Nikola Motor’s upcoming hydrogen-electric vehicles will eventually replace the discontinued Cat Truck products for Thompson Machinery, says the Caterpillar dealer for Tennessee and Mississippi, which will handle Nikola sales and service in those states.

In February of this year, Caterpillar announced its departure from the on-highway vocational truck market as part of the company's ongoing restructuring, the dealer noted. Like other Cat outlets that had invested heavily in capital assets and personnel to service the on/off-highway truck, Thompson searched for new product ideas.

"Within a few months, our team had identified a new partner in Trevor Milton, the CEO of Nikola Motor Co.,” said De Thompson V, the dealer’s president and CEO. “As an entrepreneur and leader, Trevor has an unmatched passion and work ethic to create change."

Thompson therefore invested in Nikola Motor, and on December 1st, when Milton unveiled his Nikola One hydrogen-electric sleeper-cab tractor, he announced that Thompson would have distribution rights in its home states. Ryder System will otherwise be the main dealer and service provider for Nikola vehicles. The Nikola range will also include daycab tractors and trucks, to include vocational vehicles.

"We are excited to announce Thompson Machinery as our only other authorized sales, service and warranty dealer, along with Ryder System, Inc. Given Thompson Machinery's impeccable reputation in Tennessee and Mississippi, we were happy to have them as an early investor,” Milton said.

“Thompson Machinery has committed a tremendous amount of capital on the infrastructure needed to service Class 8 trucks and we are excited to have a partner that understands the benefits of clean technology and is ready to serve Nikola drivers," he added.

Thompson Machinery will also distribute Nikola Motor’s Power Sport battery-electric all-terrain vehicle, called the Nikola Zero. It has over 500 hp and 476 lb-ft of torque and is anticipated to hit Thompson Machinery's showrooms in December of 2017. The Class 8 Nikola One and Two are three years away from production, Milton has said.

“Even with a change in administration and possible adjustment to EPA's transportation regulation, we think the growing acceptability and popularity of all electric cars suggest that the market wants cleaner, more environmentally friendly transportation options,” said Steve Lainhart, Thompson’s vice president of energy and transportation.

"We believe the on-highway truck industry will follow suit as soon as a truck manufacturer can bring an affordable solution to the heavy haul market," he said. "We feel Nikola is going to provide that solution and remain the innovation leader in this industry, and we are very excited to be a dealer for the Nikola Motor Co."

Nikola One and Two vehicles will use hydrogen fuel cells to generate electricity that's sent to advanced lithium-ion batteries, which then supply power to chassis motors. Regenerative braking captures kinetic energy that also goes to batteries.

Each truck or tractor will have four or six electric motors generating as much as 1,000 hp, which will be modulated to balance propulsion needs against tire conservation, Milton explained during technical briefings that followed the unveiling.

The Nikola One truck is expected to attract drivers who are interested in using its new technology, and thus reduce the problem of the ongoing driver shortage, said both companies.

Other advantages include exceeding EPA standards, complying with the new brake stopping distance regulations, satisfying fuel economy needs and providing increased horsepower and torque for heavier loads and multiple trailers.

Related: Daycabs, Vocational Trucks Are Priorities for Nikola

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