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New partners Nikola Motor and IVECO target Europe with alternative propulsion truck

Caption: The Nikola TRE 4×2 tractor; Image: Iveco

IVECO’s partnership with U.S.-based Nikola Motor might only have been announced in September but it has already yielded its first truck launch.

The first units of the Nikola TRE, based on the S-WAY truck design launched by IVECO in July, will be delivered to customers in its battery electric vehicle (BEV) format in 2021.

“The Nikola TRE is the first step on the path toward the Nikola fuel cell electric model (FCEV), which will be available to customers by 2023,” said the companies in a launch this morning (Dec. 3) in Turin, Italy.

“This truck will be offered in both variations,” said Trevor Milton, CEO and founder of Nikola Motor. “We will tell a customer truly what’s best for them – we don’t care which way you go.”

Nikola’s fuel cell will be the starting point for the design of the electric battery, so that the Nikola TRE BEC can be converted to fuel-cell technology. “With this approach, the partners are taking the long view, bringing both technologies on stream now to pursue BEV and FCEV in their offering in the next few years,” said a statement.

Earlier this year the two companies announced their intention to enter into an exclusive strategic partnership to develop emissions-neutral Class 8 heavy-duty trucks through the deployment of fuel cell technology for the North American and European markets. Under the deal’s terms, CNH Industrial, the parent group of IVECO, took a $250 million stake in Nicola.

Mark Russel, president, Nikola Motor, said the problem with many new alternative propulsion trucking solutions was that the fuel and vehicle were often not available simultaneously. By contrast, Nikola will take a “chicken AND egg” approach, rolling out hydrogen stations as trucks are sold.

The management of the companies believe that total coverage of Europe with hydrogen stations will only require around 70 installations, around a tenth of the estimated number required to adequately cover North America.

Subject to support from European Union legislators, hydrogen stations will be rolled out on key trucking routes from the center of Europe outward from 2022, with periphery countries such as the Iberian Peninsula, the U.K. and Scandinavia expected to be linked by 2026. Stations in eastern Europe will then be added from 2030.

The Nikola TRE 4×2 tractor unveiled this morning (pictured above) has a range of up to 400 kilometers and “dynamic performance equal or better than a diesel equivalent model,” claimed the companies.

The Nikola TRE will also be available in 2- and 3-axle rigid versions and will feature a modular battery system with a total capacity of up to 720 kilowatt-hours.

“The IVECO S-WAY is a stand-out product, which embodies IVECO’s concept of customer-centricity and has already gained momentum in the markets with well-deserved success,” said Gerrit Marx, President Commercial and Specialty Vehicles at IVECO.

“It is the bones of the Nikola TRE and marks the beginning of a new journey toward zero-emissions trucking, providing the platform for us to introduce disruptive features that will change the transport industry,” Marx concluded.