It’s all about the batteries – they impact range, cost and charging times. But Phoenix-based start-up Nikola Motors claims it has a breakthrough that could deliver major improvements to lithium-ion technology.
- Nikola Motors started out in Salt Lake City focusing on hydrogen Class 8 trucks.
- Now based in Phoenix, the company is expanding into battery powered heavy-duty rigs.
- The technology it plans to reveal this year would have applications in both the truck and passenger vehicle markets.
Nikola’s CEO claims the new battery technology would allow electric trucks to double range between charges. (Photo: Nikola)
Researchers are investing billions of dollars seeking a way to pack more energy into battery cells while also lowering costs. Nikola Motors founder and CEO Trevor Milton claims his company has found the “Holy Grail of batteries,” an alternative to today’s lithium-ion technology that could double the distance an electric vehicle can travel between charges while cutting battery costs in half. “We are not talking about small improvements,” he says. “This is the biggest advancement we have seen in the battery world.”
Nikola, a start-up that has focused on hydrogen and battery-powered heavy-duty trucks, isn’t offering many details about the new technology. What it has said suggests its new batteries, among other things, don’t need the binder material and electric current collectors used in today’s lithium-ion cells. That supposedly improves conductivity and reduces heat build-up while charging. The new technology means trucks could get 800 miles per charge, while recharging times would be slashed. The batteries would weigh 40% less than current cells, and pricing could come down to somewhere around $50 to $60 per kilowatt-hour, compared to around $150 today.
There remain plenty of skeptics who want to see more before they take the announcement seriously. Britain’s Dyson bought a University of Michigan spin-off for its solid-state battery technology before writing off the investment a couple years ago. Nikola says it is completing the acquisition of the company that developed the new technology and plans to show it off during its Nikola World event next autumn.
WHY THIS MATTERS
If true, the new batteries would make EVs far more competitive – and could give a company like Nikola a real leg up on competitors.