Germany-based automotive supplier Robert Bosch expects to post $5.3 billion in sales by the end of the decade from hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen internal combustion engines and electrolyzers that make hydrogen.
It is the latest proclamation that hydrogen is emerging as a meaningful alternative to battery-electric vehicles, which lead the transition to zero tailpipe emissions by at least a couple of years, according to industry leaders.
Bosch became the second industry player this week to add hydrogen as a fuel for internal combustion engines, following Daimler Truck and engine maker Cummins, which is investing $452 million in a plant in Jamestown, New York, to make fuel-agnostic variants of its X15 engine. Bosch is investing $2.6 billion in hydrogen between 2021 and 2026.
Growing adoption of hydrogen ICE
Bosch is developing systems for port and direct injection of hydrogen. Hydrogen ICEs are particularly suitable for heavy vehicles on long hauls with especially heavy loads.
“A hydrogen engine can do everything a diesel engine does, but on top of that, it is carbon neutral,” Markus Heyn, member of the Bosch board of management and chairman of Bosch Mobility, said in a news release from Bosch Tech Day 2023 in Stuttgart. “It also allows a fast and cost-effective entry into hydrogen-based mobility.”
Interest in hydrogen ICE powertrains grew following a recent European Commission decision declaring them as zero emission despite a small amount of carbon dioxide created through the burning of hydrogen as a fuel.
A major advantage of hydrogen engines is that more than 90% of the development and manufacturing technologies needed already exist. Bosch expects to start production in 2024, three years sooner than Cummins. It has four orders for production projects from major economic regions and expects six-figure unit volumes by 2030.
Bosch adding to fuel-cell efforts
Bosch is leveraging several German locations and one in Anderson, South Carolina, to advance work in hydrogen fuel cells.
The Bosch plant in Bamberg, Germany, will supply the Feuerbach factory with the fuel-cell stack. The electric air compressor and recirculation blower come from the Bosch plant in Homburg, Germany.
An early customer is Nikola Corp., which begins production of a fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) — the Class 8 Tre — in the third quarter from a plant in Coolidge, Arizona. Nikola has a license to assemble the modules at its plant.
“Bosch is one of the very few companies that are capable of mass producing technology as complex as fuel-cell stacks,” Heyn said. “We don’t just have the required systems expertise but also the capability of quickly scaling up new developments to mass production.”
Making the equipment that makes hydrogen
Like battery-powered engines, an abundance of fuel cells means little without the infrastructure. Bosch joins Cummins and a host of other suppliers in making electrolyzers with proton exchange membranes. They effectively the reverse of the energy conversion method used in mobile fuel cells.
The company intends to make 1.25-megawatt prototypes for pilot applications this year. Volume production is on track for 2025.
Bosch also is working on solid-oxide fuel cells that can be used for the distributed supply of power and heat. In a pilot project at a hospital near Cologne, Germany, Bosch seeks to achieve overall efficiency of 90%. The micropower plant initially will run on natural gas. It can be converted to green hydrogen made from renewables.
“Bosch knows its way around hydrogen and Bosch is growing with hydrogen,” Bosch Chairman Stefan Hartung said at the Bosch Tech Day.
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