Nikola inks landmark deal to make EV garbage trucks

Source: By David Ferris, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Electric vehicle startup Nikola Corp. will take its first steps toward pioneering an unglamorous and weighty new vehicle: electric garbage trucks.

Nikola, based in Phoenix, yesterday announced an order for 2,500 electric garbage trucks from Republic Services, the nation’s second-largest trash hauler. It is Nikola’s first big client to be made public, and the first sizable order in the United States for electric garbage trucks.

If all goes to plan, the shiny, futuristic Nikola Refuse will start plying neighborhood routes in the Southwest by 2023.

The news is important because a sizable part of a conventional garbage truck’s pollution comes from the exhaust from its diesel engine, which afflicts not only the global climate but also local air quality.

In a statement, Republic Services called the partnership “the industry’s first large-scale commitment to fleet electrification” and said that it “significantly accelerates Republic Services’ progress in fleet innovation to drive profitable growth, reduce emissions, enhance customer loyalty and create long-term shareholder value.”

Garbage trucks are also in regulators’ sights. California’s landmark clean-trucks rule, approved by the California Air Resources Board in June, requires all new garbage trucks to be electric by 2040.

The order also marks another market expansion for electric vehicle makers like Nikola.

It is similar to Inc.’s move last September to place an order for 100,000 package delivery trucks from Rivian, the electric truck maker based in Michigan. That vote of confidence raised the profile of a new class of vehicle that was in the slow lane to electrification and pushed traditional truck makers to accelerate their e-plans.

Nikola and Rivian are similar in that neither has yet produced a vehicle but each has been lavished with investor cash in the hope that it would replicate Tesla Inc.’s success making electric vehicles.

Rivian, however, is further along than Nikola by at least one important metric: Its factory, a repurposed Mitsubishi Motors Corp. manufacturing plant in Illinois, is expected to deliver its first consumer trucks and SUVs by the second half of 2021. Nikola broke ground on its own factory in Coolidge, Ariz., in July.

Nikola was founded six years ago on the proposition of building long-haul fuel-cell trucks and a network of fueling stations for them. Since then, it has introduced a battery-electric model. It is unclear which part of its business will find long-term traction.

The Nikola garbage truck runs on a battery, not fuel cells, and is expected to have a range of 150 miles and to be able to haul the contents of 1,200 trash cans. The battery will have 720 kilowatt-hours of electricity storage.

The Republic Services contract could be expanded to 5,000 vehicles, according to the announcement.

“Waste services are about to get cleaner and the design more beautiful,” Nikola wrote on Twitter.

Nikola’s stock, which has performed well despite the company being years away from having a product, rose 20% on the news, to almost $45 a share.