For those of us who tend to think of Nikola as being pretty much a joke (I include myself in that category), it may be time to rethink our position. Construction of the company’s first factory is proceeding apace in Arizona, where it expects to produce 35,000 heavy duty electric trucks a year. And it announced on August 10 that it has signed an agreement with Phoenix-based Republic Services for 2,500 zero emissions all electric refuse trucks, with the possibility of 2,500 more at a later time. Republic is the second largest refuse hauler in the United States.
The electric trash trucks will be electronically limited to 1,000 horsepower — nearly three times the power of similar trucks powered by compressed natural gas. The trucks will include both side-loading and front-loading configurations. Typically, companies like Republic order the chassis for their trucks from the manufacturer and the waste hauling body from a separate company, but Nikola will deliver complete trucks to Republic in an industry first. The trucks will have a range of about 150 miles — more than enough to complete their daily routes. According to the company, some of the trucks may have a battery as large as 720 kWh. On-road testing is scheduled to begin in 2022, with production beginning in 2023.
“Nikola specializes in heavy-duty, zero-emission Class 8 trucks. The refuse market is one of the most stable markets in the industry and provides long-term shareholder value,” says Nikola founder Trevor Milton.
“The Nikola Tre powertrain is ideal for the refuse market as it shares and uses the same batteries, controls, inverters and e-axle. By sharing the Tre platform, we can drive the cost down for both programs by using the same parts. You couldn’t pick a better partner than Republic Services, a leader in long-term environmental sustainability and customer service. Republic Services will help us ensure the Nikola Tre meets customer and fleet life cycle demands and we are excited to have them participate in the design process.”
Of all the possible applications for an electric truck, refuse hauling is perhaps the most ideal. Those trucks typically make hundreds of stops and starts a day, some of them only a few yards apart. The instant torque available from an electric powertrain will help get them going from a dead stop, and regenerative braking will help replenish the battery while driving the route. Factor in the greatly reduced fuel and maintenance costs of an electric truck compared to its diesel powered equivalent, and the appeal of an electric truck to a company like Republic becomes obvious.
If ever there was ever a class of vehicle that cried out to be replaced by electric power it is the garbage truck. No more snorting, smoking diesels picking up the trash in America’s cities and towns. A zero emissions alternative is desperately needed and Nikola Motor seems to be the first company to make that happen on a large scale.