In another sign that the field of zero emission transportation is accelerating, the company Nikola has announced plans to build a new truck factory in Arizona. These aren't pick-ups or other light duty vehicles. The company's Nikola 1 model is built for long hauls and heavy loads, with an electric drive train powered by a hydrogen fuel cell system.
With plans for the new factory firming up, it looks like Nikola's plan for hydrogen long haul trucking is on the road to realization. It's also another sign that the trucking industry is slowly beginning to abandon the idea of "clean diesel" for a more sustainable future.
The news is also bad for Utah, which is losing Nikola's current headquarters. The company plans to transfer its R&D work to Arizona as well as building trucks there.
The company already has 8,000 trucks on pre-order, and so far it looks like everything is on track to have the factory up and running within two years.
Nikola's business model embraces a strong environmental sustainability angle, and right now Utah is the epicenter of a battle over Trump Administration policies opening up more federal lands to extractive industries.
The focus of the battle is the Bears Ears national monument designated by former President Obama. The Trump policy has provoked a storm of outrage within the business community, most notably through the efforts of Patagonia, and it has been compared to a Wild West giveaway of public land.
Announcing a major new facility in Utah would have been a bad look for Nikola, or any other company building its brand around sustainability.
The community’s signature elements include: an education system which draws the finest educators and institutions and graduates the brightest students; world-class healthcare to promote wellness and address everyday health concerns; robust employment centers that keep individuals working close to home; multimodal transportation offering flexible, environmentally responsible alternatives; a rich array of recreational, arts and cultural amenities; expansive home and lifestyle choices and an unyielding commitment to sustainability and living in harmony with the natural environment.
However, new methods of producing renewable hydrogen by "splitting" water with an electric current are emerging, leaving the door open for wind, solar and other renewables. Sustainable hydrogen from biogas is also on the horizon.
Nikola has built that opportunity into its business model. The company launched in 2016 with ambitious plans for building a network of hydrogen fuel stations, leveraging solar energy to produce sustainable hydrogen.
The company initially planned on eight stations, and it doubled the number last December with a new plan for 16 in partnership with the company NelASA -- which happens to specialize in water-splitting.
Nikola has also partnered with Ryder for distribution and maintenance, lending a familiar name to an endeavor that is otherwise uncharted territory. Helping to firm up Nikola's position in the trucking industry, the company also lured former Ryder "tech guru" Scott Perry to its side last fall.
Photo (cropped): via Nikola.
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.