May 3, 2018 10:15 AM, EDT

Anheuser-Busch Orders 800 Nikola Hydrogen-Electric Trucks

Nikola Motor Co.

Anheuser-Busch announced it has placed an order for up to 800 hydrogen-electric powered heavy-duty day cabs from Nikola Motor Co. as the beverage company moves to convert its dedicated fleet to trucks powered by renewable energy sources.

Delivery of the first trucks is scheduled for later this year and will ramp up in 2019 and 2020. Ryder System Inc. will handle ordering and servicing the trucks, manage the parts supply chain and ensure each unit passes a pre-delivery inspection.

“As an industry leader, we feel it’s our responsibility to drive the entire industry forward,” in a cleaner direction, Ingrid De Ryck, vice president of procurement and sustainability for Anheuser-Busch, said during a media conference call.

The beverage maker intends to develop brand-awareness of its products around the concept of sustainability, making consumers aware that the beer is delivered in zero-emissions trucks, she said.

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Anheuser-Busch and Nikola positioned the agreement as means of meeting corporate sustainability goals as well as appealing to consumers who came of age in the 21st century

Consumers will “realize that they are making the right environmental choice when they make a decision to drink one of our beers, and we think that really differentiates us,” said Ties Soeters, vice president of logistics procurement for Anheuser-Busch.

“My generation is tired of pollution, tired of the noise and ultimately they want things that are packaged nicely, that are sexy, that solve environmental impact problems,” added Nikola CEO Trevor Milton, 36, who said people his age prioritize environmental progress. “They want to leave this place better than their predecessors. And on top of that their lifestyle is as important as their job and that is a very important thing to this generation,” he said.

Nikola Motor Co. 

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Of the trucks, Milton said, “We can finally move freight with zero-emission trucks that are cheaper, lighter and more environmentally friendly than any other alternative on the market.”

Nikola plans a network of 28 public hydrogen fueling stations that will be capable of refueling trucks in 20 minutes. It will position them on properties it owns along major travel lanes as it seeks to develop the world’s largest hydrogen fueling network, it said. “The key to that is to allow everyone to fill at it,” Milton said.

The first two stations will be open by the end of the year; locations will be announced in the middle to later part of the year, he said.

As to the cost of the trucks to Anheuser-Busch, Milton spoke in terms of cost-per-mile. “Those numbers are being honed in right now, but is around the 90 cents to $1.00 mark,” he said, which includes the truck, fuel, service, warranty, tires and even the windshield wipers. He added that this paradigm shift also is reflective on his generation, which wants to pay when they use things, not for assets. “And we are seeing everything change that way,” he said.

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Meanwhile, the deal with Nikola only covers about one-third of Anheuser-Busch’s entire fleet. “We will still have significant relationships with other providers of the rest of our fleet,” said De Ryck.

That could eventually include Tesla Inc., from which Anheuser-Busch has ordered 40 Tesla Semi Class 8 trucks.

“We see both solutions as complementary, as coexisting and playing different roles,” she said, depending on the route — of which the company has thousands.

Milton said U.S. Xpress also will be receiving trucks by the end of the year. The truckload carrier was an early advocate of the Nikola trucks.

U.S. Xpress Enterprises ranks No. 21 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.

Nikola will unveil its production units to the broader industry at the 2019 Commercial Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Milton said.