Archive for the ‘semis’ Category

The hydrogen fuel strategy behind Nikola’s truck dream

April 20th, 2019
Truck refueling at a hydrogen station.

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Ars makes every effort to cover its own travel costs. To attend Nikola's conference, we covered the flight out to Scottsdale, Arizona, but Nikola covered one night in a nearby hotel.

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona—The Nikola Motor Company wants to reinvent trucking by replacing diesel heavy-duty trucks with hydrogen fuel cell trucks. But hydrogen skeptics are numerous, and not without good reason. Although hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are quiet, emissions-free (with the exception of water) during operation, and relatively fast-charging compared to battery electric vehicles, they have a host of other problems.

First, hydrogen is hard to store, and it must be cooled and compressed. It's also hard to transport. Additionally, H2 is not a green fuel in the US, for the most part. Generally, natural gas (CH4) is reformed to create H2 in ways that still cause carbon emissions. There is a way to create hydrogen fuel without the carbon emissions: by applying electricity to water (a process called water electrolysis). But water electrolysis has been prohibitively expensive, and if hydrogen can't compete with diesel, what's Nikola's value proposition to freight companies that will make them want to switch?

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Is a 200-300 mile range enough for Tesla to break into electric trucking?

August 26th, 2017

Enlarge / From the bureau of Transportation Statistics: “Long-haul freight truck traffic in the United States is concentrated on major routes connecting population centers, ports, border crossings, and other major hubs of activity. Except for Route 99 in California and a few toll roads and border connections, most of the heaviest traveled routes are on the Interstate System.” (credit: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration)

On Thursday, Reuters reported that Tesla is building electric semis with ranges of 200-300 miles. Tesla has said it will make all details about the semis public at an announcement in September.

Ars reached out to the company to confirm the report, and a spokesperson responded with a statement saying: “Tesla’s policy is to always decline to comment on speculation, whether true or untrue, as doing so would be silly.”

So if the report is true, would a truck with a range of 200-300 miles be enough to win entry into the freight trucking market? Possibly. A 2013 report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado notes that “trucks dominate the market today for freight shipments under 500 miles, which account for almost 80 percent of all domestic freight tonnage.” Freight that needs to travel 500 miles or more tends to be transported by rail, waterways, or pipeline, at least if you’re counting by tonnage (the Bureau of Transportation Statistics counts oil and gas pipeline deliveries as freight).

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Tesla’s electric semi will be revealed in September, CEO says

April 13th, 2017

Tesla wants to turn internal combustion trucks electric. (credit: Mark Goebel)

Last year, Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk wrote an updated version of his 2006 “Master Plan” that predicated the growth of the electric vehicle company. The “Master Plan Part Deux” detailed the company’s ambitions to build a Tesla Semi, which Musk said at the time “should be ready for unveiling next year.”

Now, right on time, Musk tweeted out an update this afternoon: “Tesla Semi truck unveil set for September. Team has done an amazing job. Seriously next level.”

The CEO added in subsequent replies that the next-generation Roadster would be a convertible and that details on a Tesla pickup truck would be revealed in “18 to 24 months.” Ars reached out to Tesla, which said there were no other details to share at this time besides what was in Musk’s tweets.

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