Nikola Motors Semi Fleet Will Be Like Massive Air Purifiers


The startup EV company Nikola Motors claims that its future fleet will be the United States’ largest air purifiers.

Currently, there are two major, eco-friendly trucking prospects in the world: the Tesla Semi and the Nikola Motors semi truck. While Tesla’s venture into the trucking world is completely battery-powered, Nikola Motors went in the direction of hydrogen-powered vehicles. Certainly, some may say hydrogen doesn’t have a future in potentially eco-friendly mobility due to cost and fuel production, but truck-wise, the economics are quite different than those found in electric passenger vehicles.

Right now, Nikola is ramping up its hiring efforts as the company prepares to start producing its highly-anticipated hydrogen-electric truck. A few weeks ago, Nikola Motor chief legal officer Britton Worthen noted in a statement to AZ Central that he expects the company to break ground on its planned 1 million-square-foot manufacturing plant in Coolidge, AZ, in about two years. Right now, after the company made the move from Utah to the Phoenix area, hiring has been the focal point.

Nikola Motors aims to have around 100 employees – up from 70 people – in their Phoenix HQ by the end of the year. According to recent information released by the startup truck company, they aim to have around 200 workers by the end of 2019, severely doubling their efforts. However, the most impactful news, recently revealed by the company, is the one where Nikola aims to have their future truck fleet the United States’ “largest air purifiers,” thanks to their hydrogen fuel cell systems.

Tesla Semi Rendering Alongside Nikola One

Even though some sources claimed that Nikola uses methane to produce hydrogen, the company released a Tweet in which they assured their social media followers base that they utilize a combination of solar, wind, and hydropower to make the hydrogen needed to power its upcoming fleet. If their plans come to fruition over time – they aim to become the largest energy consumer in the US within the next ten years – the nationwide map of NOx emissions from heavy-duty trucking could well change, and change for good.

Clearly, the company is no stranger to bold statements. Recently, at the beginning of the year, they’ve announced that the company would be refunding all the reservations it received for the Nikola One and Nikola Two. Clearly, a jab at Tesla, as the trucking startup noted that it does not “use (customers’) money to operate (its) business.” Right now, Nikola claims that the company has $11 billion in pre-production orders as of now.

If both Tesla’s and Nikola’s plans come to reality, heavy-duty trucking within the U.S is clearly up for a huge (eco-friendly) makeover. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Plus, Nikola Tesla (from whom both companies got their name) would probably be delighted to see how his ideas are taken to enhance the well being of society as well.

Source: Teslarati

Categories: General, Tesla

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130 Comments on "Nikola Motors Semi Fleet Will Be Like Massive Air Purifiers"

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I would say that using customer’s money to operate their business is what a sustainable company does.

It’s also what a Ponzi scheme does. “Using customer’s money” doesn’t give enough information to judge legitimacy.

What kind of ponzi scheme allows you to ask for your money back at any time? What kind of ponzi scheme uses that money to actually go towards purchasing something in return… In this case, I got to pay to be one of the first in line to own the best car on the planet. And that money went towards the cost of the vehicle.

Actually many Ponzi schemes state that you can have your money back at any time.
They do this to prove they are not a Ponzi scheme, and rely on the fact that only a few people will withdraw their money.

Now here is someone who has been paying attention.

Not really. Ponzi schemes deliver no real product. When you make a deposit with Tesla, superchargers get installed, factories get built, and your vehicle eventually gets made. Not a ponzi scheme.

How does a Ponzi scheme work when the company actually delivers a product??

Here’s the definition of ‘Ponzi Scheme’: “A form of fraud in which belief in the success of a NONEXISTENT enterprise is fostered by the payment of quick returns to the first investors from money invested by later investors.”

I can’t stand people like you that can’t 15-seconds of research into the terms/concepts that you spew. Especially considering the term ‘Ponzi’ has serious implications attached. Go away. You’re better served by commenting on Seeking Alpha, where purely emotional bias is the flavor of the day.

I don’t know enough about this company but Theramos Elizabeth Holmes blood testing company was able to get 9 billion from investors for a product that never worked.
Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee was the lead in getting the law amended that allowed pharmaceutical companies to sell millions of OxyContin pills in towns of less than 10,000 people in America and not one pharmaceutical CEO has been held accountable. Rather than throw a CEO in prison the pharmaceutical company wants to make money by running rehabilitation centers to make millions more off the taxpayers because of the victims there responsible for addicting. The deaths caused can never be repaid but Marsha Blackburn Tennessee Congresswomen and Drug Companies CEO needs to be held accountable and pay with criminal charges that include manslaughter.

Like tesla?

Read my above definition of ‘Ponzi.’ And then go away.

Nikola Motors Semi will have zero air pollution for sure. No car – no pollution. But I’m not sure how absence of a car can purify air.

“No car – no pollution”
What are you rambling about? It’s a truck, not a car.

