New Battery Tech for Nikola Motors

The hydrogen truck maker, Nikola, has announced that it has developed a new battery that will not only double the energy capacity but also reduce the weight of the cell by 60%. 

This will cut the cost associated with lithium-ion batteries in half. The startup, based in Phoenix Arizona, claims that its discovery will disrupt the trucking industry. For now, though, it is staying tight-lipped about the development and is not planning to show the battery to the public for at least 10 months.

Tesla is currently using 2170 lithium-ion cells; Nikola is claiming that their new cells will see a significant increase in range from 300 miles to 600 miles without any increase in the size or weight of the battery. 

Tests on charging and depletion of these batteries indicate that the vehicle could be driven hundreds of thousands of miles before the battery reaches the end of its life cycle.

A Secret Project

Founder and CEO Trevor Milton is not providing any details about the cell, how it works or when production will start, but the battery is said to be the first automotive free-standing electrode battery. Details remain shrouded in secrecy.

Lithium-ion batteries often use a variety of metals that add to cost and weight and Milton have said that these will not be used. If this is true, it will mean a reduction in mining for metals like cobalt and nickel with potentially positive environmental impacts. 

If the company can ultimately deliver what it is promising it will revolutionize the electric vehicle market.

Automotive companies have been working hard for over a decade to try to find good quality battery alternatives to gasoline in terms of cost, range, and convenience.

Over the years there have been many prototypes but few deliverable products and this has created a great deal of skepticism when someone announces a new development.

Milton is not letting that stop him. Nikola will be submitting the battery for evaluation and testing and the company certainly has a great reputation when it comes to delivering on their promises. 

As far as the skeptics are concerned he did not seem inclined to prove himself so, along with everyone else, they will have to wait for the public launch.

Coming Out

The public will likely start to see demonstrations within the next 10 months, certainly at the Phoenix-based Nikola's World technology summit scheduled for late next year. The company is in talks with a variety of manufacturers and is hoping to start production in 2021.

Nikola Motors has already had support for its fuel cell trucks from prestigious companies including Bosch and Meritor and has now raised around $500 million to start production of its hydrogen fuel cell trucks. It now needs to build a network of fueling stations to support these.

Each truck has a battery pack that works alongside the hydrogen power-train. A new, improved battery could mean a reduction in production costs and an increase in vehicle range. Although the company still considers hydrogen the best option it plans to include battery-only models too.

Tesla, owned by Elon Musk, currently boasts the most efficient automotive battery systems both in range and performance but because of production costs the company struggles to produce a mass-market affordable vehicle. 

An additional $10,000 is added to the cost of an electric vehicle because of the production cost of the battery and, at present, the cheapest Tesla model sells for over $40,000. This is significant when you consider that other vehicles like the Toyota Prius come in at a much lower price.

According to MIT battery costs may have declined significantly but predictions often fail to include raw material costs and should be treated with caution. It is estimated that the prices will not fall for some years. 

Milton says that Nikola’s new battery will mean this happens sooner than predicted. The only thing he now has to do is prove it.