Nikola hedges its bets on hydrogen by turning to battery trucks for beer client

Date: Mar 18, 2019

Nikola, the leading US designer and – soon, by 2020 – manufacturer of very large hydrogen ‘prime mover’ trucks has announced the imminent release of battery electric vehicle trucks in 2019.

In a previous article, the relationship between Anheuser-Busch (owner of multiple global beer brands, including Carlton United in Australia) and Nikola was examined.

AB committed to 800 trucks over a few years, supported by NEL Norway’s on-site hydrogen electrolysers, which can be powered by the grid. If the local grid power is renewables, then the hydrogen is emissions-free.

If not, then the Hydrogen shares the emissions intensity of the local generation/transmission system.

In some states in the US, power is predominantly from hydro and a mix of wind/solar; in other states, the power is still coal/gas predominant.

The advantages of this hydrogen logistics strategy were presented as quick refuelling from stored hydrogen, produced in advance of the truck’s arrival. The cost of the solution was on parity with diesel which made the strategy affordable.

However, as AB’s intention is to produce beer with ‘zero embedded emissions’, this strategy was somewhat leaky in the coal/gas states – leakiness never being a popular thing for beer.

Nikola has now announced that three BEV Category 8 trucks will be presented within months, replicating the Tesla-Semi BEV-architecture.

These trucks will have a range of battery sizes to suit various duty cycles, viz. 500kWh, 750 kWh and 1,000 kWh. These battery sizes represent ranges of 320 km to 640 km.

Nikola advises that these ranges should be discounted by about 25% in extreme conditions, for example extreme cold – the US can drop to -40C in winter.

For a truck carting beer from a brewery in one state to a distribution centre in another state, i.e. long-haul, either the longer-range battery or Hydrogen might be appropriate.

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