Hydrogen-Electric Semi-Trucks Get Boost from Planned $1B Production Facility

hydrogen electric alternative fuel trucks trucking
Credit: Nikola Motor Company

Alternative-fuel trucking got a boost with Nikola Motor Company’s plans for a 500-acre manufacturing headquarters facility in Arizona. The company says the new $1 billion facility, located in Buckeye to the west of Phoenix, will help bring its hydrogen-electric semi-trucks to market.

Currently based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Nikola Motor Company expects to begin transferring its R&D and headquarters to Arizona immediately. Construction on the new zero-emissions facility is projected to be under way by the end of 2019, according to the company. The site is at an entrance to a prototype smart city called Trillium at Douglas Ranch being developed by El Dorado Holdings and JDM Partners.

After a year spent scouting 30 locations in nine states, Nikola Motor Co. chose Buckeye for factors that included the state’s pro-business environment, engineering schools, and educated workforce. The geographic location also offers the company convenient access to major markets.

Details about state incentives weren’t made public, but Reuters’ Eric M. Johnson reported that costs for the facility will be shared between Nikola and the state of Arizona. He added that the facility is “the latest sign of investor confidence that alternative-fuel trucks can gain a toehold in the freight market alongside relatively low-cost, time-tested diesel trucks.”

Last October, Pittsburgh-based Hyliion announced an electric system called 6X4HE that converts long-haul diesel trucking fleets into hybrid ones. The system promises up to 30% fuel and emissions savings. Then in November Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed a prototype for an all-electric truck called the Tesla Semi that he says will get 500 miles on a single charge and require less maintenance than diesel trucks. Production is expected to begin later next year.

Hydrogen-fueled trucks are also gaining ground. In December, Toyota and FuelCell Energy announced a megawatt-scale carbonate fuel cell power generation plant at the Port of Long Beach that will supply hydrogen for Toyota fuel cell EVs and its heavy-duty fuel cell truck. “The zero-emission Class 8 truck proof-of-concept has completed more than 4,000 successful development miles while progressively pulling drayage-rated cargo weight and emitting nothing but water vapor,” the automaker said last year.

Nikola Motor Company, named for the inventor Nikola Tesla, unveiled its Class 8 zero-emission hydrogen-electric sleeper truck called Nikola One in late 2016 with plans to put it into production by 2020. “It will deliver more than 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 ft. lbs. of torque — nearly double the horsepower of any semi-truck on the road — all with zero local emissions,” the company says. Specs for the Nikola Two day cab came out last year.

The company says it already has 8,000 semi-trucks on preorder.

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