Photo: Nikola Motor Co.
Nikola One hydrogen fuel cell electric Class 8 semi-truck

Nikola to build its electric trucks in 'city of the future'

Jan. 31, 2018
Nikola Motor Co. said it has chosen Buckeye, AZ to build its distinctively sleek, hydrogen fuel cell-powered electric big rigs.

The Class 8 electric truck took another step toward mainstream reality on America's roads as Nikola Motor Co. said it has chosen Buckeye, AZ  to build its distinctively sleek, hydrogen fuel cell-powered electric big rigs.

The company is planning a 1 million sq. ft. facility that will roll them off the line, and the 500-acre plot where it will be built is in a custom-engineered community aiming to offer a smart "city of the future." It's called Trillium at Douglas Ranch, the enclosing nearly 34,000-acre property with a master plan to one day include more than 100,000 residential homes and 55 million sq. ft. of commercial use.

The Nikola plant, when it materializes, will be right at one of its entrances. Meanwhile, Trevor Milton, Nikola's founder and CEO, said the company will be bringing its headquarters and research and development operations to Arizona "immediately" and is looking to have the transfer done by this October. Planning is underway for the new zero-emission manufacturing facility, which Nikola hopes to break ground on by the end of 2019.

The location will help supply Nikola with educated labor and engineering brain power as it relocates and establishes the new facilities. "Arizona has the workforce to support our growth, and a governor that was an entrepreneur himself," Milton said in a statement. "They understood what 2,000 jobs would mean to their cities and state."

That figure also was cited by Jerry Colangelo, a co-founder and partner of JDM Partners, which owns the Douglas Ranch property. "We look forward to working with everyone here to bring Nikola's innovative products and their 2,000 professionals into this city of the future," Colangelo said.

Besides the workforce element, the location in Buckeye — which is on the west side of the Phoenix metro area — also offered a "pro-business environment" and an accessible geographic location, Nikola noted. The company said it already has more than 8,000 of its electric semi-trucks on preorder.   

"This incredible new technology will revolutionize transportation, and we're very proud it will be engineered right here in Arizona," said the state's Gov. Doug Ducey (R).

Prototype to production

Nikola's electric semi-trucks — the Nikola One sleeper and Nikola Two day cab — have already seen plenty of attention in prototype. The company claims a number of advantages for them that have solved for the difficulties and limitations inherent in an electric-powered heavy truck operating in this market.

That includes a huge range up to 1,200 miles on a single tank of hydrogen, which powers the Nikola trucks' fuel cells that produce electricity for the dual electric motors in the One and Two. The trucks also will offer a weight advantage over their diesel equivalents, according to Nikola, along with better braking, much faster acceleration, and much quieter and cleaner — even cheaper — operation besides.

Though the trucks are still years from production, the announcement from Nikola marks a significant step forward toward the mainstream for electric Class 8 trucks, certainly outside of things like city waste removal and terminal operations. So far, an electric Class 8 production truck ready to haul loads on American highways has remained more a concept.

Cummins, Inc. debuted a battery electric Class 7 truck in development last year, for instance; Kenworth has a one of its trucks powered by a hydrogen-electric fuel cell that it's testing, as does Toyota. Tesla recently unveiled the electric semi-truck it promises to build. And Volvo Trucks just said it sees the electric heavy truck as becoming a more "viable" solution for North America, although it plans to launch its own electric trucks in Europe first.

About the Author

Aaron Marsh

Before computerization had fully taken hold and automotive work took someone who speaks engine, Aaron grew up in Upstate New York taking cars apart and fixing and rewiring them, keeping more than a few great jalopies (classics) on the road that probably didn't deserve to be. He spent a decade inside the Beltway covering Congress and the intricacies of the health care system before a stint in local New England news, picking up awards for both pen and camera.

He wrote about you-name-it, from transportation and law and the courts to events of all kinds and telecommunications, and landed in trucking when he joined FleetOwner in July 2015. Long an editorial leader, he was a keeper of knowledge at FleetOwner ready to dive in on the technical and the topical inside and all-around trucking—and still turned a wrench or two. Or three. 

Aaron previously wrote for FleetOwner. 

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