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Emission-Free Trucks Will Lower Driver Turnover Rates, Claims Nikola CEO

FreightWaves

The new range of electric and hydrogen trucks produced by IVECO and Arizona-based Nikola Motor Company will be game changers for truck drivers and operators, according to Trevor Milton, Nikola's CEO and Founder.

Speaking during the launch of the Nikola TRE, a zero-emission heavy-duty truck aimed at the European market and powered by Nikola's proprietary hydrogen fuel cell and battery technology, Milton said Nikola's technological prowess combined with IVECO's manufacturing might was "unstoppable" and would transform European trucking.

"Nikola is coming into this market, into Europe, like a freight train," he said.

"We've created a brand that drivers are going to be completely proud of and lining up to drive. Around the world you'll see drivers waiting in line to drive these trucks, leaving companies [using] diesels to drive these trucks.

"Driver turnover rates will be lowered. But most importantly, the pride of owning this truck is going to be the greatest achievement of Nikola and IVECO. We'll be sold out for many years."

The Nikola TRE, which is based on the S-WAY truck design launched by IVECO in July, is the first fruit of Nikola's joint venture agreement with IVECO. The agreement, signed in September, saw the latter's parent company, CNH Industrial, take a $250 million stake in Nikola.

"Three months ago we finalized the paperwork with IVECO and in three months our teams – without sleeping – have pulled this [the Nikola TRE launch] off," said Milton.

"Most OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] around the world would take three years to put a program like this together. Our teams were able to take the IVECO S-WAY chassis and completely revamp everything outside and inside to make it purely Nikola."

The interior of the Nikola TRE

Milton added, "We had unrestricted access from IVECO to do whatever we wanted with this which was incredible. We now have production lines ready to go that are built with the same chassis and supplier bases."

The deal with IVECO gives Nikola, which was already building the zero-emission Nikola One and Nikola Two trucks for the U.S. market, access to IVECO's global manufacturing and sales structure, helping it accelerate efforts to disrupt trucking by replacing fleets of diesel trucks with units powered by zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric technology.

"We needed a partner," admitted Milton. "We needed a global OEM that had the ability to help us manufacture these trucks, has the assembly lines figured out, has tens of thousands of engineers on staff.  

"We did not want to duplicate that. I could not wait seven years to solve the emission crisis that we face right now. So we decided to partner with IVECO."

He continued, "Rather than laying off tens of thousands of employees we are going to be hiring. This world is transforming – either you get behind it and create jobs, solve emissions and solve complex social problems or you hide behind your desk and lay off employees. 

"We have chosen to take the higher road, the road where we will build the most advanced truck the world has ever seen and we will build it for Europe. And we will build it for the U.S."

The first units of the Nikola TRE will be delivered to European customers in its battery electric vehicle (BEV) format in 2021 with a fuel cell electric model (FCEV) scheduled for 2023.

"This truck will be offered in both variations," said Milton. "We will tell a customer truly what's best for them – we don't care which way you go."

IVECO and Nikola expect demand for zero-emission trucks to be aided by European Union (EU) legislation aimed at cutting carbon emissions. The launch of the Nikola TRE will also help IVECO meet the terms of new EU rules, which state that manufacturers must cut carbon dioxide emissions from new trucks on average by 15% from 2025 and by 30% from 2030, compared with 2019 levels.

"We're here to help the legislators," said Milton.

"You can mandate zero emissions, it's ready now, don't let them lie to you. We're ready to go on this. It's time to replace these vehicles on the road."

Mark Russel, Nikola Motor Company president, 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 one-tenth of the estimated number required to adequately cover North America.

Subject to support from EU 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.

More FreightWaves and American Shipper articles by Mike

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