Iveco-owner CNH Industrial and Nikola Motor will build the Nikola Tre in battery-electric and fuel cell version at the Iveco plant in Ulm, Germany. The first e-trucks to go into production from 2021 are the battery-electric 4×2 and 6×2 vehicles. The fuel cell version is planned for 2023.
The two partner companies have formed a joint venture called Nikola Tre – like the truck – which will manufacture the battery-electric model with a modular battery that can be configured to a capacity of up to 720 kWh. The electric drive has a maximum continuous output of 480 kW. Production is expected to start in the first quarter of 2021, with the delivery of the Nikola Tre scheduled to begin in the same year. In the first phase, 40 million euros will be invested to prepare the production facilities for final assembly of the new model.
Electrical versions with fuel cells built on the same platform will be tested in 2021 as part of the H2-Haul program supported by the European Union. The market launch is planned for 2023. The accompanying press release did not specify in the communication how much investment will be made in this subsequent phase.
The Nikola Tre, which was adapted for the European market, has little in common with the company’s US models shown so far; instead, it is based on Iveco’s popular S-Way platform. However, the drives, control systems and infotainment developed by Nikola have been integrated into this chassis. The tests are scheduled to start in mid-2020, and the prototypes are to be shown at the IAA Commercial Vehicles in September this year. The Iveco S-Way with conventional drive has so far been produced in Madrid and Valladolid, and the experts from Spain are now also to help with the start of production in southern Germany.
Iveco owner CNH Industrial describes the Ulm site as the competence centre for the construction and design of chassis for Iveco. The region is characterised by its well-trained workforce and numerous research institutes focusing on fuel cells. After just missing out on being the location of the research production of battery cells (which is being built in Münster), the German state of Baden-Württemberg initiated the “HyFab-Baden-Württemberg” project. It funded it with a million-euro budget to carry out alternative research on fuel cell stacks in Ulm.
The establishment of the fuel cell project in a European joint venture between the US start-up Nikola and the Italian holding company CNH Industrial can, therefore, be regarded as somewhat of a success for politicians. In addition to the local funding project in Ulm, Nikola Tre will be benefitting from the federal government’s National Hydrogen Strategy, which provides for funding of two billion euros to finance a hydrogen innovation programme and to build up the necessary infrastructure. However, the draft is still being coordinated by the various departments and has not yet been decided.
“The decision to build the Nikola TRE in Ulm – a centre of heavy-duty truck engineering excellence – underscores the site’s strategic location at the heart of Germany’s fuel cell technology cluster,” says Hubertus Mühlhäuser, CEO of CNH Industrial.