Diesel News’ European Correspondent, Will Shiers, takes a look at the zero-emission truck, Nikola Tre, and catches up with Nikola’s outspoken CEO, Trevor Milton.
Twenty years ago, Blockbuster was offered the chance to buy Netflix for US$50m (AUD$72m). But instead of realising the huge potential that this start-up company had, Blockbuster’s CEO thought it was a joke, and reportedly laughed his competitor out of the room.
At the time Blockbuster had more than 9,000 stores and employed in excess of 84,000 people worldwide. Today, according to Wikipedia, it has one store and employs three people!
Why am I telling you this? Because Nikola Motor’s self-made billionaire boss Trevor Milton, reckons a similar situation is currently unfolding in the truck industry. Speaking at the launch of the zero-emission Nikola Tre in Turin last December, he reveals how he was approached by all of the established truck makers.
“As we met with them [OEMs] their arrogance really made me mad,” says Trevor. “I’m an anti-arrogant kind of guy. I truly believe that in this world a rising tide raises all ships, and all they wanted to do was tear us down. All they did was talk about how good they are, how big they are, how they are number one or number two or whatever. It made me cringe. I hated everything about it.
“When Blockbuster dismissed Netflix their words were ‘we’re the biggest, we’re the best, we’re number one. Why do we need you?’ And that is the same treatment I got with these OEMs. I couldn’t believe it. I hated everything about it.
“Well, this is the Netflix moment, and we are kicking their asses.”
The ‘we’ he’s referring to is Nikola and its new European partner Iveco, the one established OEM that came to that first meeting with what Milton describes as ‘the right attitude’.
“They said ‘we’re struggling, we need help,” recalls Trevor. “We are really good at building trucks, but we are not any good at anything you guys are doing’. They looked at our whole portfolio and they said ‘we want to do all this and we need your help’. They said ‘what do you guys struggle with?’ and I said ‘here’s all the things that we suck at’.”
According to Trevor, one of the key areas where Nikola ‘sucks’ is with manufacturing.
“It takes decades to learn this stuff,” says Trevor. “And I didn’t want to learn it. I didn’t want to take the path of our competitors, like Tesla. I wanted to work with an OEM that knows truck manufacturing, has a parts supply, a supplier base and purchasing power, but I wanted someone humble enough for us to work with and make a difference with. And Iveco won hands down. It wasn’t even close.”
Winning allowed Iveco’s parent company CNH to invest US$250m (AUD$375m) in Nikola, and set up a joint venture in Europe.
The product of this collaboration is the Tre, a zero-emission heavy truck aimed at markets outside of North America. Manufactured by Iveco in Europe, the truck uses a choice of two Nikola zero-emission drivelines.
First deliveries of the battery electric Tre, which has a 400km range, will commence in Europe next year. The hydrogen fuel cell version, which is capable of covering 800km on a single fill, will follow in 2023.
The Tre is based on the new Iveco S-Way, and will have its batteries and hydrogen tanks mounted to the existing chassis. The cab has undergone some significant alterations at the hands of Italdesign. The Turin-based automotive design company was actually responsible for the first version of the Tre, unveiled in Scottsdale, Arizona, during last year’s Nikola World event.