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Nikola Corp. is sending 15 hydrogen-powered fuel cell trucks to California in the fourth quarter. It’s the first step in fulfilling Anheuser-Busch InBev’s long-standing order for up to 800 of the zero-emission vehicles.

Separately, the startup electric truck maker also announced HYLA, a new brand, covering its hydrogen production, distribution and dispensing business. It plans 60 stations by 2026.

Keeping hydrogen business name simple

HYLA combines the first two letters of hydrogen with the last two letters in Nikola. 

“Sometimes it’s best not to overthink things and keep it really simple,” Nikola Energy President Carey Mendes said at an event outside Nikola’s Phoenix headquarters on Wednesday.

Nikola will take hydrogen fuel from five partnerships. That includes an Arizona production hub being built in phases. It is expected to eventually produce up to 150 metric tons of hydrogen per day. HYLA also will take hydrogen processed by Plug Power in multiple regions and from KeyState in Pennsylvania.

“It’s also going to support every other manufacturer of hydrogen-powered vehicles that are going to need it in the future,” Mendes said.

A rendering of Nikola HYLA hydrogen refueling stations. (Image: Nikola)

Anheuser-Busch stood by Nikola during its dark days

Using Napa, California-based Biagi Brothers begins fulfilling the order the beverage maker placed in 2018 with the startup. Anheuser-Busch stuck with Nikola through its many travails, including the conviction of founder Trevor Milton on federal fraud charges in October.

Under Milton, who left the company in September 2020 but remains its largest shareholder, Nikola boasted of having 14,000 fuel cell truck reservations. The company later abandoned that claim. But it has signed nonbinding letters of intent for purchases by PGT Trucking, hydrogen processing company Plug Power and others. 

Anheuser-Busch has played an outsize role since Nikola’s early days, sending its famous Clydesdales to the NikolaWorld event in April 2019 and doing a beer delivery to a St. Louis Blues hockey game in November 2019.

Biagi Brothers will drive the trucks up to 100,000 miles a year for Anheuser-Busch, fueling them with hydrogen at a TravelCenters of America station in Ontario that is under construction.

It was an early tester of the Tre fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), amassing 12,000 miles since January 2022. Biagi will cover several Anheuser-Busch routes from Southern California to Arizona.

Tre fuel cell truck boasts 12,500 pound feet of torque

At the Phoenix event, Nikola showed the production version of the Tre FCEV. The company claims it can travel up to 500 miles on a single fill-up and refuel in less than 20 minutes. 

The Tre FCEV generates continuous power output of 536 horsepower with 12,500 pound feet of torque, Nikola CEO and President Michael Lohscheller said, repeating the torque number for emphasis.

“Talk is easy. Follow-through is a different story. Actually doing it is hard work,” Lohscheller said. “It takes a massive amount of discipline and focus to move the needle in the right direction.”

The cabover is substantially similar to the Tre battery-electric truck but weighs less because the Tre BEV is powered by nine battery packs weighing a combined 10,000 pounds. The FCEV needs far less battery power to go with its vertically stacked hydrogen canisters on the back of the cab. Nikola’s battery-electric trucks are already in production in Coolidge, Arizona.

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Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

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