Semi-trucks and trains are the preferred choice for transporting goods around North America. With over 250,000 truck drivers on the road, these trucks transport over 66% of the $300 billion in goods and services that go between Canada and US in 1 year. And with 612,000 trucks trips occurring each week on Canada’s major highways, there is a lot of diesel being burned each and every day. (source: http://www.truckinfo.net/trucking/stats.htm) But there may be some alternatives on the horizon for this industry.
As Elon Musk builds Tesla Motors into a car company that designs and manufactures premium electric vehicles, another company is focusing on building vehicles that are crucial to our everyday needs as consumers. Nikola Motor Company has designed an 2,000 HP natural gas/electric semi-truck called the Nikola One.
So it makes complete sense that the technology that is going into making our cars more environmentally friendly and efficient by going electric, that a company would step up and begin designing and building a tractor trailer using similar technology.
The Nikola One has a turbine on board that is used to generate electricity for a 320-kilowatt-hour battery pack. The turbine itself can run on a variety of fuels but the company has opted to equip them with natural gas tanks from the factory.
There is no plugin to charge the batteries as the turbine power as well as regenerative braking work constantly to keep a charge to the batteries. Six electric motors produce a combined 2,000 horsepower and 3,700 pound-feet of torque, which is sent to the wheels via a two-speed transmission. With a full 150-gallon tank of natural gas fuel, Nikola claims the truck will be able to travel 1,200 miles between fill-ups.
The company claims the operating costs will be around 50% less than conventional diesel semi-trucks.
The biggest obstacle in the past for using alternative fuels for transportation was having a network of fueling stations in place to gain a wider adoption rate. But Nikola Motors is planning over 50 natural gas filling stations throughout the US and Canada, which would increase the number of truck drivers willing to invest in this new truck technology.
Goods are also transported in North America by train as well as truck. New technology, called Hyperloop, that was first proposed by Elon Musk in 2013 and then released as open-source to the world to spur innovation, could be an excellent addition to our transportation infrastructure.
This high-speed transportation system has designs for test tracks and capsules that are currently being developed, with construction of a full-scale prototype 5-mile (8 km) track scheduled to start in 2016.
There are plans on the horizon to create a route from LA to Las Vegas through a company called Hyperloop One. This company has a team of 1oo engineers and has raised $35million in capital.
When this Nikola One semi-truck goes into production and the Hyperloop transport system or something similar becomes a reality, we could have some major clean alternatives for transporting freight throughout North America.
With over a truck crossing the Canada-US border 10 million times a year (one trip every three seconds), there is huge potential to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and have a clean mode of transportation for all the goods that we consume on a daily basis.