Opening address by Trevor Milton, CEO, Nikola Motor Co.
“My history at Nikola and how the Nikola truck was inspired by trains began at home. My father grew up managing the railroads in Las Vegas and I was lucky enough to be able to drive locomotives when I was a child. My dream has always been to build a locomotive semi-truck. That dream has come true and what an incredible night it is tonight to be able to show you this.
The dream I had to build the truck, was not just a dream to build a truck that would work, it needed to be a truck that would beat the diesel in every category. The world would not settle for a truck that could not out perform a diesel in every category. The world would not settle for a truck that would not disrupt the entire industry. We did not want to be an ‘also’ ran and what that means is just another brand with no image or name. Nikola is definitely not just another brand – it has an image, it has a name.
A few months back in April of this year, we showed off the Nikola trade in Nikola World (in Phoenix, Arizona) that was a vision to what the truck could look like, what the truck could actually do. What’s really incredible is when we found the partnership with Iveco it truly is an incredible marriage, three months ago we finalised the paperwork with Iveco and in three months our teams without sleeping, have pulled this off. Most OEMs around the world would take three years to put a programme like this together. Our teams, by being able to take the Iveco S-WAY Chassis, completely revamping everything around the outside and the inside, to make it pure Nikola. We had unrestricted access from Iveco to do whatever we wanted with this which was incredible.
We now are production wise ready to go with the same chassis that’s built with the S-WAY, supplier basis that are already established, service and warranty that’s already there. If you can think about what we’ve done in three months, just imagine what we can do in the next three years. Nikola is the only OEM that I know of around the world that truly offers a full fuel cell and battery electric heavy-duty semi-truck. I knew going into this that a semi-truck would not work unless it could out perform a diesel or equally perform in many other categories. So what’s really special about this truck is while a lot of other OEMs are building a lot of small battery electric trucks, or very limited range hydrogen trucks, Nikola (we) are actually doing it. This truck has around 750 kW/h of lithium battery in it, that will allow it to go over 300 miles on charge. It will also have between 60 and 80 kgs of a hydrogen version that will allow it to surpass the battery range by quite a bit.
They’re two different markets completely. The idea of this truck is that you have a market that uses distribution, where cost to move freight is lower, with electrification on batteries there may be other market where you need fast turnaround, you need long range, you need a lighter truck, you need a truck that can quickly turn in 15 minutes and go, you need a truck that can work in negative 30 degrees Celsius, you need a truck that’s unrestricted around the globe, that is what the hydrogen brings to this. This truck will be offered in both variations. The reason for this is because it will tell a customer truly what’s best for them. We don’t care which way you go. Hydrogen truly is the fuel of the future. Both the drivetrains between the electric and the hydrogen trucks share the same platform. There is almost no difference. The battery allows us to refine that platform very well. It allows us to bring the fuel cell in right after that to make sure that that platform is ready for it.
What Iveco brought us was a saving over four years of testing and testing a validation in over a half billion dollars of savings. I’ve been asked quite a few times what mistakes by competition is making and I think single handedly the advantage that Nikola has is ability to see their weakness. We know what we’re good at and we know what we’re not good at. We needed a partner, we needed an OEM that globally would have the ability to help us manufacture these trucks, with an abundance of engineers on their staff. We did not want to duplicate that, I could not wait seven years to solve the emission crisis that we face night now. We decided to partner with Iveco. So rather than laying off tens of thousands of employees like a lot of the other trucking manufacturers are doing, we are going to be hiring many of those employees. This world is transforming, either you’ll get behind it, you’ll create jobs, you’ll solve emissions, you’ll solve complex social problems, or you’ll hide behind your desk and lay off employees. We’ve chosen to take the higher road, we’ve chosen to take the road where we will build the most adapt semi-truck this world has ever seen, and we’ll build it for Europe, we’ll build it for the United States, and I think that’s what’s so special about tonight, this truck is not just a static display, this is one step prior to where we go in road trials and production. So what does that mean? We’re bringing in the fleets, the customers, the end customers, to give us their final feedback on this truck. This truck was built with a platform many people thought about a skateboard platform, this is more of a versatile platform that means it can accept either the electric or the fuel cell, and it’s almost identical. It was built for both. It took a lot of engineering to be able to do that. That way didn’t have to disrupt the entire supply chain, redo the chassis, redo the configuration, redo the engineering behind it. We can take either one that we want to do and this is the last step before that process of going into road trials and production with customers. Once we have that final feedback, the drivetrain will be installed, which ever one i.e. fuel cell or the battery/electric and it will be tested on the roads sometime around second/third quarter of next year.
So what does that mean? That means the battery/electric version will be ready for production in 2021 and the fuel cell will be following shortly after. The fuel cell really is an incredible project because it’s not just solving the zero emissions on the tail pipe. What’s really amazing about Nikola’s business model is that it solves the zero emission in the entire supply chain. When we pump hydrogen into our truck we can guarantee that that hydrogen in almost all locations around the world will be zero emission from production to consumption. When you pull energy out of the grid you can’t always guarantee that. This is what I love about hydrogen, therein so much clean energy around the world, the wind, the solar, the hydro, there’s thousands of megawatt hours sitting there, being wasted. People are not able to use it, they ether bleed it off, they give it away, they don’t use it. And what’s great about hydrogen, you can place this hydrogen station inside of a city, and you’ll gain a station that will have the ability to buffer the grid up to 20/40/60 megawatts. So if you look at this truck, the hydrogen tanks will be integrated right here below the frame route along with the batteries. It lowers the centre of gravity, there are no tanks behind the cab, it’s the first of its kind anywhere in the world. We have 60kgs of hydrogen on this very short wheelbase. There is no OEM in the world that has that ability to that. We have no tanks behind the cab. That is brilliant engineering, helped by Iveco and Nikola.
