A new hydrogen-electric fuel cell truck factory is rumbling in Arizona.

In another sign that the field of zero-emission transportation is gaining momentum, the company Nicola has announced plans to build a new truck factory in Arizona. These are not pickups or other light-duty vehicles. The company’s Nikola 1 model is designed for long-range and heavy loads, with an electric drivetrain powered by a hydrogen fuel cell system.

With plans for a new factory coming to fruition, Nikola’s plan for hydrogen long-haul trucking appears to be well on its way to completion. It’s also another sign that the trucking industry is slowly starting to abandon the idea of “clean diesel” for a more sustainable future.

Nikola’s Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Truck

There is good news for Arizona. The new factory, located near Phoenix in the town of Buckeye, is expected to create 2,000 jobs and spur $1 billion in investment over the next six years.

There is bad news for Utah, which is losing Nikola’s headquarters. The company plans to move its R&D work to Arizona as well as build trucks there.

The company already has 8,000 trucks on pre-order, and so far everything looks set to get the factory up and running in two years.

Wow! Nicola just dodged a big CSR bullet.

In terms of corporate social responsibility, the company seems to be escaping Utah just in time.

Nicola’s business model takes a strong environmental sustainability angle, and Utah is currently at the center of a fight against the Trump administration’s policies that open up more federal lands to extractive industries.

The center of the battle is the Bears Ears National Monument, designated by former President Obama. Trump’s policy has sparked a storm of outrage within the business community. Particularly through Patagonia’s efforts, and has been compared to the Wild West giving away public lands.

Announcing a major new facility in Utah would have looked bad for Nicola. OR any other company building its brand around sustainability.

Sustainable Technology, Smart City

In addition to the state-of-the-art element in hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. The new Nikola factory is notable for its position in the overall master plan for an area with a population of 300,000. Here’s what developer El Dorado is excited about:

Signature elements of the community include an education system that attracts. The best teachers and institutions and graduates the brightest students. World-class healthcare to promote health and address everyday health concerns; Strong employment centers that keep people working close to home. Multimodal transportation offers flexible, environmentally responsible alternatives. A rich array of recreational, arts, and cultural facilities. A wide range of home and lifestyle choices and an unwavering commitment to sustainability and living in harmony with the natural environment.

All that remains to be seen, but the homebuilding industry is moving toward more sustainable development. The development is being billed as a “sustainable master-planned community” with a “prototype” smart city named Trillium. It consisting of 7,200 houses.

How durable are hydrogen fuel cell electric trucks anyway?

Just a few years ago, the idea of a new factory to build any hydrogen-fueled vehicle would have been another environmental liability. Since hydrogen is primarily obtained from natural gas.

However, new ways to produce renewable hydrogen by “splitting” water with an electric current are emerging. Leaving the door open to wind, solar, and other renewable sources.

Nicola has built this opportunity into her business model. The company launched in 2016 with ambitious plans to build a network of hydrogen fuel stations harnessing solar energy to produce sustainable hydrogen.

The company initially planned eight stations, and it doubled the number last December with a new plan. For 16 in partnership with company NelASA – which specializes in water distribution.

Nicola has also partnered with Ryder for distribution and maintenance, lending a familiar name to an endeavor that is otherwise uncharted territory. Helping to solidify Nikola’s position in the trucking industry. The company also attracted former Rider “tech guru” Scott Perry last fall.

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