Nikola Motor to set up shop in Coolidge

In recent years, vehicles on the road and the things that drive them, including driverless technology, have changed quite a bit. From self-driving car testing in Tempe to autonomous grocery delivery in Surprise and Scottsdale to self-driving commercial trucks making freight deliveries in southern Arizona, driving isn’t what it used to be. Now, another player in the alternative driving game is getting ready to hit the road with a new manufacturing plant headed for the far reaches of central Arizona in Coolidge.

Nikola Motor Co., the Phoenix-based autonomous hydrogen-electric semi-truck startup, has been eyeballing parts of the state to set up shop and build its one-of-a-kind trucks. In January of last year, Nikola made waves in the commercial trucking world with its announcement that it would build a $1 billion, 1-million square foot manufacturing plant in Buckeye. It planned on hiring more than 2,000 skilled manufacturing professionals to build its fleet of zero-emissions trucks, but has since decided to head to Coolidge.

“When we set out to build a factory, part of my vision was to help an entire community,” stated Nikola CEO Trevor Milton. “By completing the deal with Saint Holdings, we can now begin to realize that dream. Imagine what it will do for property values, schools, parks, and other city improvements. Bringing 2,000 jobs and thousands more from other suppliers will be a huge benefit to Coolidge and the surrounding areas for decades to come.”

News of Nikola Motor’s plans to develop, build and test its trucks here in the state comes on the heels of another industry disruptor, TuSimple, which has been operating based out Tucson for a couple years now, perfecting its self-driving electric commercial trucks, which have been making stops throughout southern California and southern Arizona.

The move from Buckeye to Coolidge for Nikola was due in part to the infrastructure that was already in place in Coolidge. The company plans to not only build its hydrogen-based fuel cells but also short-haul electric semi-trucks. So far it has plans to manufacture its Nikola Two and Nikola Tre trucks, which both come in electric and hydrogen options. The company plans to unveil its zero-emissions trucks at next month’s Nikola World event at WestWorld, April 16-17.

For the land located south of Coolidge, Nikola paid out more than $23 million for 389 acres of property located at State Route 87 and Houser Road. Groundbreaking for the new plant will take place next year before being fully operational in 2022 when the bulk of its employees will begin working onsite. The factory will be able to build up to 35,000 trucks per year.

“From the first moment the Nikola team came to our offices, we knew that it was imperative that we be their number one choice for their new manufacturing facility,” said Jackob Andersen, president, and CEO of Saint Holdings, LLC. “They are a huge compliment to Pinal County’s transformation into a vehicle manufacturing hub. The County, City of Coolidge, Nikola and our team collectively pulled together to make this opportunity a reality, and we are grateful for the huge effort and laser focus made by all to achieve the goal. Both our rail-served industrial parks, Central Arizona Commerce Park and Inland Port Arizona are now anchored with two fantastic companies and have enough acreage to accommodate the continued vision and partnerships for years to come”.

Right now, Nikola is laying the groundwork of 16 hydrogen-fueling stations to support the debut of its Nikola One heavy-duty fuel-cell truck, which will hit the road in 2021. The startup currently has plans to operate 700 hydrogen fueling stations by the year 2028 and has already garnered a massive deal with its first major truck customer in Anheuser-Busch. The beer company ordered 800 of the company’s trucks, making it the largest single order for heavy-duty delivery trucks powered by hydrogen.

Nick Esquer

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