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Nikola Motor claims major battery breakthrough, comes with major grain of salt

Nikola Motor, better known for its hydrogen fuel cell semi trucks, is claiming a major battery breakthrough with much higher energy density, but you should take the claim with a major grain of salt.

The Arizona-based company is planning to use battery packs in its larger hydrogen semi trucks and all-electric powertrains in its smaller and shorter distance trucks.

Now they claim that they will have a new battery with breakthrough performance for its vehicles.

In a press release, Nikola makes some bold claims:

  • Nikola’s battery electric trucks could now drive 800 miles fully loaded between charges
  • Nikola trucks could weigh 5,000 lbs. less than the competition if same battery size was kept
  • Nikola’s hydrogen-electric fuel cell trucks could surpass 1,000 miles between stops and top off in 15 minutes
  • World’s first free-standing electrode automotive battery
  • Energy density up to 1,100 watt-hours per kg on a material level and 500 watt-hours per kg on a production cell level including; casing, terminals and separator — more than double current lithium-ion battery cells
  • Cycled over 2,000 times with acceptable end-of-life performance
  • 40% reduction in weight compared to lithium-ion cells
  • 50% material cost reduction per kWh compared to lithium-ion batteries

Nikola claims “a record energy density of 1,100 watt-hours per kg on the material level and 500 watt-hours per kg on the production cell level.”

They say it would roughly result in doubling the range of electric vehicles without increasing battery size and weight.

Trevor Milton, CEO of Nikola Motor Company, commented on the announcement:

“This is the biggest advancement we have seen in the battery world. We are not talking about small improvements; we are talking about doubling your cell phone battery capacity. We are talking about doubling the range of BEVs and hydrogen-electric vehicles around the world.”

The company says that they have “a letter of intent to acquire a world-class battery engineering team”. They can’t disclose the acquisition until next year, according to their press release.

Nikola says that they will “show the batteries charging and discharging in front of the crowd at Nikola World”, which they plan to hold in the fall of 2020.

Electrek’s Take

Like with any battery breakthrough, you need to take it with a grain of salt, but I’d take this one with a major grain of salt.

We are talking about Nikola Motor here.

First off, their patent trolling lawsuit against Tesla is just ridiculous and the fact that they think it’s a good idea to pursue that shows bad character and weakness.

Secondly, Nikola first announced plans for a hybrid electric and natural gas semi truck 4 years ago.

They later changed their plans to hybrid battery-electric and fuel cell hydrogen trucks with plans for a massive hydrogen supply chain and fueling station network.

As we previously stated, hydrogen fuel cells are about 3x less efficient than battery-electric in the best-case scenario. It mostly serves to preserve the same supply chain model as fossil fuels.

Later, Tesla unveiled its all-electric semi truck that showed battery-electric class 8 vehicles were viable and it changed many people’s perspectives.

At the time, Nikola Motors mocked Tesla’s effort – arguing that they couldn’t achieve the range that they were claiming on battery-electric only.

Now they claim that they can, thanks to this battery breakthrough.

I am not saying that it is impossible, but I’ll believe it when I see it. And by that, I mean to see it in a viable product in volume production because it’s not the same as a prototype.

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