Nikola Motor Company
The hydrogen-powered-vehicle industry is still a nascent field that has yet to show real signs of going mainstream.
Yet, major automakers are exploring the technology because it gives vehicles shorter re-fill times and longer ranges than plug-in electric vehicles. General Motors and Honda, for example, are investing $85 million as part of a joint venture to mass produce hydrogen fuel cells in 2020. Honda’s hydrogen car, the Honda Clarity, has the longest range of any zero-emission vehicle at 366 miles. Toyota also leases its hydrogen car, the Toyota Mirai, in California. But without the necessary infrastructure to support the vehicles, they stand little chance of being used outside of California. For reference, there are 15,510 electric charging stations in the United States, and only 33 hydrogen stations in the entire US, according to the US Department of Energy.
Startup Nikola Motor Company, which unveiled its hydrogen-electric truck in December, plans to change that. Nikola plans to build over 300 hydrogen stations so that its trucks can travel across the country. Nikola plans to build over 300 hydrogen stations so that its trucks can travel across the country. We spoke with the startup’s founder and CEO Trevor Milton and he shared more details about how his company’s plans to build out these stations, while also disrupting the trucking industry. For reference, that’s a much longer range than other zero-emissions, heavy duty vehicles. In the trucking space, we can really only compare the Nikola One to Mercedes’ all-electric truck, which only has a range of 124 miles. Startup Proterra is making strides with its electric bus that has a range of 350 miles. That’s an impressive range for a bus that can fit 77 people, but still falls short of Nikola One.
The Nikola One will be powered by a stack of hydrogen fuel cells, as well as a 320 kWh battery, to achieve its range. The startup said it will have over 1,000 hp and 2,000 ft.-lb. of torque. The startup plans to have 12 trucks driving on public roads in 18 months for testing. The trucks will officially come to market in 2020, Milton said. Nikola Motor Company said the truck will have a refueling time of just 15 minutes, edging out plug-in EVs that take at least an hour to charge when using a fast-charging network. With a typical outlet, a plug-in EV can take many hours to recharge. But the key factor that will determine Nikola Motor’s success will be its ability to set up a hydrogen station infrastructure to support the trucks once they are out on the road.
Whether Nikola’s hydrogen truck can become a reality will depend entirely on its ability to set up the hydrogen stations, which is no easy feat. For now, we’ll have to see if they can get the capital to pull its grand vision off.