It depends on how you reform the hydrogen. Currently, 95% of all hydrogen is reformed from fracked gas. Using sewage plant’s biogas is a noble and good cause. Using inefficient electrolysis is noble but not practical. Better than burning gasoline, especially in long halls. The truck itself is a zero emitter but not the fuel. With 1-in-3 EVs getting their power from solar, and coal plants continuing to shut down, battery power short and medium run trucks make more sense. I see a place for this truck, but as long as BP, Exxon, and Shell are the producers and suppliers of the hydrogen, I just don’t see them letting go of fracked gas as the method for reforming their product, and that kills the hope of zero emissions.

Nikola claims their H2 will come from solar, wind and hydro. At one point they even said they’d own the solar farms. Of course they also said they’d have 50 H2 stations in place by 2020, so judge their statements accordingly.

Cheap desert solar and electrolysis can make H2 for $1/kg.

That’s where they’re getting the POWER to make their hydrogen. That doesn’t say how they’re going to PRODUCE the hydrogen. You can clean source all the electricity you want, but if you’re reforming natural gas, the process still produces carbon. Especially if the source of the gas is fracking.

NEL hydrogen

I haven’t read the article, but they are probably alluding to electrolysis as a method of H2 mass production, which doesn’t involve the use of natural gas. The more commercialized the process becomes, the cheaper it would be per kg of H2.

The real question is, all things considered, is H2 the most practical fuel for interstate travel? I am kind of hoping in a few years we’ll have a SOFC that runs on something renewable, e.g. methanol or ethanol, and plug-in hybrid trucks that would run on battery in urban/suburban traffic and use such a FC system as a range extender for longer routes.

Yes, they’ve said in the past that they are going to use electrolysis to produce the H2 and renewables to generate the electricity to do so.

The battery evangelicals keep ignoring this due to their apparent absolute hatred of HFC.

Ethanol/Methanol is renewable I guess, but it’s doubtful whether it will ever be sustainable…

Fuel cells running in liquid fuels could be interesting for some specific uses where other zero-emission approaches do not work — but I don’t think they are viable for ordinary road transport.

That’s no difference where H2 could come from. Nikola Motors Semi wil never been built.

It certainly never will be mass produced. I wouldn’t take bets either way on a working prototype ever appearing. Having a prototype would help them attract investor money, which appears to be the only real activity of this company, but then they’d be called upon to demonstrate that they can refuel that prototype in a practical and economically feasible manner… which would of course be impossible.

Fitzgerald is building the first 5,000 units, they already have working prototype(s) but their big event is next April

They also are in solar business so they can make their own electricity.

Okay, my Google-fu reveals Nikola has shown a prototype Nikola One truck. It looks pretty nice too, inside and out.

Clearly Nikola has more than the empty shell that Faraday Future claimed as its first “prototype”. So good for them. But can it actually haul a load, as one of their promo videos appears to show? Probably not yet, or they would already have done a public event showing that.

It’s possible that Nikola will turn out to be more like (Project) Better Place; a company with a wildly unrealistic business plan doomed to collapse quickly, rather than an outright fraud like Faraday Future.

If Nikola really did have some magic way to make, process, distribute, and dispense commercially produced H2 fuel at a much, much lower cost than thermodynamics and basic economics absolutely demands, then they should be doing that. There would be no need to bet billions of dollars on developing and selling H2-powered semi trucks.

Bunny, I’m sorry to see you’ve bought into Nikola’s B.S. claims. 🙁 Otherwise, you’ve demonstrated that you have a good deal of knowledge, good judgement, and common sense; and other than Nikola’s claims, your personal B.S. detector seems to work quite well.

Their plan is to Electrolyse water on location, using renewables at that location. That solves the transportation problem, and also the cost problem (assuming we all agree that renewables are cheaper than fossil fuel generated electricity.

Obviously it remains to be seen if Nikola can do it, but why not wait and see, rather than sound like the anti BEV crowd from a couple of years ago? Using todays economics to justify why something can’t be mass produced in the future is why they fell down in their calculations.

A major part of the cost problem is the cost of the electrolysis cells. And even if they could bring this cost down massively — perhaps even undercut petrol, though I doubt it — it would *still* be several times more expensive than charging batteries.

(Not to mention the cost problem with the trucks themselves…)

They’re buying 700 (turn key) hydrogen station units from NEL hydrogen, each with a capacity of 2.2MW.
These 700 are already ordered, and will take at least 3 years to roll out.

They have also stated they will add a European fueling network (with an undisclosed number of stations), that should have some units ready by 2022, and will cover Europe by 2030.

It is a given that hydrogen will be a more expensive solution then battery electric – but hydrogen prices will for sure be competetive with ICE engine running costs AND they will have incentives too.
Time will tell how this works out. As long as it is an emission free solution, I’m all good with their effort.

John Doe – “As long as it is an emission free solution, I’m all good with their effort.”

But in Europe it’s even less likely to be emissions (CO2) free, due to overall less sunlight and population densities restricting land available for new solar development. Such developments are happening to an extent – but it will be decades before they do any more than offset electricity currently produced from fossil fuels.

