Too good to be true?
Turbine-electric truck that uses almost no fuel
FROM the U.S. comes a tale that sounds a lot like South Africa’s electric car, the Joule.
Much was promised and many engineers worked very hard to create a car they are still proud of, but at the end, only one working model was built and the project revealed itself as a cynical exercise in rerouting millions of rand in subsidies. As a result, government remains wary of anything to do with electric cars.
Now Nikola Motor Company promises to assemble a turbine-electric truck that uses almost no fuel while putting out more power in the next “three to four years”. The truck, which to date exists only as a screen saver, will cost $375 000 (R5,9 million), and can be leased or bought, but both options require a $1 500 deposit.
All this come with the typical hard-sell claim: “Due to high demand, the quicker you place a deposit, the faster you can get your Nikola One.”
Nikola Motor Company even promises free fuel for the first million miles to the first 5 000 orders,
It is at this point where the Wheels detector for digested matter from the male bovine’s rumen starts to make alarmed noises, but in all fairness, we will let you peruse the claims below to decide for yourself how this wonderful truck stacks up to reality.
After all, China last month showed a supercar using the same turbine-charging system — which incidentally makes the same claimed power as the Nikola trucks — so there is a chance it can happen.
Latest software like a Tesla car
Nikola’s custom electric motors operate at 95% efficiency; so when it comes to hills they are quicker going up, and they save money going down. While other trucks are losing energy and riding their brakes, Nikola One is capturing energy, recharging batteries — saving brakes, noise and money.
Nikola vehicles regularly receive over-the-air software updates that add new features and functionality. When an update is available, you’ll be notified on the centre display with an option to install immediately, or schedule the installation for a later time. The average software update takes one to two hours to complete.
The Nikola truck’s turbine outputs nearly 400 kilowatts (kW) of clean energy straight to the batteries, keeping them charged — a powerhouse unlike any the world has seen before. This proprietary turbine has the ability to turn on and off within seconds — another first in the transportation industry. The turbine is also fuel agnostic, allowing customers to order it in multiple versions: diesel, gasoline or clean burning natural gas.
The turbine charges the battery bank, the batteries are also constantly receiving power through rotational energy via Nikola’s regenerative braking technology. With Nikola Motor, drivers receive the most efficient vehicle power system in the world.
The turbine is fuelled by 570 litres of natural gas on board to spin. Because the turbine uses so little fuel, this tank has a range of just under 2 000 kilometres without stopping to fill up.
Nikola trucks take refill on natural gas from any CNG station, or can fill at one of the over 50 planned Nikola CNG stations.
Big cabin packed with luxury
After asking drivers what they wanted most in a new truck, a larger cabin was one of the most sought after features on the list. By removing the diesel engine, redesigning the cab and moving the driver forward, Nikola has added nearly 30% more cabin space for optimal comfort and has a 15-inch touchscreen that controls most of the vehicle’s functions. The touchscreen displays and controls a variety of vehicle dynamics including battery levels, range, wheel torque, cabin controls, navigation and vehicle data — a first for heavy duty trucking.
The driver hops aboard via a sliding mid-entry door and is treated to a rather cushy sleeper spread inside, complete with dual beds, a full-size fridge/ freezer, a microwave, a 42-inch television and 4G LTE Internet with WiFi.
Torque vectoring wheels
Torque vectoring is one of the most advanced features for heavy duty trucking. It allows control of each wheel independently through drive-by-wire.
By communicating with the motors up to 30 times a second, the speed of each wheel can be adjusted while cornering, maneuvering, accelerating and braking — making it safer for drivers.
While diesel engines require high RPMs to reach peak torque, Nikola’s electric motors hit peak torque almost instantly.
Instant torque combined with all-wheel drive give Nikola One the ability to accelerate nearly two times faster than a stock diesel truck.
When pulling at max capacity, every pound counts.
With around 900 kg of weight savings on the chassis, owners can throw more goods on each load. Every few kilograms after max load may be worth as much as $50. By saving up to 900 kg, owners could earn approximately $1 000 in extra revenue from every load, every day. Owners that run at full load could see up to $30 000 or more each month in revenue straight to the bottom line.
Many promises are being made about this futuristic truck but its makers require a $1 500 (around R24 000) deposit to (perhaps) back their claims in three to four years.