News Article

Nikola Motors Creates Strategic Partnership With Bosch, GM

By Alejandro Enríquez | Tue, 09/08/2020 - 15:06

In late August, Nikola Motors head Trevor Milton wrote an article for Bosch in which he detailed Nikola's partnership with the German Tier 1 supplier to make the fuel-cell drive for trucks suitable for mass production. Today, GM took a step further an announced an 11 percent ownership of Nikola and the right to nominate one director. In exchange, Nikola's Badger – the brand's pickup truck – will be engineered and manufactured by GM.

Nikola, founded in 2015, is basing its business model on zero-emission battery-electric and hydrogen-electric vehicles, electric vehicle drivetrains, vehicle components, energy storage systems and hydrogen station infrastructure. The US startup is focused on developing heavy-duty fuel-cell vehicles. Despite the fact that the company has not produced a single vehicle yet, Nikola's market capitalization on June 9 (US$34 billion) surpassed that of Ford (US$28.8 billion) and FCA (US$20.5 billion) soon after the company went public in early June.

"Trevor Milton plans to revolutionize the transportation of goods with the world's first Class 8 semi-truck battery-electric (BEV) and a fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEV), making it possible to transport goods by 40-ton trucks for over 1,100km without any refueling stops or local emissions," Bosch wrote in late August. Milton acknowledged the role Bosch is playing in building Nikola's state-of-the-art solutions. "Bosch came in to analyze all the systems and all the technologies. They helped us to develop the truck but on top of that they actually helped us to commercialize it." According to both companies, Bosch provided the electric motors for the hydrogen truck's drive system. The so-called e-axle combines the motors, gears and axle structure in one housing.

Nikola Tre BEV trucks are being tested this year and for fleet partners, projected deliveries are expected in 2021 and in 2023 for fuel-cell units. The fuel-cell trucks run at 1,000hp peak power output and a range of 1,100km with just one fill of hydrogen. "It will be approximately twice as powerful as previous diesel models and will not emit a single gram of CO2 while in operation," says Milton. The trucks have a dual-motor powertrain with continuous power output of 480kW that draws its power from the fuel-cell system and the high-voltage battery. Hydrogen, its primary fuel, is stored in large tanks that can be filled completely within 15 to 20 minutes. The vehicles also include a super computer that operates thanks to Bosch's vehicle control unit, which provides the computing power for its different functions.

Apart from heavy duty vehicles, Nikola presented a pickup vehicle that raised expectations among potential buyers. The Nikola Badger was not initially in Milton's plans to be manufactured in the short-term. However, it seems that consumers have driven Nikola and GM to create a partnership to take this model to the streets while also leveraging the heavy-duty vehicles’ potential.

As part of the agreement, Nikola will use GM's Ultium battery system and Hydrotec fuel-cell technology. Milton's company will remain responsible for the sales and marketing of the Badger, whose expected public debut is scheduled for the Nikola World 2020 to be held in Dec. 3-5 in Arizona. Production is expected to start in late 2022 in an undisclosed location. Pre-orders for the vehicle already started on June 29. A few days later, Milton announced via Twitter that 1,500 reservations were made each day. "Two days of reservations total over US$200 million in future revenue," he wrote.

“This strategic partnership with Nikola, an industry leading disrupter, continues the broader deployment of General Motors’ all-new Ultium battery and Hydrotec fuel-cell systems,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra on a GM-Nikola joint statement. “We are growing our presence in multiple high-volume EV segments while building scale to lower battery and fuel cell costs and increase profitability. In addition, applying General Motors’ electrified technology solutions to the heavy-duty class of commercial vehicles is another important step in fulfilling our vision of a zero-emissions future.”

According to GM, fuel cells will become increasingly important for the semi-truck market because they are more efficient than gas or diesel. Bosch also expects fuel-cell drive trucks to revolutionize the transportation of goods. With such strong players behind it, is Nikola to become a new Tesla?

Alejandro Enríquez Alejandro Enríquez Journalist and Industry Analyst