Nikola To Run Hydrogen Production, Fuel Cell Truck Stations Under ‘HYLA’ Brand

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Nikola, which wants to be a top producer of electric trucks powered by hydrogen, said its hydrogen production business and fuel stations will operate under the HYLA brand and will supply both its own big rigs and those of competitors.

“The strategic mission of HYLA at Nikola is to secure supplies of clean hydrogen and then to distribute it to our customers at very competitive prices,” said Carey Mendes, president of the company’s energy unit. “It will, of course, support not only our vehicles … but it’s also going to support every other manufacturer of hydrogen-powered vehicles who are going to need this in the future.”

The Phoenix-based company is on track to start production of fuel cell trucks for commercial customers this year, CEO and president Michael Lohscheller said via a webcast on Wednesday. Nikola has also developed mobile fueling units to support initial customers but plans to have 60 hydrogen stations up and running by 2026. The updates come as it struggles to win back investor support since founder Trevor Milton was accused of lying about its technology in 2020 and found guilty of fraud last year.

While it began selling battery-powered Tre semis in early 2022, the company said battery trucks were best for short-range use while hydrogen is a superior option for long-haul trucks. That’s because hydrogen fuel cell systems aren’t as heavy as the massive battery packs needed for long driving range and can be fueled in about the same amount of time as diesels. The fuel cell Tre truck has 500 miles of driving range and needs only 20 minutes to refuel, Lohscheller said.

Nikola has pared back its business ambitions, which under Milton included electric pickups, military vehicles and battery-powered watercraft, to making and distributing hydrogen fuel and battery- and hydrogen-fueled trucks. And though its operations seem to have stabilized in recent months, its ability to raise additional funds for vehicle and fuel production facilities and fuel stations is unclear. The company didn’t provide financial details or estimates for its HYLA business at the Wednesday briefing. It will release fourth-quarter results on Feb. 23.

Nikola hasn’t said what it will charge for a kilogram of hydrogen, though company officials have claimed it will be much cheaper than current prices in California, the only part of the U.S. with retail hydrogen stations. True Zero, the main operator of stations for fuel cell cars sold by Toyota, Hyundai and Honda, currently charges about $25 per kilogram of the fuel, up about 80% from a year ago. The price spiked in recent months owing to the runup in natural gas prices, the main source of production for True Zero.

By contrast, Nikola and companies such as Plug Power plan to sell hydrogen made mainly from renewable electricity and water rather than natural gas. Investment in this type of “green” hydrogen production is accelerating, due in part to generous federal subsidies of $3 per kilogram that were created when the Infrastructure Reduction Act became law last year.

Nikola’s first three HYLA stations will be built in Long Beach, California, serving trucks operating at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, and in Ontario and Colton, California, major trucking hubs. The company’s first large-scale hydrogen plant will be built in Buckeye, Arizona, with capacity to make 150 metric tons of hydrogen per day. Its overall production target for HYLA facilities is 300 tons per day to supply its initial station network.

Hydrogen is a “game-changing energy source and we know it’s going to be the cornerstone in helping to decarbonize the transportation sector,” Mendes said.

Nikola shares rose 2.3% to close at $2.67 in Nasdaq trading on Wednesday.

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