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Nikola Corporation has a tall order to fill – to deliver class 8 electric or hydrogen fuel cell trucks and the infrastructure to support them. Auto Futures interviewed Michael Lohscheller, President of Nikola Motor division, in the spacious cabin of a Nikola Tre FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle) at ACT Expo.

“I’m 6′ 8″ I have plenty of room. Honestly, I have never been in a product where I can stand,” Lohscheller says.

He pointed out the luxurious interior of the truck cab, including the 21″ touchscreen for the driver.

“I’m so impressed when I accelerate a Nikola truck. I mean you are hauling so much weight – forty tons. You hit the pedal and you accelerate. It is a super smooth to drive. There is a huge difference from a diesel truck. When you sit up here – you feel like you are taking off,” says Lohscheller.

“There’s no noise. It’s a wonderful experience. When you have to work eight to ten hours in a truck– it makes a huge difference. The seats are great. Look at the design. It is simple and clean. We have everything you need here. This is a wonderful place. We could spend hours here. This is a very nice place to be and to work in. I think that makes a huge difference. The driving is so easy. You can just push the pedal and you go,” he says.

Plus, the technology is state-of-the-art, with software competence and over-the-air updates.

He referred to a video where drivers from Total Transportation Services Inc. (TTSI) describe how they feel about the Nikola Tre BEV (battery electric vehicle). They say it’s phenomenal because it’s quiet. It’s easy to handle. It is a super drive with fast acceleration.

“The difference between a diesel truck and Nikola Tre BEV truck is day and night. The 350 miles range is best in class with an e-axle, so there is no shifting.” 

Michael Lohscheller

Automotive Experience Accelerates Trucking

Lohscheller is no stranger to automotive, management, production or finance. He has more than two decades of experience in the industry.

He served as EVP and CFO at Mitsubishi Motors Europe, EVP and CFO at Volkswagen Group of America, CEO at Opel Automobile GmbH, Member of the Board at PSA Group and Global CEO of VinFast.

His experience in consumer vehicles is helping him guide Nikola.

“Bringing automotive knowledge to the truck company is always helpful. To bring this truck on the road, you need to bring a lot of things together, supply chain manufacturing, engineering, all these processes have to be there, you have to have the parts, you have to have the planning, obviously, great quality. Bringing all that together is a complex. You have thousands of parts. Everything has to be perfect. Everything has to be ready.” 

We Don’t Talk About Trevor

Nikola Motor was founded in 2014 by Trevor Milton with the mission of making clean trucks and providing the infrastructure to fuel them. It was funded with a SPAC through VectoIQ Acquisition Corporation in March 2020. Problems arose from a report of “an intricate fraud” by Hindenburg Research in September 2020. Milton resigned in the same month.

In December 2021, Nikola reached an agreement with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission. Under the terms of the resolution, Nikola neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s findings. The company has taken action to seek reimbursement from Trevor Milton, for costs and damages in connection with the government and regulatory investigations.

When asked if he could comment on Milton or the SEC investigation, Lohscheller replied: “Not really, and no need because I joined the company in March. I’m the president of this wonderful company, I focus on the execution of the trucks. What is important is the Tre BEV is launched to our first customers now. In April, the truck is on the road with customers. We are extremely proud that we have achieved this first milestone to have this truck on the road right now with customers.” 

Nkla 2022q1 3 Coolidgefctory

Nikola’s Three-Point Focus

Lohscheller says Nikola is focusing on three areas – the battery truck, the hydrogen truck, and providing the hydrogen.

“We focus on what we’re good at. We do the best battery-electric truck, the best hydrogen truck and we provide the energy.” 

“First, we launched the battery truck. Now, what’s important is that customers have the infrastructure. Then in the second half of next year, we launch the hydrogen fuel cell truck. And then we will also have hydrogen available. We have announced hydrogen production in Canada, that we have hydrogen there. So, it’s going along very well,” he adds.

Lohscheller explains the benefits of the BEV versus the FCEV Nikola Tre trucks.

There are benefits to both solutions. A benefit of the BEV truck is that it is ready now. It has a range of 350 miles. Trucks in a port can charge overnight and probably do not need more range.

However, some people need more range because they go longer distances. The Nikola Tre FCEV will go up to 500 miles. Some customers find the incremental range important. The other benefit of the hydrogen truck is it can be fuelled in twenty minutes.

Nikola Tre Fcev 1

What’s Next for Nikola?

The trucks will be in Europe next year, manufactured in Ulm, Germany, where Nikola has a partnership with Iveco Group.

“We have a fifty-fifty joint venture. The joint venture will produce these wonderful trucks for Europe,” says Lohscheller.

He says Nikola has delivered the first eleven trucks. This quarter the company expects to deliver between 50 and 60, shipping between 300 and 500 trucks this year. The company has the capacity in its Coolidge, Arizona Factory to produce up to 20,000 a year.

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The Future of Zero-Emissions Mobility

Nikola’s future is based on zero-emission trucks. The future is zero-emission mobility. That will be the reality in Europe, North America and across the world. The only question is when it also becomes mandatory, says Lohscheller.

“We offer zero-emission mobility. We have world-class trucks for that. We at Nikola, sometimes say we are changing the world, and I think that’s true.”

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