Hydrogen fuel cell truck making start up, Nikola, and its European partner Iveco, have  announced they’ve started gearing up for  zero emission truck production at the Iveco plant at Ulm in Germany, as part of their plan to have trucks on the road in Europe next year.

The two companies will commence production of the Nikola Tre in the Ulm plant later this year with the first 25 battery electric trucks to be delivered to European pilot customer,  the Port of Hamburg early next year.

Nikola is supplying the electric drive train and Iveco S-Way chassis to create the Tre for European operations.

While small scale series production is scheduled to start this year, the companies say that the plan is for the plant to 3,000 zero emission trucks per year in the medium term.

Nikola CEO Mark Russell told the media the company is keen to deliver a message of “focus and execution” and that in spite of all of the challenges including Covid and supply disruptions, the company was  here and ready to start building trucks

“This is yet another important milestone for Nikola as we execute our strategy and vision to be a global leader in zero-emissions transportation solutions,” said Mark Russell.

Iveco president, Gerrit Marx, also spoke at the presentation  underlining Iveco’s commitment to Nikola after other partners dumped it, following the fraud scandal involving founder and former boss, Trevor Milton.

“Now our focus is on ensuring the success of this operation and jointly taking the lead when it comes to climate neutral, long and short-haul heavy-duty transport,” Gerrit Marx said.

Nikola is looking to turn the page on a tumultuous time, after it went public in a merger with another company in June last year.

Shares in the truck maker , still to produce a vehicle for sale and with no revenue, initially skyrocketed,  and briefly valued the company worth more  than the Ford Motor Co.

However the stock came crashing down after a short seller accused founder Trevor Milton of misleading investors. Milton stepped down as executive chair in September last year and pleaded not guilty to fraud charges in July.

“There were enough reasons to stop all of this, the last 24 months would have equipped us with enough reasons and everybody would have understood, but we never even considered it,” said the Iveco boss said.

Nikola says it is still committed to delivering its first trucks to selected customers  in the US next year The company says the first examples of its Nikola Two prime movers are set to be delivered to selected customers in the US. next year, while the Tre will be deployed in Europe.

The initial 25 trucks to be delivered to the Port of Hamburg  will not be hydrogen fuel cell trucks, but will be battery electric trucks and will initially be tested as part of the port’s transport logistics, with the second phase to include “full integration into daily operations”.

The battery-electric Tres will be built at Ulm and the company says they will have a range of up to 560 kilometres.

Nikola claims that in the second half of 2023, the Tre will also to be launched as a hydrogen fuel cell truck.

Nikola recently announced a deal with German global component supplier Robert Bosch  to supply key components for the Fuel Cells and drive trains. The company has also recently twice downgraded its delivery target for this year  citing  the global semiconductor shortage. Its new target indicates it plans to deliver between 25 and 50 trucks before the end of this year and that its revenues could vary between  zero $US7.5 million dollars.

The announcement offered Nikola investors a glimmer of hope following the dismal time the stock-holders have endured with their value plunging 90 per cent from a peak back in June 2020. The shares rose as much as 8.8 per cent following the presentation.

Mark Russell followed Trevor Milton to Nikola from metals manufacturer, Worthington Industries, which acquired one of Milton’s earlier business ventures.

“The Ulm facility will build as many as 100 trucks in 2022 and demand will far exceeding capacity,” Gerrit Marx said.

Nikola says it is still planning to open its second manufacturing plant at Coolidge in Arizona, next year where it says it will produce its hydrogen fuel cell-powered trucks.

Nikola and Iveco have invested around 40 million euros ($US47 million) to upgrade the Iveco engineering hub in Ulm to make it ready for final assembly of the Tre.