Electric startup Nikola, despite being labeled a scam, appears to have regained some corporate trust after parting ways with its founder. This week, the company announced it’s received an order from the US Postal Service for 50 hydrogen fuel cell trucks to be delivered by the end of the year.
Nikola first unveiled its hydrogen fuel cell truck back when Obama was still in office, and since then, the company has faced a number of challenges including going public, accusations of fraud, and the departure of its founder. However, Nikola now appears to be gradually getting back on track, signing an order for 100 vehicles with GP Joule earlier this year and now securing a 50-truck order with the US Postal Service.
Technically, the customer placing this order is AJR Trucking, a major partner of the US Postal Service that has over 30 years of experience delivering mail and packages. AJR hopes to leverage the Nikola Tre hydrogen fuel cell trucks to significantly reduce carbon emissions and help the US Postal Service achieve its carbon reduction goals.
The Nikola Tre hydrogen fuel cell truck meets Class 8 heavy-duty truck specifications, with a maximum load capacity of 37 tons. The company claims the truck can travel a maximum range of 800 km, and possesses a 70 kg hydrogen capacity that can be refilled in 20 minutes, a 164 kWh battery pack, and a motor with a peak output of 773 horsepower.
AJR Trucking can expect to receive their fleet of vehicles in the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter of next year. However, the real challenge lies in finding suitable refueling stations for these hydrogen-powered behemoths. The two companies released a joint press release stating that they are working together to deploy Nikola’s mobile hydrogen refueling solution, installing 10,000 psi hydrogen refueling stations within AJR’s service area in California. AJR estimates that future fuel costs will be similar to current expenses, and while they may not save on fuel, they can significantly reduce carbon emissions.
Purchasing high-priced hydrogen fuel cell trucks without saving on fuel costs may seem counter intuitive, but California’s government offers substantial subsidies. AJR estimates each hydrogen fuel cell truck will receive a USD 270,000 subsidy, in addition to a $40,000 federal tax credit.
Nikola has not explicitly stated that price of its hydrogen fuel cell trucks, but latest estimates puts it at around $370,000. Without subsidies, it may be difficult to find customers.
While hydrogen fuel cells are touted as zero-emission, much like EVs, their carbon reduction potential is diminished if the energy source for hydrogen production is not clean. Currently, hydrogen is primarily derived from coal and natural gas and referred to as grey hydrogen. The industry is working to reduce the cost of producing green hydrogen, which is generated by splitting water molecules.
(Image Source: Nikola)