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Nikola Motor About to Build its Electric Semi-Trucks in Arizona

March 1, 2018
Trucking in Arizona

A $1 billion hydrogen-electric semi-truck factory will be built by Nikola Motor in a suburb of Phoenix as the company pushes forward with its plan to deliver “the iPhone of trucking” to an industry that has historically centered on diesel vehicles.


The announcement shows a shift within the industry to move towards alternative-fuel trucks as well as semi-autonomous and eventually fully autonomous vehicles. Many companies, from truck makers like Daimler, Navistar, and Volkswagen to startups like Nikola Motor, Peloton and Embark as well as Tesla, Uber’s Otto and Waymo, the erstwhile Google self-driving project, are pursuing what they believe is the next generation of trucking.


Tesla Semi was unveiled in November, an all-electric semi-truck that is expected to go into production in 2019. By late 2019, Navistar International Corp and Volkswagen are working to launch electric medium-duty trucks. Daimler began delivery to customers in New York City last year of its Fuso eCanter, an electric light-duty truck produced under the Mitsubishi Fuso brand that has a range of up to 80 miles.


Almost 8,000 pre-ordered have been received for Nikola semi-trucks, which Nikola says are lighter, cheaper to drive than a diesel—and all without generating tailpipe emissions. The company, which is currently based in Salt Lake City, said it expects construction to be underway by the end of 2019. The first trucks would be produced beginning in 2021. Also, the factory is expected to support 2,000 jobs.


Nikola Motors has sent many years evaluating nine states before picking Buckeye, Arizona location. The company will begin moving its R&D and headquarters from Salt Lake City to Arizona immediately with plans to complete the transition by October 2018, Milton said. The company or state didn’t provide details on an incentives package it received.


In December 2016, Nikola first unveiled the Nikola One, a hydrogen fuel-cell electric freight truck with a range up to 1,200 miles. Nikola Two day-cab is also being developed by the company, which will begin testing in fall 2018. It’s expected to go into full production in 2021.


Since then, the company has locked up several partners including Ryder Systems, which will be Nikola’s exclusive provider for distribution and maintenance nationwide and in parts of Mexico. Bosch and PowerCell AB will supply fuel cells for the Nikola class 8 hydrogen-electric truck.


In December, truck components company Wabco took a 1% equity stake for $10 million in Nikola Motor.


“Everything people know about trucking is going to be changed because Nikola has changed it,” Milton told Fortune during an interview in November 2017. “We’re vertically integrated, we own every aspect of it from production to consumption of fuel. We’ve controlled everything, like Apple with its iPhone.”


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