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Nikola Trucks gears up to launch its own fuel cell laboratory

The ambitious heavy-duty truck startup believes that its fuel cell tech will replace diesel in the next 10 years.

Nikola wants to replace diesel entirely in the next 10 years with fuel cells.

Nikola

Nikola, the somewhat provocatively named rival to Tesla's Semi, announced on Thursday that it had just placed a $16 million order for equipment for its new hydrogen fuel cell lab.

Why is this a big deal? By investing in advanced fuel cell technology, the company will be able to not only differentiate itself from the Big T, but it can take advantage of some of the benefits that fuel cells have to offer, namely quick refueling.

"This lab will be filled with extremely talented fuel cell engineers and is a critical part in our truck development -- enabling Nikola to set a new efficiency benchmark for heavy-duty fuel cell systems," said Nikola CEO Trevor Milton, in a statement. "We believe the fuel cell will replace the diesel engine in the next 10 years."

If that 10-year target sounds wildly ambitious, that's because it is, and borders on crazy. Right now, heavy-duty diesel trucks make up the backbone of America's goods transport infrastructure. The technology certainly has its issues, but it's proven and, compared to fuel cells and the hydrogen necessary to run them, it's cheap.

Nikola plans to unveil more information about its hydrogen fuel cell lab during a multiday conference in April. The event, called Nikola World, will be held in Scottsdale, Arizona and promises to have several other "big surprises" in store for attendees.