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Bosch to cooperate in large-scale production of fuel cells for trucks and cars

Bosch is entering the market for mobile fuel cells and paving the way for the breakthrough of this technology in trucks and cars.

A crucial component is the stack. As the core of the fuel cell, is converts hydrogen into electrical energy.

To further improve and manufacture these stacks, Bosch has now formed an alliance with Powercell Sweden AB, the Swedish manufacturer of fuel-cell stacks.

Under the agreement, the two partners will work jointly to make the polymer-electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell ready for production.

Bosch will then manufacture this technology under licence for the global automotive market. The stack will complement the Bosch portfolio of fuel-cell components, and is to be launched in 2022 at the latest.

Over the long term, the mobile fuel-cell business is potentially worth billions of euros for Bosch. It estimates that as much as 20 percent of all electric vehicles worldwide will be powered by fuel cells by 2030.

Bosch believes the best opportunities for broad adoption of fuel-cell technology are in the commercial-vehicle market.

The EU’s fleet requirements for trucks call for a reduction of CO2 emissions by 15 percent on average by 2025, and 30 percent by 2030.

Bosch’s view is that this target can only be reached by electrifying more and more of the powertrain. The fuel cell can play a decisive role here.

Once they have become established in trucks, Bosch fuel-cell powertrains will then increasingly find their way into passenger cars.

But for this to happen, the cost of fuel-cell systems needs to be progressively reduced. The biggest cost item is the stack. It accounts for nearly two-thirds of the total cost of a fuel-cell system.

Costs also have to fall when it comes to hydrogen. Currently, this fuel is mainly produced for industrial applications, at a kilogramme price that frequently exceeds five euros. As production grows, the price should fall.

One kilogramme of hydrogen contains as much energy as about three litres of diesel. For 100 kilometres, a modern 40-ton truck requires seven to eight kilogrammes of hydrogen.

If is uses green electricity, the production of hydrogen can be climate-neutral. Various industrial enterprises are working to perfect this process.

In addition, there is a small network of more than 60 hydrogen filling stations in Germany, and this number is set to rise.

The hydrogen tank can be refilled with highly compressed gas in a matter of minutes. In the fuel cell (or fuel-cell stack as an assembly of such cells is called) the hydrogen reacts with oxygen.

The end result – apart from water as a by-product – is electrical energy. This can be used either to recharge a battery in the vehicle or to directly power the electric motor.

By flexibly combining two or more stacks, the power requirements of all kinds of vehicles can be covered, from passenger cars to heavy trucks.

With its 60 associates, Powercell is gradually moving from manual production of fuel cell stacks to ramp-up of a semi-automatic production.

Powercell has developed cutting edge fuel cell technology and its stacks provide an output of up to 125 kilowatts.

Headquartered in Göteborg, Sweden, the company was spun off from the Volvo Group in 2008. It already supplies fuel cells for use as prototypes in trucks and cars.