Nikola Corp. and Republic Services will partner to design and produce a battery-electric refuse recycling-collection truck based on the Nikola Tre chassis. The initial order will see Nikola deliver 2,500 integrated chassis and bodies starting in 2023. Republic retains options on 2,500 additional trucks.
The actual value of the order was not disclosed, but Republic acknowledged the agreement is binding. Trevor Milton, Nikola founder and executive chairman, acknowledged in a media call on Aug. 10 that no cash has as yet changed hands.
“We didn’t take and we didn’t need money from Republic on this one, but I will be clear about this, the terms that we’ve agreed to, for both Republican and us in delivery, are very industry-standard terms,” Milton said. “They’ll be putting the deposit down before trucks are delivered or during delivery, just like they normally would with any other order they make. There’s no weird stuff going on with this contract.”
Republic Services operates 18,000 refuse and recycling collection trucks in the U.S. and is second only to Waste Management Inc. in size.
In what both companies are calling an industry first, Nikola will deliver a complete truck to the customer — chassis, powertrain, and body — all assembled at Nikola’s Coolidge, Arizona, plant. The bodies will be licensed from existing suppliers and installed by Nikola. Milton believes that by more closely integrating the design and installation of the various components on the Nikola Tre chassis, significant savings in cost and complexity can be achieved.
“By sharing the same platform that’s on the Nikola Tre, this will allow us have mass production numbers for the refuse market, which is something that has never been able to be achieved,” he said.
“This will be the first zero-emissions refuse vehicle at scale industry, and our customers in all capacities — small businesses, municipalities, residents — have been asking for this,” said Republic Services President Jon Vander Ark. “It’s also exciting for our employees, who’ll get to ride in a state-of-the-art vehicle that is quiet, efficient, and clean. And probably most importantly, I’m excited for my kids and my grandkids and hopefully my great grandkids, because I think, together, we are going to deliver a cleaner future. And this is a big part of our sustainability goals, which we are deeply committed to.”
Today’s announcement, which could generate up $2 billion in revenue for Nikola, sent stock values up 19% in mid-day trading.
Nikola said the Tre platform and powertrain will be essentially unchanged across the two most common refuse truck configurations, side-loaders and front-end loaders. It will include a 720 kW/hr battery back (divided into nine 800-volt DC modules for easy up- or downsizing and replacement), a standard direct-drive e-axle in 6×4 configuration, and electrically driven hydraulics for the compactor bodies.
Nikola has touted the powertrain output at 500 hp from each of the four motors, but it will be limited by software to 1,000 hp overall — still nearly three times that of competitors’ diesel and natural gas refuse engines. It can be opened up beyond 1,000 hp automatically when and where demand warrants, such as when climbing hills heavily loaded.
Anticipated range for the truck is stated at 150 miles on a residential refuse collection routes of up to 1,200 stops or commercial collection of 140 stops per day. Milton said the actual range of the truck would be closer to 300 miles, but the compactor operation will use a good portion of the battery capacity, supplemented by regenerative braking and opportunity charging.
“That type of work makes up 75% of our business,” said Vander Arc.
There are no plans for a hydrogen fuel cell refuse truck, but Milton said fuel cells would be considered if the chassis were to be developed for a roll-off application where more driving and more miles are involved.
The first of these trucks are slated to hit the streets in early 2022 for on-road testing. Initially they will be placed into service in areas where they will work the best, Vander Arc said.
“We’ll begin the rollout in places like California and Arizona where we think about customer need and demand,” he said. “We also have to think about the geography, about the climate, and about the regulatory environment. Both of those places will be great places for us to start, and there’ll be plenty of learning as we go.”
Vander Arc said Republic Services will continue evaluating products from Mack Trucks, and currently has one electric LR model under evaluation.
“That pilot is still very much going on,” he said. “And I think if you look at us, you look at any player in the space, they have multiple OEM partners going forward. We are pro-electrification and we want everybody to get there, even providers that we don’t buy from, because I think that creates a cleaner future for everybody.”
Among the many anticipated benefits of fleet electrification are instant torque, no idling, regenerative braking, up to 90% lower emissions on a per-mile basis and quieter operation in neighborhoods, as well as significantly lower maintenance costs, Republic Services noted in its announcement.