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Hydrogen-Powered Truck Startup Nikola Announces a New 'Game-Changing' EV Battery Technology

Hydrogen-Powered Truck Startup Nikola Announces a New 'Game-Changing' EV Battery Technology

Author: Eric Walz   

Nikola Corporation, a startup developing hydrogen-powered trucks, announced details of a new battery that has a record energy density of 1,100 watt-hours per kilogram on the material level and 500 watt-hours per kg on the production cell level, according to the company.

For comparison, the batteries used by electric automaker Tesla have around 250 watt-hours of energy per kg. Nikola will reveal more details at Nikola World 2020, the company's upcoming technology summit in Phoenix next year, so we'll have to wait for more details. Nikola said the battery breakthrough will be "game-changing" for the industry.

According to Nikola, this battery technology could increase the range of current EV passenger cars from around 300 miles up to 600 miles with little or no increase to battery size and weight. The technology is also designed to operate in a wide variety of vehicle conditions. Nikola's latest battery cell technology is expected to cost 50% less to produce than traditional lithium-ion batteries. 

Nikola says the new battery technology has the potential to change the entire industry by offering unprecedented range for all EVs, not just its Nikola's hydrogen-powered trucks.

"This is the biggest advancement we have seen in the battery world," said Trevor Milton, CEO, Nikola Motor Company in a statement. "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 latest Nikola prototype battery cell is the first EV battery that removes binder material and current collectors, enabling more energy density within the cell. It is also expected to pass nail penetration standards, which will improve safety by reducing potential vehicle fires if the battery case is damaged on the road. 

Nikola says its new battery cell technology is environmentally friendly and easy to recycle. While some conventional lithium-ion cells contain elements that are toxic and expensive, the new technology will have a positive impact on the earth's resources, landfills and recycling plants.

This month, Nikola entered into a letter of intent to acquire a world-class battery engineering team to help bring the new battery to pre-production. Due to confidentiality and security reasons, additional details of the acquisition will not be disclosed until Nikola World 2020. However Nikola said the twenty person battery development team includes 15 PhDs in their respective fields, as well as five master's degree team members. 

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The Nikola One hydrogen-powered truck.

Nikola is planning to transform the trucking industry with its hydrogen-powered electric trucks. The company's Nikola One semi truck delivers up to 2,000 ft lbs of torque with up to 1,000 horsepower and produces zero emissions. The truck has an estimated range of 500 to 750 miles. Hydrogen refilling takes about 15 minutes, the company said.

Nikola is open to licensing its battery technology with other companies in order to transform the trucking industry "due to the impact this technology will have on society and emissions", the company said. Nikola plans to share its IP with OEM's and even competitors that contribute to the Nikola IP license.

"Nikola is in discussions with customers for truck orders that could fill production slots for more than ten years and propel Nikola to become the top truck manufacturer in the world in terms of revenue. Now the question is why not share it with the world?" said Milton.

Nikola will show the batteries charging and discharging in front of an audience at Nikola World 2020. The company plans to announce the exact date of the event soon.

In addition to its trucks, Nikola manufacturers electric vehicle drivetrains, vehicle components, energy storage systems, and hydrogen filling stations. The company is privately held and headquartered in Arizona.

Nikola has an estimated pre-money valuation of $3 billion.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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