“A new vehicle needs a new design,” says John Sodano, manager, exterior design at Nikola Corporation, introducing the concept underlying the design of the Nikola Tre battery-electric vehicle (BEV), produced by the U.S. manufacturer in partnership with Iveco that will be sold in both the U.S. and Europe. The two companies’ design teams worked together on the development of this zero-emission heavy-duty vehicle, based on the Iveco S-Way truck platform. The electric axle was co-designed and manufactured by FPT Industrial and features Nikola’s cutting-edge electric technology, along with key components supplied by Bosch.
Zero emissions details
“It all started with the prototype that Nikola had created independently to research the styling for a cabover vehicle, with forms and proportions similar to our S-Way,” explains Marco Armigliato, chief designer for Iveco Brands at CNH Industrial. “Initially, we worked to adapt their style to the vehicle that would actually go into production, but then things moved forward. We are among the first to market an electric articulated vehicle,” adds Armigliato, “and the fact that it is zero-emissions must shine through in the details. That’s why, for example, we went for a grille of reduced dimensions: it simplifies the profile, but makes it clear there’s no need to direct heavy flows of fresh air towards the front hood, as there is no traditional engine.”
A team work
The two teams worked in direct collaboration with styling research done in parallel so that comparison of the results would spotlight those aspects considered most important by each group. The combination of the two proposals led to the final product, which underlines two features that Nikola considers indispensable: the luminous signature with the C-shaped daytime running lamp and the black grille connecting to the windscreen. For a young company entering the market with zero-emission vehicles (after the BEV, the next evolution of the Tre will be a hydrogen vehicle with fuel cell technology), the building of a brand identity is an immediate focus.
The idea that the Nikola Tre is an electric truck has to be evident in the interior as well. That’s why the truck focuses on a more minimalist environment where everything is centered around instrumentation and the infotainment system with many functions managed through displays. The absence of physical buttons conveys an idea of the future. “As with the exterior, the experience inside had to be different and had to play its part in creating a Nikola identity,” explains Giuseppe Bruno, senior designer of medium and heavy trucks for Iveco.
Rethinking the user experience
Lane Veach, Nikola’s manager, user experience, confirms the concept: “A different approach is needed when you’re driving an electric truck. This is why the instrumentation and infotainment system here have been designed with deep interaction between driver and vehicle. The interface sought to familiarize the driver with all operations such as trip planning, managing battery charging, and harnessing energy to maximize efficiency”.
“A unique vehicle”
The Nikola Tre BEV is about to hit the roads and, in the words of Armigliato, “it will be truly unique. You only have to see it move in absolute silence to understand that we are dealing with something never seen before. The design stresses this diversity.”