When it comes to electromobility, the public usually only has passenger cars in mind. Experts however agree that the commercial vehicle sector is particularly suitable for electrification. This applies in particular to those market segments where electric trucks operate on short distances and have a well-planned daily schedule; examples for such application scenarios are short-haul distribution, supermarket deliveries or parcel delivery. Some movement in the market can already be observed here. For example, Mitsubishi FUSO recently started series production of its Canter light truck, while Deutsche Post DHL, as a market outsider, operates a production facility for electric delivery vehicles. A year ago, Daimler also unveiled a short-distance electric-powered truck that could go into series production at relatively short notice.
On the other hand, radio silence prevails to a large extent in long-distance trucks. With one exception: last year, the US company Nikola Motors presented the prototype of a really large fuel cell-powered semi tractor. Now this project is taking on a more concrete form. Nikola Motors intends to launch its 1000-hp truck on the market by 2021. At 2700 Nm (2000 ft lbs), the engine will have a torque that is twice as high as that of conventional diesel trucks. The planned range is also impressive – the Nikola Two model, which is what we are talking about here, is supposed to be able to drive 1280 to approx. 1900 kilometers (800 to 1200 miles) with one hydrogen charge. Instead of hanging for hours on a charging station, as is necessary for battery-powered vehicles, its hydrogen tank should be refilled within 15 minutes.
The power train of the giant is supplied by Bosch. It is a scalable and modular “e-axle” that combines motor, drive electronics and transmission in one compact unit. This recently introduced e-axle will play a central role in Bosch’s electrification strategy – it scales from small passenger cars to small commercial vehicles. However, the Nikola semi-tractor is not exactly a small truck. The company therefore plans to install two such drives. At the same time, Bosch will continue to develop hardware and software for the requirements of such heavy-duty long-distance trucks, as announced by the two companies. Here, Bosch’s electro-mechanical engineering for commercial vehicles and SMG (separator motor-generator) technology are used. In addition, Nikola and Bosch are cooperating in the development of fuel cells.