Nikola goes forward to getting its fuel cell trucks on the road

Australia HeavyQuip Journal interviewed Nikola Motor Company about the firm’s recent listing at the NASDAQ stock exchange and its future operative plans. Here below is the outcome of our discussion.

First of all: the NASDAQ listing was an eventful step in the history of Nikola’s relatively young path: how do you think this will change the brand?

The NASDAQ listing has helped to further focus our efforts on accelerating our portfolio of battery-electric (BEV) and hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEV) targeting zero-emissions globally, breaking ground on our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Coolidge, Arizona on July 23, and building out our hydrogen station infrastructure. It also puts Nikola in a new league with name recognition similar to Tesla and other major OEM’s, enabling us to be even more aggressive in hiring top talent as the listing has increased excitement around our mission on a global level.

How do you think the purchase order with Nel ASA for 85 MW alkaline electrolyzers places Nikola in terms of competitive advantage?

Nikola’s competitive advantage is highlighted by the increasing cost of diesel ownership due to tightening emission standards and this reinforces Nikola’s Bundled FCEV TCO advantage vs. traditional diesel truck ownership. Nikola controls the ecosystem from energy creation to consumption.

How much hydrogen can a new-tech truck potentially use on a normal working day?

Similar to all trucks regardless of what fuel is used, it depends on the mission and duty cycle of the truck. Things like payload, terrain, urban/rural, how the truck is driven, and even temperature, will impact the fuel used.

[On this purpose, the company states consumption levels oscillate from 500 up to as much as 1200 km range, with a 10-15 minute refill time at specialized hydrogen stations. This constitutes an outstandingly increased performance and economy compared to previous-generation diesel trucks.]

The belief of few, but fear of many, is that hydrogen and electricity are not as efficient as common fuels due to the conversion process they are subject to. Clearly, you are an instance of great innovation in this sense. What feedback did you get from the transportation and automotive industry and how do you think you will change diesel owners’ minds about this issue?

Any new technology introduced will experience a period of accelerated innovation and increased efficiency. The recent hydrogen strategy announcement from the EU highlights a transformational shift in thinking and will create new opportunities to increase efficiency and accelerate the wider adoption of hydrogen for multiple applications. Renewable and low-carbon hydrogen can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions ahead of 2030, to the recovery of the EU economy, and is a key building block towards a climate-neutral and zero-pollution economy in 2050, by replacing fossil fuels and feedstock in hard-to-decarbonize sectors. Renewable hydrogen also offers a unique opportunity for research and innovation, maintaining and expanding Europe’s technological leadership, and creating economic growth and jobs across the full value chain and across Europe. We think a form of the EU strategy may be adopted in North America and other areas like which would rapidly accelerate hydrogen technology and transportation.

EU GHG emission towards an 80% domestic reduction (100% = 1990). EC to update 2050 Roadmap, in line with Paris Agreement 1.5°C ambition. Likely new EU target: 100% GHG emission domestic reduction by 2050. Possible policy push to speed-up decarbonization of the power sector. There are a number of pathways for achieving a climate-neutral EU, challenging but feasible from a technological, economic, environmental, and social perspectives.

[In the short term, from 2020 up to 2024, the strategic objective of the European Commission is in facts to install at least 6 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolyzers in the EU and the production of up to 1 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen, to decarbonize existing hydrogen production.

In the medium term, from 2025 to 2030, hydrogen needs to become an intrinsic part of an integrated energy system with a strategic objective to install at least 40 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolyzers by 2030 and the production of up to 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen in the EU.

In the long term, from 2030 onwards and towards 2050, renewable hydrogen technologies should reach maturity and be deployed at a large scale to reach all hard-to-decarbonize sectors where other alternatives might not be feasible or have higher costs.]

Which states and tracking routes distances are you planning to allocate your new power stations to? And how are you dealing with geography in the setting of your access points?

Nikola is in the process of developing and executing an infrastructure strategy that supports our fleet customers. EV automotive manufacturers have to place EV infrastructure everywhere to support consumer needs, but Nikola can be more strategic and develop infrastructure plans that directly support its interested customers. Hydrogen stations will be built and deployed for fleet purposes, not for presence: they will be strategically placed along major distribution routes that directly support the needs of those specific users.

Nikola plans to build a network of 700 truck stop-size hydrogen fuel stations across the U.S. and Canada by 2028. The typical facility would occupy seven to 10 acres of land. Nikola would purchase some of the properties and lease others, said Milton, CEO. The company did not provide an estimate of what it expects the stations to cost.

Does Nikola plan to develop the future heavy-duty off-highway machines with fuel cell technology such as dumper trucks, wheel loaders, or excavators?

Not at this time.

[Nikola is now focusing on the production of trucks for long-distance transportation. Nevertheless, Nikola’s R&D and Design departments have recently entered the Powersports field with 2 off-road vehicles and even a watercraft.]

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Do you think Australia is ready to go carbon-neutral as well and, overall, what role do you think Nikola will play in changing the transportation and mobility sector?

Although we have not done a deep dive into Australia as of yet, we are seeing a lot of positive developments and are excited to see the steps that Australia is taking to embrace hydrogen. We hope to see more carbon-neutral policies that rapidly accelerate Australia toward a zero-emissions future.