A view of the Nikola Two hydrogen-powered truck interior
Story by:at FreightWaves
The interior of the Nikola Motors Two Class 8 semi-tractor takes cues from modern airplane cockpits with only a handful of buttons and switches. Drivers perform most functions via waterproof touch screens that can withstand a high-pressure hosing.
Nikola so far is noted for its futuristic exterior design and hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric powertrain. The vision is for the trucks to be autonomously driven on highways within a few years of their 2022 launch. Human drivers would take over at Nikola terminals for local deliveries.
The truck, revealed in April 2019, is making the rounds. It dominated the Ryder System Inc. (NYSE: R) display at CES 2020 after appearing at the Bosch stand at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show last October. Both suppliers have major roles with the Phoenix-based startup.
It also made a trial beer run last November in St. Louis for Anheuser-Busch, which has an order for 800 of the trucks.
The Nikola Two hydrogen fuel cell-powered electric semi made its first commercial delivery of Budweiser beer in St. Louis in November 2019. The trucks are expected to be produced to fill 14,000 pending orders in late 2022. (Photo: Nikola Motors)
To match the sleek exterior, Nikola styled an upscale interior featuring leather seats and metallic accents. But what looks good in a show truck doesn’t necessarily translate to practical daily use.
Nikola Motors CEO Trevor Milton took inspiration from modern airplane cockpits for the Nikola Two interior. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)
“There’s some big issues with how clean our truck is for these drivers,” Nikola CEO Trevor Milton told FreightWaves during a tour of the Two at CES 2020 in Las Vegas.
“They’re afraid of spilling ketchup on the suede,” Milton said, recounting feedback from drivers during truck stop visits. “Look, we don’t want nice leather. We want everything to be pressure washable.”
On most trucks, climbing into the cab lands you in the driver’s seat. In the Nikola Two, you arrive behind the driver’s seat next to a wall of storage compartments. Eventually some of that real estate could be used for autonomous driving hardware.
“This whole area can be whatever we want it to be,” Milton said. “The key is to keep it open because it’s your access point and you want it for safety.”
The walk-in door eliminates a cause of driver injury — grabbing a slippery steering wheel as a hoist into the cab.
“What’s really awesome is that it’s away from the seat and the steering wheel, and it allows complete access through the vehicle without climbing over anything,” Milton said.
The Nikola Two is an extended day cab. Humans won’t drive long-haul miles, so there’s no sleeping bunk. The need for personal storage is minimal.
Drivers told Milton they would like to have a heated area to store tire chains in the winter.
“The problem with the chains is they get wet and turn into a block of ice and they can’t use them,” he said.
They also asked for extra power outlets and areas for clothes and emergency equipment.
Seeing the road
From the driver’s seat, a pair of screens dominate the dash area. The larger of the two at 17 inches handles many functions controlled in more conventional trucks by rows of buttons. Nikola retains buttons for air brakes and emergency parking.
A 17-inch screen inspired by modern aircraft uncomplicates the cockpit of the Nikola Two semi-tractor, replacing rows of buttons and switches. (Photo: Nikola Motors)
“The idea here was to solve the complexity of a truck,” Milton said. “Before Nikola came along, the cockpit was incredibly complicated. What I wanted to do was simplify the whole thing.”
Milton’s inspiration comes from modern airplane cockpits like the Daher TBM 930 he pilots.
“The new airplanes are very digital in the cockpit to reduce the workload on the pilot. There’s only a few buttons compared to a regular plane that will have hundreds. Everything’s touch screen.”
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Original story first appeared @ freightwaves.com
Source and credits: freightwaves.com // iTrucker / Mario Pawlowski