Tesla rival Nikola Motor unveils hydrogen-powered truck for Europe

  • The Tre will be the "first European zero-emission commercial truck," Nikola Motor CEO Trevor Milton said.
  • A Tre prototype will be displayed at the firm's Nikola World event in Phoenix, Arizona in April 2019.
  • European testing of the truck is slated to begin in Norway by around 2020.
Nikola Motor's Tre semi-truck.
Nikola Motor Company
Nikola Motor's Tre semi-truck.

U.S. electric truck maker Nikola Motor unveiled the third version of its hydrogen-powered electric semitrailer truck on Tuesday, which it says will be aimed at European customers.

The Nikola Tre — tre meaning "three" in Norwegian — will be the "first European zero-emission commercial truck," Trevor Milton, the firm's founder and chief executive, said in a statement. Nikola did not reveal a price for the new truck. A Tre prototype will be displayed at the firm's Nikola World event in Phoenix, Arizona in April 2019.

It will come with "redundant braking, redundant steering, redundant 800Vdc batteries and a redundant 120 Kw hydrogen fuel cell, all necessary for true level 5 autonomy," Milton added.

Redundancy in engineering means the duplication of vital components of a system in order to increase its reliability and performance. "Level 5 autonomy" refers to a level of autonomy in self-driving vehicles that means they can be operated without a human driver under any environmental conditions.

Nikola, which was founded in 2014, also said it would be targeting other international markets including Asia and Australia with its new articulated truck. On a reservation web page for the firm's latest vehicle, it says the Nikola Tre will be "available in Europe, Asia, and Australia."

European testing of the truck is slated to begin in Norway by around 2020, Nikola said, and the firm is in "preliminary planning stages" to decide a location for its European manufacturing plant.

The Tre will come with 500 or 1,000 brake horsepower, and a range of 500 to 1,200 kilometers, depending on which option a customer picks.

The firm is working with Norwegian firm Nel Hydrogen to provide hydrogen fueling stations in the U.S. It plans to have more than 700 hydrogen stations across the U.S. and Canada by 2028.

"We will work with Nel to secure resources for our European growth strategy," Kim Brady, Nikola's chief finance officer, said in a statement. "We have a lot of work ahead of us, but with the right partners, we can accomplish it."

Hydrogen-powered fuel cells provide an alternative to a typical battery-powered electric vehicle. Fuel cells convert energy from hydrogen fuel into electricity through an electrochemical reaction with oxygen, resulting in water dripping out of the exhaust pipe instead of polluting emissions.

Nikola Motor launched legal action against rival Tesla earlier this year, alleging Elon Musk's luxury electric car manufacturer infringed its design patents, and accusing Tesla's Semi of being "substantially" similar to its own semi-truck design.