Three different automakers are unveiling new plans to introduce electric pick-up trucks, or to use the vehicles as emissions-free “power plants” by equipping them with hydrogen fuel cells.
Earlier this month, General Motors announced a US$2-billion investment in Phoenix-based electric vehicle manufacturer Nikola Corporation, a 10-year partnership aimed at bringing the big automaker $4 billion in benefits as it sets out to electrify its entire fleet, the Detroit Free Press reports. In a statement, the two companies said GM will “engineer, homologate, validate, and manufacture the Nikola Badger battery electric and fuel cell versions”.
The Free Press says the Badger, a heavy-duty fuel cell-electric pick-up, is intended to go into service in 2022.
“This strategic partnership with Nikola, an industry-leading disrupter, continues the broader deployment of General Motors’ all-new Ultium battery and Hydrotec fuel cell systems,” said GM CEO Mary Barra. “We are growing our presence in multiple high-volume EV segments while building scale to lower battery and fuel cell costs and increase profitability.”
GM is also spending $2.2 billion to retool its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant to build an electric Hummer.
Scarcely a week later, the Free Press was back, this time with a report that Ford Motors will spend $700 million at its Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan to develop hybrid and all-electric versions of its F-150 truck, the bestselling vehicle in the U.S.
“This plant mirrors the story of America and American manufacturing,” Executive Chair Bill Ford Jr. told a livestreamed event on YouTube and Facebook. “This is where the industrial revolution took hold, where the arsenal of democracy was forged, where parents and grandparents and great-grandparents built not only cars and trucks but their own American dreams.”
The Free Press says Bill Ford “made it clear why it is so important for companies like Ford to help keep the U.S. manufacturing base strong and help the country get back to work,” and “acknowledged the efforts” of the company’s unionized work force. The project is expected to add 300 jobs at Rouge.
“The electric F-150, which is undergoing tens of thousands of hours of torture testing and targeting millions of simulated, laboratory, and real-world test miles, will be more powerful than any F-150 available today,” the company said in a release.
On the same day as the Ford announcement, Toyota said it would soon begin testing a plan to fit its Dyna medium-duty truck with hydrogen fuel cells, “a move that could create fleets of temporary, mobile electricity sources worldwide,” The Guardian writes.
“The specially-equipped vans could generate electricity for 72 hours straight and could potentially replace the diesel-fuelled mini-generators that typically power outdoor sporting events, concerts, and festivals with a zero-emissions alternative,” the paper adds. “They could also be used to provide emergency electricity to disaster-stricken areas left without power for up to three days before refuelling.”
Toyota, the world’s second-biggest automaker, will base the design on the technology it used in its Mirai fuel cell-electric vehicle in late 2014, The Guardian says. “The fuel cell vehicles run on compressed hydrogen gas, which in the Mirai’s case is stored in two tanks mounted underneath the vehicle. They emit no exhaust fumes, although fossil fuels are used to produce the hydrogen and to pressurize it.”