Nikola Corp., which plans to mass-produce hydrogen-powered electric semi-trucks, said it’s buying a $50 million stake in an Indiana energy project led by Wabash Valley Resources that’s converting an idled coal-fired power plant into a large-scale hydrogen factory.
The Phoenix-based startup is getting a 20% stake in the West Terre Haute, Indiana, facility in exchange for cash and stock, the company said on Tuesday afternoon.
The project aims to separate hydrogen from solid waste materials such as petroleum coke, wood and corn silage for use as fuel for Nikola’s big rigs and for electric-power generation, while also capturing and burying the carbon emissions from that process.
Wabash Valley Resources says the plant will be one of the biggest carbon sequestration projects in the U.S. when it begins operating.
Construction begins next year and the facility will be able to produce up to 336 tons of hydrogen per day, enough to generate about 285 megawatts of electricity, the companies said.
Nikola will have access to about 50 tons of hydrogen hub per day for fuel stations it wants to build across the Midwest to support its trucks in that part of the U.S.
“We intend this project to produce clean, low cost hydrogen in a critical geography for commercial transportation,” said Pablo Koziner, president of Nikola’s energy and commercial operations.
“The Wabash solution can generate electricity as well as hydrogen transportation fuel, which should provide the flexibility to support future truck sales and hydrogen station rollout in the region.”
Securing a midwestern hydrogen supply base would help Nikola expand beyond its initial focus on trucking customers in the U.S. Southwest, where it has said it plans intends to produce renewable hydrogen from sources including solar power and water.
That “green hydrogen” will be used to supply its first fuel stations in Arizona and California when production of its fuel cell semis gets underway in 2023.
In April, Nikola also announced plans for a hydrogen pipeline alliance in Europe with commercial vehicle maker IVECO and natural gas distributor OGE to power fuel cell big rigs in the EU.
Nikola’s vision for the fuel to power heavy-duty vehicles has been dramatically amplified in the past two years by competing plans by industrial giants including Daimler, Volvo Group, Toyota, Hino, Hyundai, Cummins, General Motors and Navistar.
That because of a growing consensus that batteries are a viable option for shorter ranges, up to 300 miles, while hydrogen is more appealing for long distance and fast refueling.
The Indiana hydrogen plant is to be a “multi-product facility, where the hydrogen can be combusted in a turbine to produce clean base-load power,” said Simon Greenshields, Wabash Valley Resources’ board chairman. “We also look forward to working with Nikola to bring zero-emission transportation solutions to the Midwest.”
Nikola has begun testing prototype versions of its fuel cell Tre trucks in Arizona and German, and will initially sell battery-powered Tres with range of up to 300 miles per charge starting late this year. Volume production of hydrogen-powered Tres begins in 2023.