Should Nikolas plans ever happen, the hydrogen is going to either be from gas reforming or (mainly) grid electricity from conventional power stations. Which to be fair is also where electricity to power electric trucks will likely come from – difference being the latter will only need a third/quarter as much for all else equal.

Both hydrogen fc and battery electric will be an improvement as far as exhaust emissions go – but hydrogen will always be far worse for CO2.

And do you have a figure for how much in total those 700 stations will cost?

Didn’t people say almost exactly the same about Tesla. And people are saying the same about the Tesla Semi. Why not wait and see, rather than claiming things without having a clue?

The fact that people are making similar objections in both cases does not mean they are equally valid. Some objections are made from ignorance — others from actually understanding the underlying economics.

It takes ~68KWh to produce 1KG of hydrogen* and that’s just the feedstock component of production cost so that desert solar really must be dirt cheap.

*source Hydrogenics, company that delivers the electrolysis equipment

And that 68 kWh/1 kg of hydrogen in a midsized HFCV will take you around 65 miles while that same 68 kWh in a midsized EV will take you 270 miles.

So the same amount of clean solar/wind energy could power over 4 EVs to travel the same distance as one HFCV. Or to put it another way only 1/4 of the solar panels and wind farms will be needed to power a fleet of EVs compared to a fleet of HFCV.

Philip D – exactly.

Hydrogen/fuel cells only ever made sense when batteries were far more expensive than they are now, let alone where they will be in 5-10 years time.

The future is not static. There is a market for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in special applications. We don’t know the price for solar and wind 5-10 years from now. It should be cheaper to run then diesel . To be cheaper then a pure EV is og course Impossible, due to the convertion steps, and compression.
They should tax hydrogen that does not come from solar/wind/hydro to hell and back, as there are too few advantages.. almost like using biofuel from palm oil, soy bean and what not.

The future is not static, but physics is. It will forever take 4x the amount of electricity to electrolyze 1kg of H2 that it does to use that electricity in a battery.

There might be a market for fuel cell vehicles in special applications — but it very likely will make more sense to run these on normal fuels, not hydrogen…

Thanks for doing the math! 🙂

If Nikola is still getting investors, then clearly some out there can’t do that math.

The comparison of mi/kWh is clearly in favor of BEV’s – but perhaps the gap is not quite as huge. Assuming that Clarity delivers 65-70 miles/1 kg of hydrogen, produced by NEL @ 42 kWh/kg, we get something like 1.6 mi/kWh. The Clarity is not quite as large as the Model S 100 (3.3 mi/kWh), which the Model 3 (4.4 mi/kWh) is quite a bit smaller, so let’s assume their between these two Teslas “average” efficiency is around 3.7 mi/kWh. This way the ratio is 2.3:1-ish, not 4, but of course in favor of the BEV.

Also consider that Tesla’s drivetrain has been improved to near perfection, while the existing hydrogen hydrolysis tech may have a little more room for improvement, so at some point in future we may be looking at a ratio of 2:1

The real question is, why oh why will Honda not take their BEV and stick into it a half-size FC range extender?

Dimitrij – I think you may be being a little optimistic! 🙂

My understanding is that that electrolysis figure relates to the actual production of hydrogen – you then need to compress, store, dispense etc. I’m not sure what pressure Nikola are intending their truck tanks to work at, but 700bar seems typical for such applications nowadays.

Add in the energy required to compress to that figure, and you’ll end up nearer the 3:1 ball park figure previously referred to.

OK, maybe room for a little tech improvement, and all these are ball park figures, but you are fighting laws of thermodynamics. Start off with electricity, and hydrogen/hydrolysis will never be remotely as efficient as battery storage. It can’t be. It’s the elephant in the room Nikola are trying to ignore.

Where tech improvements ARE likely to change the balance is in battery improvements- especially lower kWh costs. That is the really bad news for Nikola going forward.

To put meat on the above, Hydrogenics actually quote 65-70 kWh/kg for hydrogen **compressed** – exact figure depends on size of plant and working pressure. That is manufacturers figures for actual plant.

Hence you need to multiply your figures by 68/42 (1.62) – which gives about 3.75:1 for your estimate!!

There is absolutely no way you can ever expect a hydrogen fuelled, hydrolysis based, system to be “only” half as efficient as battery! About a third is a good ball park estimate, but even that is likely to understate the problem.

The physical cost of fuel is only one of the many calculations that would need to be included to work out if it makes economic sense. Those results will vary significantly based on the needs of the operator. This is something most seem to completely ignore. If one takes half the time to fill up, or can travel twice the distance before stopping, or can carry an extra couple of tons of materials, or can do a shorter route because of any of the above factors (or I believe in Nikolas case have free fuel for x years) these factors can save money over and above the additional cost of the fuel in the first place. There are also plenty of practical reasons why a haulier or company may prefer vehicles to use something like hydrogen – for example it can be transported to remote location easier than electricity. It’s not as simple as “cost of fuel”. How many of the factors above are relevant to consumers is debatable, but most of them will be relevant calculations for commercial operators – presumably why Nikola have plenty of organisations interested in their technology. Look at the market today – we have… Read more »

Andy, I’ll agree when you say that for an operator it’s not as simple as just cost of fuel. BUT – for Nikola the cost of the hydrogen is going to be a big factor as to whether their entire model is viable and/or what they will need to set as lease rate. Fuel cost is not everything- but it is a major factor.

