Bosch goes all-in on hydrogen with €2.5B investment by 2026
Will get involved from production to hydrogen engines, hopes for €5B turnover from tech by 2030
German engineering giant Bosch says it plans to invest €2.5 billion ($2.8 billion) in hydrogen technology, starting with fuel cell power modules to be used initially in trucks built by Nikola Corporation in the US.
Unveiled at a Tech Day event at its HQ in Stuttgart today, Bosch's strategy hits along the entire hydrogen supply chain, the company said, from production to hydrogen engines. Bosch expects to have pumped €2.5 billion into hydrogen technology by 2026, and plans to be generating sales of €5 billion ($5.6 billion) from the tech by 2030.
Bosch has already begun volume production of fuel cell power modules, for which the pilot customer will be Nikola Corporation, the US-based commercial electric truck maker. These will be fitted in its Class 8 fuel cell electric truck, scheduled to go on sale in North America during in the third quarter of 2023, according to Bosch.
The motivation for this is due to the shift from fossil fuels to more sustainable propulsion for vehicles. Hydrogen fuel cells produce electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen, whereupon the hydrogen reacts with oxygen across an electrochemical cell to produce electricity, plus water and a small amount of heat.
The problem is that hydrogen itself is only “green” if it has been produced using renewable energy, and much industrially produced hydrogen gas is extracted from methane gas, an energy-intensive process often powered by fossil fuels.
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For these reasons, the UK government’s Science and Technology Committee concluded at the end of last year that hydrogen is not likely to be practically and economically viable for heating homes or powering passenger cars.
But trucks may be a different matter, as an article published in the EU’s Horizon research magazine points out: With the higher energy density of hydrogen, there need be fewer batteries on a truck, and this also enables the longer distances and heavier payloads required, so long as you can get the green hydrogen.
Bosch said it “strongly advocates” the establishment of a hydrogen economy. The company already has more than 3,000 people working on hydrogen technologies, including production and began constructing prototypes for generating hydrogen via electrolysis using proton exchange membranes at the start of 2023. It intends to make 1.25-megawatt prototypes available for pilot applications this autumn, and claimed the technology is on track to start volume production by 2025.
Other technologies Bosch said it is looking at include stationary solid-oxide fuel cells to be used for the supply of power and heat, and hydrogen engine technology that uses internal combustion in the same manner as fossil fuels. This is said to be particularly suitable for heavy vehicles on long hauls with especially heavy loads, but is also claimed to be carbon neutral.
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Bosch is not the only engineering firm developing hydrogen combustion engines, but the company said its engine should be ready in 2024, and it already has orders for production projects from around the world and expects this to turn into “six-figure volumes” by 2030.
However, there is still a lot of progress to be made with hydrogen power, as Bosch CEO Dr Stefan Hartung conceded.
“First, we have to step up the pace of hydrogen production in the EU. Second, global supply chains have to be set up, and third, hydrogen has to be used in all sectors of the economy,” he said. ®