As Nikola Motor continues to develop its hydrogen-electric Class 8 tractor, the company continues to evolve its design. The latest is the introduction of an eAxle developed by Bosch.
The eAxle “is a scalable, modular platform with the motor, power electronics and transmission in one compact unit,” the companies said in a release. Available for vehicles of all types, from small passenger cars to light trucks, the eAxle will allow Bosch and Nikola to fully integrate the overall powertrain system.
“We have been aggressively pursuing our goal of bringing the most advanced semi-truck ever built to market,” said Nikola Founder and CEO Trevor Milton. “The powertrain requires an innovative and flexible partner able to adapt quickly to the speed of our team. Bosch has empowered us to come to market quickly with automotive-grade hardware and software so our vision can become a reality.
The eAxle uses commercial vehicle electric machine technology and SMG (separate motor generator) motors from Bosch. It will be paired with Nikola’s custom-designed fuel cell system – which is being jointly developed by Nikola and Bosch, along with the overall vehicle controls that are based upon Bosch’s vehicle control software and hardware.
“Bosch is an incubator of electromobility solutions. No matter whether at established OEMs or start-ups, Bosch is accelerating development and helps achieve fast breakthroughs on the market,” said Dr. Markus Heyn, member of the Bosch board of management responsible for the Commercial Vehicle Organization.
Nikola, which has already announced U.S. Xpress as one of the fleets that will test the Nikola One sleeper cab, said the truck will offer more than 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 ft. lbs. of torque with zero emissions. A day cab version, the Nikola Two, will also be available. Both models should be ready for production by 2021.
Because hydrogen fuels the electric motor, which really powers the truck, this is a 100% emissions-free vehicle that does not need to be plugged in or suffer from any of the range limitations that electric vehicles currently have. With its electric drive/hydrogen power combination, the tractor will have an effective range of 800 to 1,200 mi. before a hydrogen fill-up will be needed. It will take 15 minutes to refill the hydrogen tank.
According to Nikola Motor, the cost to operate the Nikola One will be about half that compared to a comparative diesel-powered tractor.
The electric engine is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and produces 2,000 lbs.-ft. of torque and 1,000 hp. with a 320 kWh battery. Regenerative braking is used to supply power. Zero to 60 acceleration under load is said to be 30 seconds as compared to 60 seconds for a diesel unit.
The battery storage system features 32,000 individual lithium-ion cells welded together for the battery pack – three times the size of a Tesla Model S P90D. MPG will be about double that of a diesel model, ranging from 13 to 15 mpg depending on specific operating conditions. With a 2,000 lbs. estimated weight saving (18,000 to 21,000 lbs. vs. 19,000 to 23,000 lbs. for a diesel unit), Nikola says that vehicles could potentially haul additional weight leading to up to $1,000 extra revenue per load.