And ultimately the whole idea of hydrogen mobility relies on large scale adoption. If much of the market goes towards battery electric, the idea of hydrogen filling stations being as common as diesel now becomes not viable.

Yes, BEV range may currently be a problem for some, even with a 500+ mile Tesla Semi and that will be the case for a while to come. But arguably such vehicles are best simply remaining diesel for the foreseeable future!?

As regards remote locations, then trucking in hydrogen is highly inefficient compared to diesel- you need about 15 truck loads compared to a single one of diesel! Which is exactly why Nikola (and such as Honda) are intending to hydrolise on site.

I don’t necessarily disagree, but if we are to transition away from Diesel then there needs to be a solution. The idea of “Remaining diesel for the foreseeable future” isn’t really how progress is made. Pushing the boundaries, testing different models and technologies is – which is why just writing something off because of the current realities is not the right way to go about things.

If we want to transition fully away from Diesel we need to come up with options for those cases that BEV’s won’t fit – and there will be cases where they don’t fit, and won’t continue to fit.

Andy – nobody should be thinking that “green” vehicles are going to take over 100% any time soon. What IS likely to happen is their gathering ever increasing market share – can we agree there? Accept that, and accept diesel trucks will still be in use in 20-30 years time – even if few (or any) are being sold by then. It follows that by such time it is indeed likely to be the long distance routes – where battery trucks are less suitable at the moment – where they will persist longest. But by that time I fully expect battery costs to have come down so much that BEVs will now fit – the solution will find itself if you like. And as for “writing off because of current realities”, then it’s the difference between technology and science. Technology does indeed move on – scientific realities tend to be more absolute. And (unfortunately for hydrogen advocates) facts such as the reasons for hydrogen vehicles being inherently so much less efficient, are scientific realities. They won’t (can’t) change with time. I have no personal axe to grind, just looking at the realities as they stand and coming to the conclusion… Read more »

Why would hydrogen make more sense for rail?..

I guess it *might* potentially work out for shipping — but I don’t know enough about that to form an informed opinion.

antrik – “Why would hydrogen make more sense for rail?..”

You’re much less restricted on the size and weight of the tanks to power the engine than for a road vehicle, and at the same time need far more power owing to the size and weight of the whole train.

At the same time, the refuelling station can be at the rail depot and can itself be supplied by rail tankers – taking advantage of bulk production.

None of which helps the CO2 side of the equation as it assumes hydrogen made from fossil fuel, but it does mean less polluting and less noisy trains, and should be viable. On busy rail lines the most sensible form of powering is electric (third rail or overhead), but hydrogen could serve less busy lines well, where traffic volumes don’t justify electrification.

No, some minor logistic advantages will *not* make up for three times higher fuel costs (along with much higher vehicle costs) — that just totally misses the reality of cost structures.

There might be some narrow niche cases where it would pay off — but these would be too narrow to make hydrogen investments worthwhile over more traditional fuels.

Nikola plans to use Nel ASA equipment, which claims the world’s most efficient electrolysis at 3.8 kWh/Nm3. I’m not a H2 geek but I think that translates to 46 kWh/kg since H2 is 0.082 kg/m3 at standard conditions.

So 2+ cents/kWh, which is in the range of large scale desert PV.

This is just energy cost, doesn’t include amortizing the electrolysis equipment, compression, etc.

The cheapest desert solar arrays have a feed-in price of just shy of 4 cents per KWh globally, and this was even a dumping price to get into business.

Not sure about ‘Nel ASA’ electrolysis but most of those best efficient equipment is more in a laboratory stage than ready for large scale production. Also water has to be purified, the electricity smoothed out (if wind or hydro) and converted to DC, all with further losses.

Also the main problem is the transportation of H2, as it’s diffusing through all materials and make them brittle so pipelines have to be specially designed for H2 transport, compression to 700 bar takes energy, a Hydrogen fuel station cost $1m a piece and loses more energy during compression/storage/filling.

The result is a current price-tag of 15-20 Euro per Kg of H2 at the pump – and this is made by cheaper methane-reformation not by electrolysis.

Equipment from NEL is on the market now. They could make the hydrogen at the pumping location. Just add the power source that is best and cheapest.

4 cents per kWh for large PV projects is pretty standard nowadays. Record bids are way lower now. Of course it will take a while before these record prices become standard — but it wasn’t that long ago when 4 cents were just record bids… PV costs keep dropping, fast.

The real challenge is the cost of the electrolysis cells.

