Nikola enters partnership with Hyundai on hydrogen

(Reuters) – U.S. electric truck maker Nikola NKLA.O said it was open to collaborating with Hyundai Motor (005380.KS) on hydrogen technology following a media report that it had reached out to the Korean automaker.

In an interview with South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo published on Sunday, Trevor Milton, founder of Nikola Corp, said he would like to cooperate with Hyundai. He said he had twice made proposals to Hyundai that were rejected.

Hyundai, along with Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), are among the few automakers championing hydrogen technology.

“Trevor has immense respect for Hyundai and views Hyundai amongst the leaders in hydrogen around the world,” Nikola spokeswoman Nicole Rose said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

“Trevor has, and will continue to be, open to collaborate if they ever choose to do so,” Rose said. She did not address queries on whether Nikola had made proposals to Hyundai.

A person familiar with Hyundai said that there were no current cooperation talks. “If Nikola makes an official offer, Hyundai can consider the proposal,” the person said.

He said Hyundai wants to sell its hydrogen systems to other automakers but, at the same time, Nikola could become a potential competitor to Hyundai’s commercial truck business.

“It would be a complicated relationship,” he said, declining to be identified because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Hyundai declined to comment.

Kim Joon-sung, an analyst at Meritz Securities in Seoul, said it was uncertain whether any partnership would bring benefits to Hyundai at this point.

“Nikola needs to produce some tangible results to work with Hyundai on fuel cell cars or infrastructure, but those are not certain at this point,” he said.

In July, Hyundai Motor shipped the first 10 of its Hyundai XCIENT Fuel Cell, the world’s first mass-produced fuel cell heavy-duty truck, to Switzerland, and aims to roll out 1,600 units by 2025.

Nikola has said it plans to start producing its battery electric trucks in 2021, followed by fuel cell electric trucks in 2023.

Hyundai has partnered with Audi (NSUG.DE) on hydrogen vehicle technology.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Additional reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and David Clarke)

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