requires a $20,000 deposit for each preorder. Nikola, meanwhile, announced earlier this year that Anheuser-Busch has preordered up to a whopping 800 of its hydrogen trucks — though Nikola requires a much smaller deposit, and the company said Monday that it’s refunded nearly all of them. “You cannot be environmentally sustainable without being financially sustainable,” the company wrote, in an apparent shot at Tesla.

The Tre will enter testing in 2020, according to Nikola, with production slated for 2023. That should help give the startup enough time to find a way to build out a network of hydrogen filling stations, which is a crucial — and currently rare — component to making the technology work. More details about the truck will be shared in April 2019.