Prices are going down there as well, due to scale of production and investments in production equipment.

46 kWh/kg is that including compression?

No. Figure including compression is about 68 kWh/kg from the manufacturer.

If we are to believe NEL Hydrogen, they can do 3.8 kWh/m3, which translates into 42-ish kWh/kg of H2. Which is still too way too many kWh’s, but indicates that the electrolysis technology can be improved.

Ok, But where will they get the water, in drought California?

They can use waste water. That’s not a barrier to using H2 as fuel.

There are many other factors which will forever prevent H2 from being used as an everyday transportation fuel, but that’s not one of them.

Water for electrolysis must be extremely pure, so no chance for wastewater usage.

Not only is that not true, attempting to use pure water for electrolysis is quite wasteful of energy. Making the water slightly acidic gives much better results.

In my high school lab, we used ordinary tap water for electrolysis, but of course that was for very small-scale production of hydrogen and oxygen, so energy efficiency wasn’t important.

From Wikipedia:

Unless a very large potential is applied to cause an increase in the autoionization of water the electrolysis of pure water proceeds very slowly limited by the overall conductivity.

If a water-soluble electrolyte is added, the conductivity of the water rises considerably.

Did you do the math on how much water is needed, comparing to say…. flushing the toilets in truck stops?

The average feed water usage is 0.9 litre / Nm³ H₂.
They need deionised water.

“Cheap desert solar and electrolysis can make H2 for $1/kg.”

I’d like to see a breakdown of that cost estimate. Even amortizing the installation costs over, let’s say, 30 years, that still looks unrealistically optimistic to me.

But even that addresses only the cost for generating H2. There is no way in the real world that all the steps in the supply chain which make hydrogen fuel so massively inefficient are going to disappear. The costs for compressing, storing, moving, re-storing, re-compressing and dispensing H2 fuel are not going to magically disappear. Unicorns and rainbows will not construct the massive fueling stations needed to supply such trucks, nor will leprechaun gold supply the tens or, more likely, hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to construct just one such large-scale H2 fueling station.

They make units that fit in industrial shipping containers. They need to build for demand. This will over the next 10 years be a niche market. No need to super size it.

You clearly have not read what Nikola is claiming for its fueling stations.

I have read some of what Nikola is claiming, and I have a lot of information about NEL hydrogen, how their system works, their investments in equipment and future assembly plants and so on.
I’ve also used their equipement for a while (not the fueling stations yet), and got free hydrogen for my torch.

NEL will supply 700 turn key hydrogen station units to Nikola to use in the US and Canada.
They are 2.2MW units, and will offer about 1000MW in total.
Nikola Tre will start active testing in Norway in 2020.

NEL delivers everything from tiny units to huge once. In average the feed water usage is 0.9 litre / Nm³ H₂.

Read more from the source:

H2O is a greenhouse gas

Yes water vapor isa powerful greenhouse gas, and a warmer atmosphere hold more water vapor making global warming worse. But we can’t measurably affect water vapor concentration in the atmosphere by emitting it – any excess over equilibrium falls out as rain. Human emissions of CO2 and methane affect the climate, water vapor doesn’t.

NEL hydrogen will supply the hydrogen for this.

Their strong reliance on claims made by NEL hydrogen makes me wonder whether the Nikola guys are just super naive in believing delusional claims made by suppliers, rather than being delusional themselves?…

Though some of Nikola’s other behaviours make me strongly suspect that they are in fact largely responsible for the outrageous claims they make.

The production of hydrogen just have to beneficial for the air we breathe, then I could be onboard. As longs as it’s produced from methane and it’s a super inefficient process, I’m not onboard.

Bio methane reforming to hydrogen is 80% efficient, about the same as oil to diesel.

Saying there is only two eco friendly prospects is absolutely hogwash. Maybe more accurate would be two companies that have never built a truck before are attempting to build eco friendly trucks in the future.

Daimler will have 30 Ecascadias hauling real freight by year end, their recent investment in Proterra just adds to their commitment to EV’s .

Even Thor is actually running freight.

There are definitely other companies working on building EV trucks in all sizes.

Trucking is much larger than Tesla and Nikola

Trucks are a good place to make advances in cleaning the air and reducing imported oil.

Tesla has at least two trucks on the road that we know of.

I agree that the remark is lacking an important qualification: two prospects for eco-friendly *long distance* trucking. For shorter distances, there are a lot of upcoming players…

They took pre-orders two years ago and it’s still two years before they even plan to break ground on their factory? Wow.

Just be patient, it always takes some time to actually reach a mirage.

i was just thinking that too. Telsa is going to start low volume production mid next year with full scale production in 2020.

I’m sceptical about 2020, but cool if they make it. Others will have to speed up their development then.

