If Nikola qualifies for California’s $240,000 subsidy on its Tre hydrogen fuel cell electric truck and some other spiffs apply, a buyer could save 40% to 70% off the upfront cost of the zero-emission truck.

The technology — a fuel cell’s only emission is water vapor — still makes the Tre FCEV pricey. Nikola won’t give a specific figure, but something close to $1 million per unit before incentives would not be far off. That doesn’t count hydrogen fuel, which likely would be more expensive  than diesel, even at the latter’s elevated rates.

Groundwork laid for Nikola fuel cell truck incentive

Nikola applied for the Tre FCEV’s inclusion in California’s Hybrid and Zero Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) base fuel cell incentive of $240,000 after receiving a zero emissions powertrain executive order from the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

If used in a drayage fleet, the per-truck incentive would rise to $270,000. It tops out at $288,000 for fleets with 10 or fewer trucks conducting drayage operations. Rules require those trucks operate in a designated disadvantaged area where excessive pollution from trucks is an impediment to clean air. 

Nondrayage fleets are eligible for up to 30 HVIP vouchers; drayage fleets can get up to 50 vouchers.

“We have pricing for the Tre FCEV and hydrogen fuel that we expect will generally provide a competitive TCO [total cost of ownership] compared to the market’s costs of procuring and operating diesel trucks in California,” a Nikola spokesperson told FreightWaves. 


“Depending on the fleet’s eligibility for different incentive levels, the incentive amount may contribute to between 40-70% of the expected post-tax price of the Tre, not including the fuel commitment or optional service agreement.”

Federal incentives also apply to Nikola fuel cell truck 

In addition to the HVIP funding, purchasers of Nikola’s Tre battery-electric vehicle (BEV) and FCEVs qualify for a $40,000 clean commercial vehicle tax credit in 2023 from the federal government’s Inflation Reduction Act.

Affordability of battery-electric and fuel cell electric trucks is a barrier to adoption. CARB knows this. It fines excessive carbon emissions and earmarks the billions of dollars collected in HVIP vouchers. The average saving generated is 20%.

The TCO issue consistently comes up when comparing electric and diesel truck acquisition. A battery-electric truck is two to three times the typical $125,000 price of a new Class 8 daycab. A fuel cell could be twice the cost of a battery-electric, or more.

‘Stimulus to accelerate the transformation’

“We need some kind of stimulus to accelerate the transformation to electromobility,” Volvo Trucks North America President Peter Voorhoeve said. “Ultimately, it is about the total cost of ownership of a diesel truck meeting the total cost of ownership of an electric truck.”

Volvo sells its VNR Electric daycab and has a joint fuel cell venture with Daimler Truck.

Nikola will offer a leasing option for the FCEV through its third-party financing partners or for direct purchase by customers. The truck is being packaged with competitively priced hydrogen fuel, a comprehensive warranty and an optional service package. Other leasing options also will be available.

Nikola expects to begin deliveries of Tre FCEVs in the second half of 2023. Nikola assembles the Tre BEVs and FCEVs at its plant in Coolidge, Arizona. 

Related articles:

Plug Power will buy up to 75 Nikola fuel cell trucks

Nikola gets real on hydrogen with 60 stations planned by 2026

Flatbed hauler PGT Trucking intends to lease 100 Nikola fuel cell trucks

 Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

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