The Long Road to the Future: Long Range Fuel Cells by 2020

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There’s nothing more frustrating when you’re on the road doing delivery work and clocking up a good time than having to stop for fuel. So just imagine a massive class 8 truck that only needed to refuel every 1,200 miles.

Well, thanks to innovative US truck company Nikola, you may not have to imagine for too much longer. The company recently unveiled Nikola One, a semi-trailer truck driven by a fully electric drivetrain powered by lithium batteries and charged by a hydrogen fuel cell. According to Nikola’s founder and CEO, Trevor Milton, this will mean that it can go for between 800 and 1,200 miles between fuel stops.

Nikola, named after the Serbian-American scientist Nikola Tesla after whom the car company was also named, plans to have its electric giants on the roads of the US by 2020. But while this may be an American innovation, industry analysts believe that where Nikola leads other truck manufacturers across the world will follow. That’s because not only are the hydrogen fuel cells more fuel efficient, but they will also free freight companies from the fluctuation of fossil fuel prices which impacts so heavily on delivery work.

How Does Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology Work?

While hybrid vehicles still rely on combustion to work pistons that then power an electric generator, a fuel-cell vehicle generates electricity directly by combining compressed hydrogen gas (the vehicle’s fuel) with oxygen from the air.

Because of the lack of pollutants created in the process – the only waste products are water and nitrogen from the air – it is a much greener option than even a hybrid vehicle.

The Specifications

But while we all want to save the planet, the really crucial details in terms of delivery work is how efficient and how powerful these hydrogen fuel cell semi/articulated trucks will be.

According to Nikola, its Nikola One is a Class 8, heavy-duty truck with a powertrain which will produce 1,000 horsepower and generate 2,000 pound-feet of torque. The company claims that the Nikola One could carry a full load of 65,000 pounds up to 1,200 miles without needing to refuel. In fact, its fuel efficiency is designed to exceed all Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas mandates for the next ten years.

And if all that isn’t enough to convince you, you might want to check out the cabin’s panoramic views, unobstructed mid-cab entry and smart dashboard with 21-inch screen. The on-board system will not only be able to show lists of delivery work uploaded by freight exchanges but will also calculate the most efficient route considering all data including weather, traffic and distance.

Oh and it has two full-sized beds, a fridge, freezer and microwave in the cab as well as a 4K TV with Apple TV, WiFi and 4G LTE connectivity.

The Future

Not to be outdone, Elon Musk of Tesla has also announced plans to produce an articulated truck from which you can expect a similar, stunning list of specifications. So while no one can know the future of delivery work for sure, it looks like it’s going to be electric.

About author: Desiree Michels

Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching delivery work with available drivers. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.



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