Another way of looking at a Ponzi scheme is that it’s sheer mathematics that make it bound to fail in the long term. In the case of hydrogen mobility, a similar principle applies due to laws of physics. Leaving aside the environmental issues about producing the hydrogen from fossil fuels in the first place, the next problem comes from how you would get such to the stations in the first place. In brief, to replace a single road tanker of diesel, you need about 15 tankers of hydrogen!! (All to due with weight of pressure vessel needed – see if you need the reasons why.) So this FORCES the companies still promoting hydrogen to use on site electrolysis- they are well aware of the transport issues. But if Nikolas ambitions were ever to be realised, the sheer scale of the electricity required means it could never come from new renewables. Far more efficient anyway to use any new renewable to displace current fossil fuel generation. (And that includes for battery electric trucks, but at least you then only need a third as much per mile travelled.) The story above simply comes across as greenwashing. The problem for hydrogen is… Read more »

On the nose Tunny.

Yes, they’re “green” charging stations would require Solar Energy, Battery Storage, and WATER.

Thank you! My “napkin math” calculations showed that if a Tesla Supercharger (just a single one) was powered in real time by solar power, you’d need a solar farm the size of one to two football fields to power it. The amount of acreage necessary to use solar power to provide enough energy to generate enough H2 for just one of these hypothetical H2 semi truck stops… Well, it beggars the imagination. And all that acreage has to be covered with solar panels, which are not going to pay for themselves. Now, there are remote lonely places in the USA where land is cheap enough that the cost of land may not be a factor. But those lonely places are generally not where you’d want to put a truck stop. In high density travel areas where there is enough truck traffic to support a truck stop, prices for land are almost always much, much higher. Most economic analyses for using H2 fuel focus only on the costs for generating, compressing, transporting, storing, and dispensing the fuel. But to use on-site giant solar farms, as Nikola’s proposal would require, brings another large expense into the equation: The cost of buying or… Read more »

I think your “napkin math” is wrong. Utility-scale PV installations generally yield about 100 W/m2 — so about 1200 m2 for a 120 kWh Supercharger. That’s just a fraction of either an Association
Football or American Football field…

But is that 100 W/m2 a peak value? A football field is about 100×50 metre, so you’re talking about a quarter of a field – but is that only middle of the day with sun shining?

Practically, it’s going to depend where it is, is storage available, supercharger usage (!), are we talking about 24 hour via storage etc etc. So a quarter of a field may be a very best case, “about a football field” more realistic in the real world.

This also raises the point that a truly green solar hydrolysis station will have to have a LOT of backup battery storage? Otherwise the (expensive) hydrolisers and compressors will be sitting idle all night?

Right they’re cleaning the air by removing the Oxygen.
I’ve been fairly benign on Nikola Motors, but I really don’t think they have anything that will compete with the Tesla Semi, or even the ev trucks of the legacy makers.
They haven’t even built a factory yet, they will be breaking ground in 2 years.

Except, that in creating H2 from H20, thay are also freeing up the O2 from water. Will they have increased Fire Risk?

All O2 Plumbing states “Use No Oil or Grease”, since, in the presence of Pure O2 (Oxygen Gas), it becomes a fire hazard, maybe even explosive!

I’m assuming they are meaning that before going to the fuel cell, the air must pass through a air filter to remove particulates. So the claim is not *totally* inaccurate……

BUT….. I doubt it will remove such as NOx and other pollutant gases, and it seems an extraordinarily complex (and not very efficient) way of cleaning up pollution. Better just to make less in the first place? And with a battery-electric truck only needing about a third the electricity per mile as fuel cell, surely that’s the way to go?

True, electric trucks may now have range limitations for *some* users – but for other users 3-500 miles is no problem. Those range issues are likely to decline with time (as batteries improve and get cheaper), so isn’t the most sensible course of action for now to concentrate battery trucks to inially taking the up to 500 mile market – and stick to diesel for now for greater? Rather than try to build Rome in a day and end up with a hugely expensive hydrogen network which will be obsolescent in about 10 years time?
(When batteries have improved more.)

IIRC NOx is among the pollutants that need to be scrubbed to avoid degradation of the fuel cells…

Still, suggesting that these would contribute to air quality in any meaningful way is rather ridiculous. (Hyundai also likes talking this nonsense…)

How come you don’t know about the eCascadia and M2 from Daimler?

The proposed eCascadia is indeed intended to be a Class 8 heavy truck, but the eM2 is a much smaller ~10 ton truck; not a semi truck at all.

And when Daimler actually has a prototype eCascadia running around doing demos for real trucking companies, as Tesla’s prototype Semi Trucks are, then it will be time to talk about them as being actual competitors. Until then, they exist only as computer models.

The first Ecascadia is already been running in Oregon. For some time now.

Penske gets theirs by end of year.
Real trucks hauling real freight.

Thank you for this correction! 🙂 I learned something today.

” truck-wise, the economics are quite different than those found in electric passenger vehicles”….. no they’re not. Driving a 7MPKG hydrogen truck on $16/KG hydrogen is like driving a 7MPG truck on $16/KG diesel, numbers which don’t work any better than driving a 60MPKG Mirai on$16/KG hydrogen which would be equivalent to driving a 60MPG Prius on $16/gallon gasoline.

