Nikola, the financially struggling maker of battery- and hydrogen-powered heavy-duty trucks, is partnering with Voltera, a startup that’s developing fueling infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles, to open up to 50 hydrogen stations across North America over the next five years.
The project aims to create North America’s biggest network of hydrogen refueling stations for commercial vehicles, the companies said in an emailed statement. Virginia-based Voltera, created in 2022 with funding from Swedish investment firm EQT, will site, build, own and operate the stations using Nikola’s HYLA brand. Nikola will supply the hydrogen fuel and technical assistance. Nikola said the investment needed to build all 50 stations could reach $1 billion.
The collaboration brings “substantial capital and expertise to support Nikola’s plans to build refueling infrastructure to support its customers,” said Nikola’s energy unit president Carey Mendes.
The deal could play a vital role in helping Nikola build up sales of the Tre hydrogen fuel cell trucks it plans to start producing later this year. The Phoenix-based company, which saw its market capitalization swell to more than $34 billion after going public in 2020 despite having no revenue, has struggled financially in the wake of founder Trevor Milton’s fraud conviction for making false statements to investors. Nikola also paid $125 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle the matter.
The company has ramped up production of battery-powered semis at its Arizona plant and is preparing to start building hydrogen-powered Tres, which go up 500 miles per fueling. In March it announced a $100 million share offering to generate more funds for capital investment.
Separately, Nikola said on Tuesday that AJR Trucking, which hauls for the U.S. Postal Service and has cargo drayage operations at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, is buying 50 of its Tre hydrogen fuel cell electric trucks. The company plans to deliver the vehicles late this year and in the first quarter of 2024.
Voltera, which is building and opening charging stations for electric commercial vehicles, said it plans to deploy “several billion dollars” for EV charging and hydrogen fuel stations. Their plan comes after California said last week it plans to phase out diesel trucks in the state in the years ahead.
While battery power works well for lighter commercial vehicles and heavy trucks that don’t need to travel more than 300 miles per charge, manufacturers including Volvo, Daimler, Hyundai, Toyota and Cummins believe hydrogen fuel cell trucks, which emit only water vapor as a byproduct, are a better clean-fuel option for long-range driving. That’s because they aren’t as heavy as battery trucks and can be refueled about as quickly as a conventional diesel-powered semi.
While California has about 50 hydrogen stations for passenger vehicles like Toyota’s Mirai fuel cell sedan, there’s not yet a similar network available to power hydrogen trucks. That’s something Nikola hopes to change: the company says the stations it will open with Voltera underpins its previous plan to open up to 60 HYLA stations by 2026.
“We are expanding our focus beyond battery-electric vehicle charging to dramatically increase hydrogen fueling infrastructure, reduce barriers for operators buying vehicles at scale to enable mass adoption of hydrogen trucks,” Voltera CEO Matt Horton said.
Nikola shares rose 2.7% to 86 cents in Nasdaq trading on Tuesday.
Nikola Corporation, a leading producer of hydrogen fuel-cell electric and battery electrical vehicles, announced a partnership with Voltera on April 8th that will enable the company to build up to fifty hydrogen station hubs across the United States and Canada. This partnership will enable Nikola to quickly deploy these hydrogen stations and provide an efficient fuel supply chain for its clean-energy vehicles.
Voltera provide the infrastructure and engineering teams that will be deployed to the sites to support Nikola’s fast-paced infrastructure rollout. The teams will create customized hydrogen fueling solutions tailored to Nikola’s specific needs, and work with local governments, utilities, and suppliers to schedule projects and ensure safety readiness, as well as build and operate the stations.
“Partnering with Voltera is a key element of our overall strategy to achieve cost-effective hydrogen fueling solutions,” said Steve Tantha, director of engineering at Nikola. “This partnership will enable us to access a fast, reliable, and affordable source of hydrogen fuel to power our fleet of vehicles, while also creating jobs in the hydrogen economy.”
The Hydrogen stations will fuel a fleet of Nikola hydrogen fueled trucks. This fleet of Nikola hydrogen trucks are capable of generating up to 2.2 megawatt hours of power and 700 miles of range, giving them more power than any alternative fuel option. The hydrogen fuel cell technology produces zero-emissions and is more efficient than alternative fuel sources.
The construction of the hydrogen station hubs is expected to begin in 2021, with up to 50 stations projected to be completed within two years. This partnership with Voltera will ensure Nikola’s success in establishing a large hydrogen-powered transport network to support its unique and advanced electric vehicle operation.