This truck exterior and interior is very close to what we will go into production with. We will get the feedback from all tweaks, but it is fairly functioning here. You can open the doors inside – all the screens are there – all the displays that have the most advanced infotainment systems you’ve ever seen. 21 inch monitor managing all your routes, your freight, even your income as a driver. The ability of navigation, instrument clusters, automatic braking, lane control, ultimately built and designed for level 4/level 5 (autonomous driving). Although we don’t that ourselves, we’ll work with suppliers on the autonomy. The truck was built that way from the ground up, it has redundant powering steering, redundant braking, torque vectoring. Why is that important? If you have power steering go out, you can begin to torque control the truck to move it around until you can get it off the highway. You cannot do that with a single axle gearbox. One brilliant thing that Nikola has done is to combine dual motors for each axle so that means you have one motor pertaining to every wheel. That allows you to not only have redundant steering but also redundant braking. If you’re having air failure the truck could actually stop itself on a decline. This would not be possible without Iveco. It would not be possible without the Nikola team.
This is not the truck we unveiled at Nikola World, this is fifteen steps passed that. That means we are going to be delivering a battery/electric truck a fuel/electric truck years ahead of the schedule that everyone thought. 2021 you’ll have the ability to take delivery of the Nicola trucks, we have some incredible customers here that have placed orders and shortly thereafter you will have the ability of taking delivery of the hydrogen trucks. We are building up a hydrogen station globally. In America we’ve already got the largest hydrogen station in the western hemisphere in our headquarters in Phoenix. Bringing over 1,000 kgs a day on site, we’re planning to expand it up to essentially 8 tonnes which is essentially which is about 8,000 kgs a day – that will be done on site, the station is already up and operational for pumping night now. But here in Europe it’s the same thing, we had to get that station dialed in, people have asked ‘Hey Trevor, why are the stations now everywhere? What we’ve done is we’ve taken these stations designs and we’ve miniaturised them into an engineering set up where you could just stack them, you can put them essentially a couple of megawatts at a time, however big you want, you can go 8 megawatts/16 megawatts and it was important to do that because it’s all about mass skill. The idea is if you can build thousands of these same systems and just stack them together, you can drive that price down by 60/70/80%. We’ve been working very hard with NEL (the Norwegian systems provider) on the ability to fine tune this hydrogen station. We’ve been working on thermo controls, pumping controls, the ability to fill in 15 minutes. No one in the world has ever been able to do 60 kgs in 15 minutes on a vehicle. That’s nearly 5, 6 times faster than you would see on an automotive car application. The amount of work that has gone into this – the team has never stopped. A lot of people have asked about the hydrogen network. You have to have it perfect before you pull that trigger, and we’re right there now. Through years and years of development on the truck, the drivetrain, the technology and the hydrogen station, Nikola truly is the whole eco system.
One of my all time stories in life is the story of Amazon and Netflix. When Netflix was around in their initial phases and stages they had been working and approached by and talking to Blockbuster. In America, Blockbuster was like the number one movie/DVD rental place. And the executives laughed them out of the room, thought that they were a joke. When Amazon came to the world, many of the largest brands in the world laughed them out of the room including Sears, thought that there was no way, we are the most powerful of this infrastructure. Sounds familiar, sounds like the big OEMs – we’re the most powerful we have all this infrastructure, Nikola is not a threat. This is their moment, this is their Netflix moment, and that Amazon moment. Why is that incredible? Because now Sears and also Blockbuster are no longer existing – pretty much! This is their moment and what I love about Iveco is they decided that they did not want that moment to be disrupted. They did not want to be disrupted – they wanted to be the disrupters.
Nikko is coming into Europe like a freight train, that’s what’s so special to me about this, we say that in America, a force so powerful, unstoppable, so heavy that you cannot stop it. Nikko is coming into this market, into Europe like a freight train. I don’t care what other OEMs say, we’ll prove them wrong, we’ve already done it. We’re here to help the legislators, you can man these zero emissions, it’s ready now don’t let them lie to you. We’re ready to go on this, there’s no more waiting, it’s finally time for us to replace these vehicles on the road.
What we’ve done is we’ve created a brand that drivers are going to be completely proud of and excited and lined up to drive. Around the world you’ll see drivers wait in line to be able to drive these trucks. Leaving companies that are driving diesels to drive our trucks. Driver turnover rates will be lower. But most importantly the pride of owning this truck is going to be the greatest achievement that Nikola and Iveco have ever done together. I could not be more proud to show you the Nikola TRE for Europe. I could not be more proud to be here in an old train station (in Turin) that perfectly describes my childhood since I was six years old and perfectly describes the innovation that the world can do.
Make no mistake a child’s dream can change the entire world.”