Nikola’s entire premise rests on sub-$3/kg H2 created in their own electrolysis stations hooked to large solar arrays.

Could happen….

Could it….? Try doing the calculation of how much power each electrolysis station would need to generate daily, and then what area of land is needed. Next, the capital spend for the array.

Maybe there would be the land available in sparsely populated areas, but in areas of higher population density?

Whatever, if you go with battery trucks you immediately need only a third or so of the land area for the array, a third the capital cost of the panels, and a far simpler infrastructure – battery charging versus electrolysis, compression and storage.

Could happen? Well, in the same way that a U.S. citizen like myself “could” become King of Canada.

You’d have to find “the lady of the lake” first, and Canada has an awful lot of lakes.

A glowing report saying that this company’s H2 will be produced without steam reforming when the economics clearly won’t support the proposition. H2 remains a green washed fallacy.

h2 from unicorn farts?

That sounds every bit as practical as Nikola’s plans.

As Elon Musk has implied many times, competition is good, and there is room in the market for many players. In the long term, Darwinian principles will apply, and only the strong will survive. There will be evolution in the midst of revolution.

I don’t think this company has a chance if there’s an accountant any where in the buying process.

The only place you will FCVs in the future will be musuems or perhaps an episode of Jay Leno’s garage.

Both Amazon and Walmart use fuel cell forklifts in large numbers

And apparently the U.S. Navy uses enough H2 powered unmanned underwater drones that some of its large ships are reported as having H2 generators aboard.

But, Bunny, I’m sure you know that Jay Leno’s garage contains only vehicles which are, or at least once were, practical to drive on pubic streets and/or race tracks. I haven’t seen any forklifts which fit either category. 😉

Ron Swanson's Mustache

Hydrogen generation from seawater probably becomes much easier when you’ve got a huge surplus of nuclear power that can be used to generate the hydrogen pretty much on demand.

Everyone should know that it takes three times as much electricity from source to wheels to propel a hydrogen vehicle than a battery-electric vehicle. And that is the simple reason that hydrogen-propelled roadway vehicles are DOA. There are many other reasons of course such as high fuel costs per mile, high infrastructure costs, the few locations in the USA that have “excess” solar production in the daytime and high maintenance costs. The higher charging speeds and higher battery densities have won out .

They need to purify the BS from their company presentations and Twitter feed first. Some of the numbers they published just don’t add up. The fuel cell efficiency they claimed during their glossy launch event is impossibly high and the range they claim from the tank size they said it had isn’t happening. The amount of energy they said they will need per truck makes about 40% of the hydrogen they claim a truck tank can hold. Even the amount of hydrogen they claimed their trucks can haul to other filling stations in tankers is double what fits in a semi-trailer tanker.

As for Nikola and Tesla being the only two companies in the zero emissions truck game: There is already a hydrogen powered truck in Europe with the very same fuel cell that Nikola says they will use, yet alone the battery powered trucks others here have pointed out.

People have been saying exactly the same about the Tesla Semi. Why do you think you are any different to the people insisting Tesla’s Semi is not possible?

The difference is that the people claiming Tesla Semi is impossible are bad at maths, while the people claiming Nikola’s trucks are *possible* are bad at maths.

“The Nikola fleet will be one of the largest air purifiers in America one day. Imagine 500,000 Nikola trucks driving in cities across America sucking in dirty air and emitting nothing but clean water.”

The press releases from Nikola are starting to achieve near-Faraday-Future levels of not merely B.S., but unbelievable B.S. *Sigh*

The article says:

“…some may say hydrogen doesn’t have a future in potentially eco-friendly mobility due to cost and fuel production, but truck-wise, the economics are quite different than those found in electric passenger vehicles.”

Yes… in that the freight truck industry is far more sensitive to the price of fuel than are ordinary car buyers.

The fact that there are enough investors buying into Nikola’s scientifically and economically impossible claims to keep the company afloat, is a sad measure of human beings’ tendency to delude themselves and/or to fall victim to a con job.

Second article with tag line implying something negative about a Tesla competitor. Never see that regarding Tesla.

Maybe it’s because the majority of people just look at Nikola’s press releases, do a few mental sums and wonder if they are on the same planet, and subject to the same laws of physics.

Tesla may miss some of their targets, but there are a hell of a lot of Teslas driving round now, and that includes two Semis that real truck companies are evaluating. And I haven’t heard anything from Tesla that seems to break the laws of physics…… (unlike Nikola)

What exactly is the negative implication? They are merely regurgitating a press release.

There is nothing whatsoever negative about Nikola in this article. In fact, it bends over backwards avoiding pointing out that most or nearly all of Nikola’s claims are at least economically impossible, if not also rendered impossible by the laws of physics.

