The EV truck market is heating up with numerous automakers including a host of hungry youngsters Rivian, Lordstown, Tesla and Bollinger each fighting for position. However, with an eye on capturing the lion’s share of the electric truck market, Nikola Corp. recently broke ground on its 1 million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Coolidge, Arizona.
"This has been an incredible journey for Nikola Corp. We started in our basement six years ago and now we are kicking off this 1 million-square-foot manufacturing facility," said Trevor Milton, Nikola founder and executive chairman. "The residents of Coolidge will be a huge part of the Nikola story and without the help of Governor Ducey and the Arizona economic development teams, this project would not have been possible in Arizona. These next 12-months will be even more exciting as we see this facility go up and as we add more Arizonans to the Nikola team."
Located off U.S. Highway 87 at east Houser Rd and Vail Rd, the future 4.0 designed facility will incorporate the latest technology to increase connectivity 24/7 throughout the building and equipment to optimize overall energy, productivity and quality. After an 18-month national site search of various locations around the United States, led by Tom Stringer at BDO and Saint Holdings, Nikola selected Coolidge for its outstanding industrial infrastructure within the region. The decision was also further solidified by the tireless support of the state, county and city, as well as the breadth of talent, year-round sunshine conducive to renewable energy, and the infrastructure available to scale with the ambitious plans and growth trajectory Nikola has set forth.
"The reason our company exists is in support of a sustainable future so everything we do in our manufacturing process and our building site will be done to ensure the smallest environmental footprint possible while making the highest quality, high tech products that will impact the sustainability of the planet," said Mark Duchesne, Nikola global head of manufacturing.
When asked about the technology Nikola plans to integrate in the new facility, Duchesne tells IndustryWeek, "the process design is still in progress so it's premature to go into details, but we will be incorporating automated guided vehicles (AGV) for parts conveyance as well as process flow, a variety of robotics and high speed automation in various applications such as battery pack assembly," he says. "We will have the latest generation of end-of-line test equipment and dynamometers, and of course our building control energy technologies will be state-of-the-art."
The first phase of construction is scheduled for completion in late 2021, with the second phase projected to be complete within the following 12-18 months. The U.S.-based facility represents a capital investment of approximately $600 million (USD) and will initially produce the Nikola Tre and Nikola Two. At full production, the facility will reach approximately 35,000 units annually, running two shifts.
According to Duchesne, the new plant "is a phased build only to allow us to start building and supplying the highest quality trucks to our customers ASAP," he says. "The Coolidge facility will focus primarily on North American customers. We have a partnership with IVECO in Ulm, Germany to produce the Tre cab-over for European customers."
The partnership was announced in February. The strategic and exclusive Heavy-Duty Truck partnership saw CNH Industrial taking a $250 million stake in Nikola as the lead Series D investor. The partnership announcement at the CNH Industrial Capital Markets Day in September 2019, was quickly followed in December with the unveiling of the Nikola TRE, a battery electric vehicle (BEV) heavy duty truck, which is the first step towards the fuel-cell electric (FCEV) model. The first Nikola Tre trucks will be produced in partnership with IVECO, followed shortly after by the Coolidge facility.
The Nikola TRE is based on the IVECO S-WAY platform and integrates Nikola’s truck technology, controls and infotainment. According to a February statement, the goal is “to accelerate industry transformation towards emission neutrality of Class 8 heavy-duty trucks in North America and Europe through the adoption of fuel-cell technology. The primary focus of the collaboration is to leverage each partners’ respective expertise to successfully deploy zero-emission heavy-duty trucks and to disrupt the industry with an entirely new business model.”