Nikola Motors was recently awarded by the US Department of Energy with a $1.7 million grant to help the startup advance its research into fuel cell membrane electrode assembly (MEA) technology. The grant comes amidst the potential Tesla Semi rival’s continued efforts to develop durable hydrogen technology for commercial trucking.
In a press release, Jesse Schneider, Nikola’s executive vice president of Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Technologies, stated that the Department of Energy’s grant would allow the aspiring truck accelerate the development of hydrogen technology for its vehicles, which the company believes could potentially disrupt the lucrative trucking market.
“This award provides an opportunity for the highly talented Nikola team to leverage expertise in academia and exceptional resources within the DOE Fuel Cell Consortium for Performance and Durability to accelerate a breakthrough that will benefit the entire hydrogen and fuel cell industry and community,” Schneider said.
Nikola’s grant was given by the US Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Transportation Office, as part of the recently announced FY19 Commercial Trucks and Off-Road Applications FOA. NEL Hydrogen of Oslo, Nikola’s hydrogen partner, was also awarded a $2 million grant by the DoE.
The trucking startup’s fuel cell membrane electrode assembly (MEA) research is aimed at developing an architecture that could satisfy the power output needs and durability requirements of heavy-duty applications, such as the operations of the company’s long-haul vehicles like the Nikola One. The truckmaker noted in its press release that its research is being conducted alongside academics from Carnegie Mellon University, Northeastern University, and Georgia Institute of Technology.
Nikola claims that it currently has 14,000 orders for its Class 8 trucks. The vehicles are expected to be manufactured in a factory in Coolidge, AZ. Testing is expected to begin on Arizona roads this year, with full production to commence in late 2022. Nikola is yet to reveal if its initial production runs will involve the original Nikola One sleeper truck, or the smaller, newer Nikola Two daycab, which was formally unveiled last April.
This timeframe would likely result in Nikola’s electric trucks entering the market later than the Tesla Semi, which is already undergoing extensive testing on multiple states across the US. Production of the Tesla Semi is expected to begin sometime next year, as noted by the electric car maker’s executives in the company’s first-quarter earnings call.