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December 23, 2020 10:00 AM, EST

Nikola Loses Electric Truck Order From Republic Services

Signage is displayed outside Nikola Corp. headquarters in Phoenix on Sept. 15.Nikola Corp. headquarters in Phoenix. (Ash Ponders/Bloomberg News)

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Nikola Corp. and Republic Services Inc. have discontinued their collaboration on refuse truck development and canceled Republic’s August order for at least 2,500 trucks that was viewed as representing the waste industry’s first large-scale commitment to fleet electrification.

Separately, Nikola also announced Pablo Koziner was promoted to president of its energy and commercial division.

Republic, in a statement to Transport Topics, underscored its belief that electrification is the future and said it plans to make additional purchases from various suppliers in 2021.

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The Nikola Tre

The Nikola Tre (Nikola Motor Co.)

The cancellation marked the latest in a series of stumbling blocks Nikola has encountered as it attempts to expand from its roots as a startup and become a builder of electric trucks and provider of hydrogen fueling stations. The company went public in 2020 and was founded in 2014. In November, General Motors Co. downgraded its partnership with Nikola, Bloomberg News reported, after the startup was accused of deception following the companies’ joint announcement of plans to collaborate in September. Nikola has denied misleading investors.

Both Nikola and Republic determined, after what they called “considerable collaboration and review,” that the combination of the various new technologies and design concepts would result in longer-than-expected development time and unexpected costs. As a result, the program was terminated, resulting in the cancellation of the previously announced vehicle order.

“This was the right decision for both companies given the resources and investments required,” Nikola CEO Mark Russell said in a release. “We support and respect Republic Services’ commitment to achieving environmentally responsible, sustainable solutions for their customers. Nikola remains laser-focused on delivering on our battery-electric and fuel-cell electric commercial truck programs, and the energy infrastructure to support them.”

Republic said it was continuing its “ongoing EV partnerships” with Mack Trucks and Peterbilt Motors Co.

“We also recently announced an investment in Romeo Systems, a California startup that manufactures batteries for commercial vehicles. We believe the opportunity to learn from and partner with Romeo will continue to provide additional opportunities that support our electrification strategy,” Republic’s statement said.

Mack is a brand of Volvo Group and Peterbilt is a brand of Paccar Inc.

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In August, Nikola received Republic’s order for a minimum of 2,500 heavy-duty electrified refuse trucks that could expand to 5,000 over the life of the agreement. Deliveries were scheduled for 2023 with on-road testing in early 2022.

The refuse truck was intended to be built on the platform of Nikola’s Class 8 Tre model, and the truck chassis and body provided directly to Republic Services from the Nikola factory. The refuse trucks were anticipated to carry up to 720 kilowatt hours of energy storage and have a range of up to 150 miles.

With the Republic order, Nikola believed it had been given a chance to do something new.

“Refuse truck customers have always ordered chassis from truck original equipment manufacturers and bodies from other suppliers,” Russell said. “Nikola has fully integrated the chassis and body, covering both with a single factory warranty. Trucks will include both automated side loaders and front-end loaders, all of which will be zero-emission.”

Nikola has laid out a road map that begins deliveries of Nikola Tre battery-electric semi-trucks in the U.S. in 2021. It is also planning to break ground on its first commercial hydrogen station in 2021, according to the Phoenix-based company. Its fuel-cell-electric semi-trucks are scheduled to be produced at Nikola’s Coolidge, Ariz., facility that is under construction, beginning in 2023.

Pablo Koziner

Koziner

Meanwhile, Koziner joined Nikola in June 2020 as president of Nikola energy to oversee Nikola’s hydrogen fueling and battery charging initiatives.

In his expanded role, Koziner will maintain his energy responsibilities and lead vehicle business development, dealer development and administration, vehicle sales warranty and service.

Before joining Nikola, he was a 19-year veteran of Caterpillar, where he served as vice president of CAT Electric Power and president of Solar Turbines Inc., a Caterpillar company.

At the same time, Nikola appointed Mary Petrovich as a new independent director.

Petrovich most recently served as executive chairman of AxleTech, where she helped shape the company’s electric vehicle strategy for the truck and bus markets. AxleTech was a unit of The Carlyle Group until July, when Meritor purchased AxleTech.

 

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