Former Nikola truck: Iveco unveils Heavy Duty BEV
Iveco presented its heavy electric truck on the sidelines of the Truck Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. The Iveco tractor unit, called Iveco Heavy Duty BEV, was probably not just developed in-house. The model has an eventful history.
It was an unusual location for a world premiere. In the Nürburgring’s paddock, amidst motorsport trucks for the Truck Grand Prix and GT3 race cars for the ADAC GT Masters, Iveco set up a small exhibition area. Three Iveco S-Way special edition models were on display – with natural gas drive, a more powerful diesel and a particularly economical option, which with its “special configuration”, is said to improve overall fuel efficiency by up to four per cent. The brand calls it a true “fuel hero”.
And there was another truck that does not rely on diesel or natural gas. “For fans of the electric drive, we also have the world premiere of the Iveco Heavy Duty BEV (battery electric vehicle) on display,” Iveco wrote in the Truck Grand Prix 2023 announcement. “It has nine batteries with a total capacity of up to 738 kWh, allowing a range of up to 530 kilometres.” There is no further info on the previously unannounced electric truck.
Other manufacturers, such as Daimler Truck or MAN, celebrated the premieres of their heavy-duty electric trucks for months (if not years). MAN still does so with the eTruck planned for 2024, and Daimler Truck is also sticking to this PR strategy with the eActros 600 (the prototypes were called LongHaul) and the upcoming GenH2 truck.
Is everything different at Iveco? Well, it is different than at MAN and Daimler Truck – but also different than what Iveco had planned. Because the vehicle presented on the race track in the Eifel is a model that was rebranded at the last minute: it is a Nikola Tre BEV.
A win-win situation for Nikola Motor and Iveco
The story of this vehicle began in 2019: For its European launch, the then young e-truck start-up Nikola Motor from the USA allied with Iveco and its then parent company CNH Industrial. Since Nikola had until then developed its systems with battery or fuel cell primarily for US trucks with long bonnets and other dimensions, the Americans lacked a chassis for the European market. Iveco, on the other hand, had a chassis but no suitable and powerful e-drive in sight.
At that time, Iveco’s parent company CNH Industrial invested 250 million US dollars in Nikola and both sides announced that they would, among other things, strive to set up a European joint venture to initially develop and build a battery-electric heavy-duty truck suitable for Europe with the Nikola Tre – followed by an FCEV counterpart. The vehicles were to be manufactured at the CNH plant in Ulm. Nikola supplied the battery systems as well as its own infotainment system for the cockpit – as an investor-backed US start-up, you have to be convincing not only with the hardware, but also with the software. Iveco, for its part, contributed the chassis and cab of the S-Way range. FPT Industrial, the powertrain brand of CNH Industrial, supplied the electric motor. The Port of Hamburg even became the launch customer, willing to take delivery of 25 units.
In August 2022, the joint venture announced that they had built the first alpha versions of the Tre BEV for the European market and intended to start series production in the second half of 2023. And beta versions of the Tre FCEV, also based on the Iveco S-Way, were already being assembled in Ulm. Since the competition has so far focused on the battery electric truck, and fuel cell trucks from well-known manufacturers will not hit the road until the second half of the decade, Nikola had an almost unrivalled offer and planned the start of production of the Tre FCEV for the first half of 2024. It has so far received numerous orders for the Tre FCEV.
But things shifted in May 2023. Iveco announced that it would buy all shares of the Ulm-based joint venture from partner Nikola – since the beginning of July, Nikola Iveco Europe has been trading as EVCO. That not only resembles the name Iveco, but it also stands for ‘Electric Vehicles COmpany’. In other words, Iveco has taken over the development and marketing of BEV and FCEV tractor units in Europe and has obtained the licence to further develop Nikola components. Nikola itself is thus de facto withdrawing from Europe, but in return has secured the licence for Iveco’s S-Way technology for North America and the associated supply of components.
The only difference is that the already developed model will no longer be marketed as the Nikola Tre BEV in Europe. Instead, it is called the Iveco Heavy Duty BEV – the one seen in the paddock at the Nürburgring. Not only does the recent acquisition of the joint venture suggest this, but the 738 kWh battery capacity and 530 kilometre range of Iveco’s electric truck unsurprisingly match the known data of the Nikola Tre BEV.
So there is only one difference: the appearance: Iveco has removed the Nikola design with its LED daytime running lights and the black radiator grille with the ‘N’ logo in recent weeks. Instead, the Heavy Duty BEV again wears the familiar front of the Iveco S-Way, only with a few blue accents – and the word ‘Electric’ above the windscreen.
Reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany.