One thing Nikola didn’t reveal at its major launch event, Nikola World in Scottsdale Arizona a fortnight ago was the falling out it had suffered with the then supplier of its fuel cell stack supplier, the Swedish company, PowerCell.
Apparently PowerCell was not prepared to accept the business terms proposed by Nikola, with the Swedish company’s CEO Per Wassén saying an agreement could not be reached despite PowerCell’s fuel cell stacks meeting the necessary performance targets.
“Our stacks have performed well, and we have achieved the needed performance, but PowerCell could not accept the business terms proposed by Nikola for a continued cooperation,”Per Wassén said.
However it appears Nikola might have a solution to the problem thanks to the German electronics giant, Robert Bosch. The German company is the supplier of power electronics and various other systems for the Nikola truck and last week it firmed up an agreement with PowerCell to co-develop fuel cells and Bosch now has an exclusive global licence to sell the fuel cell stacks to automotive manufacturers.
Bosch paid PowerCell about $US56 million for the licence and will pay a royalty on every system it sells and estimates that up to 20 per cent of all electric vehicles worldwide will be powered by fuel cells by 2030. Bosch has openly said it sees the potential for billions in making and selling fuel cells.
“Commercialising technology is one of our strengths,” said Stefan Hartung, a member of the Bosch board of management and chairman of the Mobility Solutions business sector.
“In the fuel cell domain, Bosch already has a strong hand, and the alliance with PowerCell makes it even stronger,” he said.
The Bosch’s signing of the licence agreement is a critical eve for Nikola because without it it would likely miss its target to begin producing trucks by 2022 if it has to test new fuel cell stack designs in its trucks.
Neither Bosch nor Nikola would confirm details but Nikola did hint that an arrangement with Bosch had potential.
“We are very proud of our strong relationship with Bosch,” said Trevor Milton, Nikola founder and chief executive.
Bosch says it is likely to be producing the PowerCell S3 fuel stack that Nikola has been testing by 2022. And a Bosch spokesperson said the decision whether to buy the stacks under Bosch’s license is up to Nikola.
“As previously announced, we are not working with PowerCell,” Milton said. “We are going in a different direction with our fuel cell stack, which we will announce when the time is right.”
Nikola plans to begin performance testing of the Nikola One semi at a U.S. Army lab in Michigan late this year. The Army’s $US60 million Ground Systems Power and Energy Vehicle Environmental Laboratory in Warren, Michigan, recently added a fuel cell-testing capability.
“Fifty Bosch engineers are working with Nikola enabling it to learn about fuel cell stacks as part of the cooperative work,” said Jason Roycht, commercial vehicle and off-road business leader at Bosch North America.