The race is now also open for electric trucks. As with cars, a US start-up wants to dig the water out for the two German top dogs, Daimler Truck and MAN. Of course, Nikola doesn’t have the Tesla punch, but even the Arizona squad knows what they’re doing. Similar to what the British sports car manufacturer McLaren does, for example, the Nikola engineers concentrate on the essentials, i.e. the integration of the systems, starting with the controllers through to the software, and get experienced companies from the transport industry on board for the rest.

The fully electric truck is the Fiat Powertrain or Iveco, in whose factory in Ulm the Stromer pack donkey is also built and is scheduled to be launched in Germany this year. So earlier than Daimler’s eActros LongHaul or the MAN eTruck. The strategists of the two German companies will smile slightly in view of this fact and politely point out that the charging infrastructure in Europe is not yet sufficiently developed. Nevertheless, every kilometer during tough everyday use is a gain in experience.

That’s why we climbed into the control cabin of the Nikola Tre BEV and covered a few meters on the move. From the outside, the Stromer resembles a classic European truck, because the bonnet that is so familiar from many highway films and that is typical of a US truck is missing. Of course, there is no need to accommodate a large-volume combustion engine, since the power comes from an electric axle. This comes from Fiat Powertrain Technologies (FTP) and the driver’s cab from its subsidiary Iveco, with whom Nikola works closely. The cockpit, on the other hand, is typical of an American electric vehicle. At the center of the cockpit is a 17-inch touchscreen tilted towards the driver, while the virtual instruments provide the driver with information on a 12-inch monitor just behind the steering wheel.

In order to bring the electric motor to life, the door must be completely closed, only then can the automatic lever be set to D. We slowly step on the gas. No jerking, the electric truck can be moved in the same way as the diesel trucks. But it comes when accelerating. As soon as we request the power of 480 kW / 652 hp, it is immediately available. In this respect, the Nikola Tre BEV does not differ from an electric car, but it does differ from a traditional truck with a compression-ignition engine. “We need just under 30 seconds to go from zero to 100 km/h with a full load. So only half as long as a diesel truck,” explains chief engineer Kyle Ness. This will also be the case for the Europe version of the Nikola Tre BEV, which will have a longer gear ratio due to the lower average speed on the roads of the “old continent”.

This reduces the speed and helps with the range. The Nikola truck has installed nine battery packs with a total capacity of 733 kWh and a total weight of around 4.5 tons. In Europe, the energy storage comes from Proterra instead of Cypress and has five kWh more. Nikola emphasizes that although the batteries come from Proterra, they were specially developed for the truck. In contrast to the US variant in which we are traveling, the Euro version of the semi-trailer will have two axles instead of three. The Euro truck also gets the further developed, more compact, lighter and more efficient version of the silicon-carbon inverter. This reduces consumption. The range is around 530 kilometers, of course significantly less than a diesel truck, but in the range of the European competition. That’s enough for the logisticians, since the driver has to take a break after four hours anyway, which is used to recharge the batteries. The Nikola Tre BEV charges with a maximum of 350 kW and it takes at best around 90 minutes for the batteries to be charged from 10 to 80 percent.

We let the theory part sink in and meanwhile continue driving. When it comes to handling without a trailer, the Tre BEV does well, even when it comes to recuperation. The Americans offer six levels plus sailing. “The maximum recuperation strength is 800 kW”; explains Kyle Ness. Since our batteries were still 84 percent charged, we only shoveled 254 kW back into storage. Each of the six settings was delayed so smoothly that there was no nodding. The Tre BEV is also capable of one-pedal driving, but Nikola engineers are still tinkering with the transition from digital to analog braking to avoid overheating. That was successful in our test drive. However, we didn’t have to overcome any long inclines either.