Fuel cell truck developer Nikola Motor Company has said that it had raised half its $AUD280million goal in its third round of funding and expects the effort to be over-subscribed.

Nikola founder Trevor Milton said the company raised “more than $AUD140 million” in the first week since opening the investment round.

“We are a few months from putting the first trucks into fleet testing, we are legitimate. Most of the investors have been in to see us, they’ve seen the technology, they know it is real,” Milton said.

The company plans a public unveiling of its first production truck in early 2019.  Nikola has shown prototypes of two Class 8 models, the Nikola One sleeper and Nikola Two day cab.

Its business plan calls for it to lease the tractors in a package that includes access to a Nikola-built network of hydrogen fueling stations.

Nikola, which has recently relocated its headquarters from Utah to Phoenix, is a private company not traded on stock markets.

“$AUD140 million in funds is pretty fast and makes a good case that things are going pretty strong for them,” said Antti Lindstrom, trucking industry analyst at IHS Markit.

Much of the company’s fundraising success comes from its plan to provide hydrogen fueling stations across the country to serve its Class 8 fuel cell electric trucks and to the recent announcement of Anheuser-Busch’s agreement to lease 800 Nikola trucks when the company starts delivering production models in 2020.

“An order of that magnitude, coupled with the hydrogen station plan, “shows that they are being real about this, and that instills confidence in investors,” Lindstrom said.

Fuel cell vehicles use electric motors for power and make electricity on-board in a process that draws electrons from hydrogen.

They use compressed hydrogen gas so they can be refilled as quickly as conventional gasoline or diesel vehicles.

“Unlike rechargeable-battery dependent electric vehicles, fuel cell electric vehicles often can travel as far per tank as conventionally fueled vehicles, which makes them suitable for long-distance trucking,” Lindstrom said.

“Toyota’s continuing push to commercialise fuel cell technology for heavy trucks also is likely to have helped Nikola’s fundraising effort by showing investors that one of the world’s largest automakers is committed to the technology,” he said.

Toyota recently announced development of a second generation Class 8 Fuel Cell Truck that it will use in its ongoing test and demonstration of hydrogen fuel cell technology in operations at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

“Nikola’s business model has been vetted, and the investment world is taking notice,” Milton said.

Since January, Nikola has announced the Anheuser-Busch deal an agreement with Norwegian hydrogen system developer Nel ASA to supply hydrogen production equipment for a network of hydrogen fueling stations across North America to support Nikola trucks and development of a powerful new fuel cell and a lithium-ion battery system with world-class energy density.

Nikola also has signed development deals with several major industry suppliers, Wabco Holdings, for vehicle stability controls and antilock braking systems, Mahle Industries, for a thermal-management and climate control system and Meritor, for an independent suspension for  heavy Class 8 trucks.

“The company is currently completing a new 6-hectare, 185,000-sq-metre headquarters and research and development complex in Phoenix,” Milton said.

Nikola plans to break ground early next year on a 202 hectare manufacturing campus about 50 km outside Phoenix.