Nikola shares surge on gas station plans with TravelCenters of America

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Nikola Motor Company Hydrogen fuel

Source: Nikola Motor Company

Shares of embattled electric truck manufacturer Nikola surged during early trading Thursday after the company reconfirmed production targets and announced a limited collaboration on hydrogen fueling stations with TravelCenters of America.

The plans include installing hydrogen fueling stations for heavy-duty trucks at two sites in California for TravelCenters of America, which is the largest publicly traded company that runs full-service travel centers in the U.S. The initial stations are “a first step for the parties to explore the mutual development of a nationwide network,” according to Nikola.

Shares of Nikola seesawed in Thursday morning trading, soaring by more than 21% after board member Jeffrey Ubben told CNBC the company is “pretty much on target” regarding its production plans.

Most notably, customer production of its first semitruck, a battery-electric vehicle called the Nikola Tre, beginning in Europe in the fourth quarter, followed by a plant in Arizona coming online to produce the vehicle in 2022.

“We’re checking boxes,” he said on “Squawk on the Street.” “There’s tremendous momentum here. The team is head down here. That’s all I can say.”

Nikola stock was trading at at $12.20 a share as of 10:55 a.m., up about 18%. The shares, which once traded as high as $93.99, fell below $10 earlier in the week for the first time since the company went public through a reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, in June. Nikola, which was briefly valued higher than Ford Motor last year, now has a market value of less than $4 billion.

The collaboration between Nikola and TravelCenters of America is subject to negotiations and execution of a definitive deal agreed upon by both companies, according to a press release.

“The key here really is to have this integrated solution,” Ubben said. “The hydrogen stations and the fuel cell truck.”

Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles are viewed as a long-range solution for the trucking industry, which is attempting to move away from diesel-powered trucks. They operate much like battery-electric vehicles but are powered by electricity generated from hydrogen and oxygen instead of pure batteries.

FCEVs also are quicker to fuel than battery-electric vehicles, which the automotive and trucking industries also are exploring for shorter trips. But they also feature many of the same hurdles such as higher costs and charging/fueling infrastructure.

In a separate vote of confidence for hydrogen fuel cell technology, global auto supplier Bosch announced plans Thursday to invest 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) in the technology through 2024. The Germany-based company believes the market for hydrogen in Europe will be worth almost 40 billion euros ($48.2 billion) by 2030 – with annual growth rates of 65%.

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