US based hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric truck start up, Nikola has announced it will begin offering an advanced driver-assist system on its electric heavy trucks starting late next year, the company has said.
The system, made by Plus and called PlusDrive is apparently similar to the highway driving systems highway driving systems offered by other vehicle makers including Tesla, General Motors and Ford while a human driver must be present and attentive, the system can handle most highway driving tasks on its own, in addition to assisting the human driver in non-highway situations including backing up to loading docks.
Plus says its “autonomous driving technology offers the industry’s best-in-class perception system and deep learning models to quickly, accurately, and safely perceive the vehicle’s surroundings, predict what’s coming next, and control the vehicle to make its next move.”
However a Nikola representative told a US news outlet that the system as it will be integrated into the company’s prime movers is designed to be an “eyes-on-road, hands-on-wheel” system.
Nikola CEO Michael Lohscheller said in a release that the electric steering and braking systems already used in the company’s trucks will simplify the integration of Plus’ system, which includes radar, cameras and lidar sensors to detect obstacles around the truck.
Plus already provides the PlusDrive system to Italian heavy-truck maker Iveco, a significant shareholder in Nikola. Iveco began testing its own PlusDrive-enabled trucks earlier this month.
Nikola said that several of its fleet customers, including PGT Trucking and Christenson Transportation, have agreed to test prototype PlusDrive-enabled Nikola prime movers. The company expects to begin offering PlusDrive on its regular production battery-electric and fuel cell trucks by the end of 2024.
Nikola also reported its fourth-quarter and full-year results to the U.S. markets this week, revealing it produced 133 battery-electric trucks in the fourth quarter, but delivered just 20 to dealers, generating revenue that fell well short of Wall Street’s expectations.
Nikola said it made a series of changes to its battery-electric truck during the quarter in response to feedback from early customers. The company also confirmed that the fuel-cell version of its truck is still on track to begin production in the second half of 2023, in line with earlier guidance.
The company’s fourth-quarter net loss was $US222.1 million, or 46 cents per share. The truck maker lost $US159.4 million, or 39 cents per share across the full year.
The report also gave light to the amount of cash the often troubled start is burning through as it pushes forward into full blown sales mode. As at 31 December last year the company had $US233.4 million in cash available, down from $US315.7 million at the end of September.
Nikola’s fourth-quarter production tally took it to just 258 trucks built in 2022, which was enough to just hit the guidance range it provided in November, when it said it expected to produce between 255 and 305 trucks for the full year.
In fairness Nikola’s production should ramp up in 2023, with the company saying investors should expect it to deliver between 250 and 350 battery-electric trucks and 125 to 150 fuel-cell trucks this year. The company also says it expects to reduce costs on its battery-electric trucks by about $105,000 per truck by year-end as it realises savings from its acquisition of battery-pack maker Romeo Power.