Nikola Energy, TravelCenters of America to deploy hydrogen fueling infrastructure

By Chad Elmore22 April 2021

Nikola announces heavy-duty hydrogen fueling stations and TA-Petro launches alternative energy business unit.

Nikola Corp., through its Nikola Energy division, and TravelCenters of America Inc. (TA-Petro), reportedly the largest publicly-traded operator/franchisor of full-service travel centers in the United States, have agreed to collaborate on the installation of hydrogen fueling stations for heavy-duty trucks at two existing TA-Petro sites. This collaboration is a first step for the parties to explore the mutual development of a nationwide network of hydrogen fueling stations. The collaboration is subject to negotiation and execution of definitive documentation acceptable to the parties.

Nikola Tre

The first two stations will be constructed at existing TA-Petro locations in California and are targeted to be commercially operational by Q1 2023. These stations are expected to accelerate adoption of hydrogen fuel-cell-powered commercial electric trucks. Paired with the expected 500-mile range of the previously-announced Nikola Tre fuel-cell electric vehicle, the launch stations will enable operations of zero-emission heavy-duty commercial vehicles in and around the greater Los Angeles region and north through California’s Central Valley.

The two hydrogen fueling stations under consideration for development by Nikola and TA-Petro will provide for an open fueling network available to any truck customer and will follow a common industry standard for heavy-duty fueling protocols, ensuring compatibility across all hydrogen fuel-cell truck manufacturers.

“Today we announce an important advancement in enabling the growth of heavy-duty fuel-cell electric vehicles by partnering with a leader in commercial fueling sites and high quality customer services,” said Nikola President of Energy and Commercial Pablo Koziner. “Our collaboration in southern California will form a basis for building an expanded network of hydrogen fueling stations for Nikola vehicle customers and for industry use overall. This collaboration forms an essential part in delivering the hydrogen-based ecosystem required to advance zero emission solutions for commercial trucks.”

TA logo

New business unit formed

At the same time, TravelCenters of America announced the formation of eTA, a new business unit. The company said eTA will deliver sustainable and alternative energy to the marketplace and focus on partnering with the public sector, private companies and customers to facilitate industry transformation.

“This exploration into hydrogen supply expands on our commitment to provide customers the widest range of fuel and non-fuel offerings, and on our Mission to ‘return every traveler to the road better than they came,’” said Jon Pertchik, CEO of TA-Petro. “Through our new business unit eTA, we are positioning ourselves to facilitate the transportation industry’s shift toward alternative fuel offerings including hydrogen, a leading form of energy for Class 7 and 8 vehicles. We are excited about this first foray into the future of heavy duty, long-haul trucks and look forward to supporting our loyal fleet customers as they increasingly adopt decarbonization strategies.”

The new business unit builds on TA’s previously announced plans to monetize a broad range of potential offerings in alternative energy, extending TA’s commitment to providing non-fuel offerings across its c-store, restaurant and truck service ecosystem. With the launch of eTA, TA said it expects to be well-positioned for trends such as electrification.

“As everyday travelers embrace the benefits of energy alternatives and the trucking industry continues its transition toward cleaner and more efficient fuels, TA is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this shift and the significant opportunities it creates,” said Pertchik. “Now is the optimal time to sharpen our focus on sustainability. TA’s nationwide footprint, range of truck service options, and breadth of driver amenities are perfectly situated to minimize consumers’ ‘range anxiety’ concerns and make drivers across the nation more comfortable purchasing vehicles powered by electricity and other alternative fuels.”

TA also announced that it has appointed alternative energy expert, John D. Thomas, as senior vice president, Sustainability & Alternative Energy. In this newly created position, Thomas will lead the transformative efforts of eTA, leveraging his expertise and industry knowledge to advance the company’s strategy relating to alternative fuel opportunities, and ensure TA’s business is at the forefront of the transition to carbon fuel alternatives, said the company.

eTA charging

In addition to TA’s work with Nikola Energy, other partnerships include:

  • Securing a $4 million grant with the California Energy Commission to participate in an industry test project for medium- and heavy-duty vehicle (MDHD) electrification. TA and its key partners will design, develop and deploy an integrated distributed energy resource to power energy storage and electric vehicle (EV) charging solutions.
  • Significantly expanding diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) availability. TA has made a substantial capital investment into DEF availability and plans to add DEF to fueling lanes at an additional 40 sites (173 fueling lanes). The investment is expected to enable TA to make DEF available at every diesel fueling lane across its entire network by early 2022.
  • Expanding the company’s investment in biodiesel blending, with plans to install additional biodiesel blending infrastructure across the network and expand renewable diesel offerings in California and Oregon.
  • Rolling out plans to install FreeWire EV charging stations for motorists in California in Q2 2021.

TA has unveiled an eTA logo, which the company said reflects its commitment to sustainability. The logo will represent sustainability initiatives and will appear on appropriate assets, including EV charging stations.

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