Great Nikola motors…now let’s see a vehicle being operated daily in public….ANY vehicle. Till then…”meh”

I myself would prefer a pure EV semi But for sure the fuel cell tech is not going away. Toyota just put their 2nd generation fuel cell truck to work in June, it has 50% farther range and better performance. Peterbiilt, Kenworth and US hybrid all have prototypes running daily UPS has 17 class 6 trucks running. Nikola has actually been smart how they are getting this off the ground, the only question will be if they ever make any money (profits) doing it. All these trucks are leases at a x.xx cost per mile including fuel sans driver. The question is what cost per mile for Nikola to be profitable. Fitzgerald is building it at first (5,000 units) so they will be rolling down the road by April with actual working prototypes. Ryder in the wings for service, that’s smart on Nikolas part, it’s all in place. The first stations are being designed and acquired around The 800 Bush beer is signed up for so their routes get Nikolas first stations, expect to see huge solar and wind farms. Will be interesting to see just how this goes on. But I still think 10 – 15 years down the… Read more »

“” to break ground on its planned 1 million-square-foot manufacturing plant in Coolidge, AZ, in about two years “”
So the groundbreaking will be starting in 2 years, and the first production start then earliest in 4 years.

A lot of hot air for some deliveries supposedly starting in 2023. Reminds me of Faraday Future.

No, because they have contracted with Fitzgerald back east to build the first 5,000 units. Fitzgerald is a very capable truck builder. They have built thousands and thousands of trucks
(Gliders) this enables them to start producing and delivering while their factory is being built in AZ. Smart move by Nikola so they get this going quickly.

But only any use if they have customers for any of these trucks? And whilst they may have presented the “no deposit” aspect positively, I can’t help but feel it may be a sign that deep down they are only too well aware that the alternative was likely to be all the expressions on interest cancelling. And ultimately that will depend on how much they will charge per mile for leasing them. That’s what will concern company accountants – not technical details about the physics of hydrogen. And here the inescapable fact is that via electrolysis a fuel cell vehicle will need about 3x the electricity per mile as a battery electric. And that is down largely to physics – little technology can do about it. True, the undeniable advantage a fuel cell vehicle will may currently have is regarding range and speed of refuelling…… but even that is being steadily eroded by improving battery tech. And building a network of electrolysis/compression stations is unlikely to come cheap. So to encourage adoption, will Nikola start off by subsidising the cost per mile? A loss leader? Maybe – but then what? A big increase in user charges down the line? Or… Read more »

NG home heating was promoted with the same ‘drug pusher’ economics and once many were reliant on it the prices climbed. You are correct to suspect the same from those promoting H2 via NG steam reforming.

How can they claim that a veichle that consumes oxygen(O2) is an Air purifier?
If its so, the less oxygen in air, the more pure it is?
(Asuming all power for fuel is produced and transported with zero pollution)
What if Tesla Semi is equipped with the bio-defence mode filter?- that could be a true air cleaner..

Air is ~20% oxygen. There is no shortage of this stuff.

They have an interesting business model as they’ll probably make more money on their travel centers than the trucks. The travel centers will be open to anybody so it won’t be just hydrogen.

But lease only at a set cost per mile including fuel and maintenance is no doubt appealing to fleets. No doubt the reason AB beer wants 800.

I like their newest cab design. The new design has been widened a bit and now has two doors.

Also their truck is more of a modular design with the intent of replacing the cab on the chassis at around the 500,000 mile mark. Since they will always own the trucks, they will have a lot of flexibility in lease pricing on both new and older models down the road.

Have Tesla or any other battery EV truck maker said they would be willing to lease on a cost per mile basis – it’s not something that is inexorably tied to fuel cell?

And I assume the deal would be a cost per mile with a minimum monthly charge?

And how definite is that order of 800……? I’m assuming no binding contracts have yet been signed?

I think the Ryder part of this is what makes part of the possibility this works. Ryder is huge in truck leasing. Nikola just becomes part of their portfolio of available trucks.

NEL has set up another hydrogen fueling station production line.
For more facts about hydrogen, how it looks, works and so on:

The technology may be possible- the economics seem less so.

From a Nel press release:
“To support the Anheuser-Busch fleet of trucks, Nikola and Nel would need to deploy around 28 stations. This order volume alone will have a revenue potential for Nel of more than USD 500 million.”

So around US$ 20 million PER STATION!!??!!

Before you even start thinking about the land, staff costs to run it, maintenance, let alone any profit! It simply does not add up.

Previously the cost of the hydrogen has been discussed in terms of just the electricity to hydrolise – say 4 cents/kWh and 68 kWh/kg, so around $2.70 /kg? But if anyone thinks that’s the cost to Nikola, try working out how much extra spreading the capital and running costs of the station will add to the per kg price!!

To build the 700 stations spoken of is likely to cost about US$ 12.5 BILLION for the electrolysis/compression equipment alone – let alone land and other infrastructure costs.

At a time of many electric trucks coming to market, let alone having to compete versus diesel. Words fail me.

“Emitting nothing but clean water” – that’s certainly what we ALL want when they are driving in areas with sub-freezing temperatures!

Yay, we got rid of the ICE, but we got more ice.