Hydrogen-powered semi trucks from Nikola company.

Anheuser-Busch announced an order for up to 800 semi trucks powered by hydrogen gas as part of a bid to make its entire fleet of long-haul trucks run on “clean energy.” The hydrogen trucks are being built by Nikola Motor Company.

Anheuser-Busch has a long history of finding creative ways to move beer. Much more recently, it shipped 50,000 cases of beer 120 miles using a self-driving semi truck and also the first company to use refrigerated rail cars in the 1870s.

The Nikola and Tesla trucks both run on electricity. But instead of storing power in battery packs, the way Tesla’s semis do, the Nikola trucks have tanks of compressed hydrogen gas. The gas is fed into hydrogen fuel cells where it’s combined with oxygen from the air in a process that produces water as well as electricity to power the truck.

Nikola’s hydrogen-powered trucks have considerably higher range. They can go anywhere from 500 to 1,200 miles on full tanks, depending on driving conditions and load, according to Nikola. Nikola’s trucks can also refill in just 20 minutes, or about the same time it takes to fill the big tanks on a diesel-powered semi truck, said Nikola CEO Trevor Milton.

The biggest challenge for hydrogen vehicles is finding places to refuel them. To solve that problem, Nikola sells fueling networks along with its trucks. As part of its deal with Anheuser-Busch, Nikola will build 28 fueling stations strategically placed around the country to serve the beer company’s distribution routes. The stations will also be available to other drivers of hydrogen powered cars, Milton added.

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