As a separate aside to our previous profiled HFC technology provider Plug Power blog, we highlight another important announcement in both HFC technology and the Class 8 heavy duty truck market.

Last week, Nikola Motor Company unveiled plans to construct a $1 billion manufacturing hub to produce its hybrid battery and hydrogen-powered Class 8 semi-trucks. According to the announcement, the 500-acre facility is to be located in Phoenix Arizona and would represent one of the largest standalone manufacturing facilities to produce next-generation alternative-fuel powered truck vehicles.

We first alerted Supply Chain Matters readers to Nikola Motors being a disrupter in the heavy-duty truck segment in a June 2016 blog. Similar to electric car manufacturer Tesla, even before the first prototype truck was produced, Nicola’s founder indicated that the manufacturer had initially booked 7000 reservations, each accompanied by a $1500 deposit, totaling more than $2.3 billion in cash, at the time of announcing the Nikola One truck. According to reports, the customer reservations now amount to more than 8000 pre-orders.

At initial announcement back in 2016, the manufacturer indicated that the Nicola One would feature four times the horsepower, 2.2 times the torque and twice the miles per gallon of a standard diesel-powered Class 8 tractor. The latest published spec for the Nikola One indicates a total of 1000 horsepower, 2000-foot pounds of torque, acceleration from zero to 60 mph in 30 seconds and a fuel range of 13-15 miles per gallon. Nikola One Class 8 truck

The original design called for a purely battery powered electric vehicle, but that design has since morphed to a combination of lithium-ion and hydrogen fuel cell powered technologies. According to Nicola’s web site, there are over 32,000 individual lithium-ion cells welded together on the Nikola One, resulting in a 320-kilowatt hour (kWh) battery pack. That is noted as three times the pack size of a Tesla Model S P90D. The battery bank is charged by a fuel cell, which needs hydrogen fuel. Noted is that there is enough hydrogen on board to power the truck up to 1,200 miles without stopping to fill up. That is a considerable operational distance.

Nikola also produces other types of hydrogen powered vehicles and hydrogen fueling stations.  According to a published Reuters report, Nikola expects construction of the new manufacturing plant to begin in 2019 with the initial produced trucks being shipped in the 2021-time period.

The Nicola announcement comes more than two months after Tesla made its highly touted global announcement of an all-electric powered Class 8 semi-truck. At the time of announcement, Tesla indicated production availability in 2019, although this blog, and other business media have noted that Tesla has no apparent solidified plans to support the 2019 production date.

While Nicola’s 2021 date seems at face-value to be laggard to that of Tesla, it does represent a different product design and operational capabilities, not to mention more definitive manufacturing plans.

The takeaway for industry supply chains and associated fleet operators is that in the not too distant future, there will be significant alternatives and breakthrough potential in meeting the needs for reduction of overall operating costs and adherence to corporate sustainability and green supply chain imperatives.

Advanced technology is indeed leading the way to the future of business.

Bob Ferrari

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