Electric truck maker Nikola has announced it will become a vertically integrated company selling hydrogen-powered electric heavy-duty trucks and building a hydrogen fueling network and business under the HYLA brand.
It’s a nifty branding that combines the HY in hydrogen with the last two letters of the company name, creating an easy-to-remember link between the two companies. Nikola is named after electrical pioneer Nikola Tesla.
“The HYLA brand represents Nikola’s hydrogen-focused energy business by supporting our fuel cell electric vehicles and other OEM vehicles,” said Kyle Mendes, president of Nikola’s energy business.
Nikola has developed a hydrogen-powered FCEV Class 8 truck with a range of up to 500 miles (805 kilometers). The Nikola Tre FCEV, which is already in testing with several delivery vehicles including Anheuser-Busch, takes about 20 minutes to refuel, not much longer than a top-up of diesel.
Hydrogen has been a pie-in-the-sky proposition for decades, but regulators and politicians in the United States, China and the European Union have recently raised questions about its technology and distribution.
While liberal parties in the U.S. and Europe have debated the seriousness of climate change and carbon emissions for three decades, both tend to hold majorities, with industrialized economies dependent on oil and gas from Russia and the Middle East, oppressed by Controlled and unpredictable regimes would be safer if they shifted energy consumption away from fossil fuels.
The push for hydrogen today is in heavy-duty and light-duty trucks to replace diesel, which emits far more carbon than gasoline.although Diesel vehicles tend to have lower volumetric fuel consumption figures compared to comparable gasoline vehicles. The advantage in terms of CO2 emissions is significantly lower, as burning 1 liter (0.26 gal) of diesel releases about 13% more CO2 than burning the same amount of gasoline.
Nikola is targeting its hydrogen truck business at short-haul (port to internal distribution centers), as well as intermodal and long-haul. Established truck manufacturers such as Volvo, Freightliner and Navistar have also developed FCEV trucks.
Advocates of hydrogen energy have been waiting to push the development of hydrogen fuel infrastructure. The Lower Inflation Act, signed into law by President Biden last year, allocates $7 billion to build hydrogen centers capable of producing large quantities of hydrogen, with a focus on making “blue” hydrogen (produced from fossil fuels, but the resulting carbon is sequestered ) and “green” hydrogen, which is produced from renewable energy sources – wind and solar.
Nikola and its HYLA business are poised to play a role in this growing area of hydrogen distribution and fuel supply.
“Nikola is the only company that has managed to bring together a revolutionary new product, a hydrogen fuel cell truck, and a complete hydrogen infrastructure supply chain under one roof,” said Nikola CEO and President Michael Lohscheller. Our Nikola Tre fueled Unveiling the battery truck and flexible mobile refueling trailer demonstrates a real and sustainable competitive advantage for our customers and is great proof that we are on track to accomplish the goals we set out to achieve. “
A new era of hydrogen
In addition to the hydrogen hub currently under development, the federal government has changed the outlook for hydrogen as a future competitor to fossil fuels through tax incentives – 10 years Production tax credits for “clean hydrogen” production facilities. Incentives for hydrogen produced in a way that captures slightly more than half the carbon emissions of the SMR process start at $0.60/kg, assuming workforce development and wage requirements are met. The value of the tax credit rises to $1.00/kg as the carbon capture rate increases, and then jumps to $3.00/kg for hydrogen with almost no emissions.
Nikola’s main hydrogen production facility in Buckeye, Arizona, will complete an initial production phase in the second half of 2024, the company said. When completed, it is expected to produce 150 metric tons of fuel per day. With the additional production center, Nikola plans to produce 300 metric tons per day.
There are plans to build 60 hydrogen fueling stations by 2026, with the first announced stations to be located in Colton, California, which serves the Port of Long Beach. California is Nikola’s launch market, and the sites are designed to support key customers and help advance the state’s efforts to decarbonize the transportation sector.
New big rigs and other trucks must be zero-emission by 2040 under a proposed regulation from the California Air Resources Board. Under the proposal, manufacturers would not be able to sell new medium- and heavy-duty trucks that run on diesel or gasoline to operate in California, instead forcing the trucking industry to switch to electric models. In addition, large trucking companies will have to gradually convert their existing fleets to zero-emission vehicles, buying more vehicles over time until they are all zero-emission by 2042.
Nikola’s move to separate its hydrogen business from vehicle production comes as the company faces some challenges in delivering vehicles to customers. Nikola told shareholders in November that it would miss its goal of delivering at least 300 vehicles in 2022 and declined to specify when that goal would be achieved.