Bosch Makes Another Bet on Fuel Cell Technology

(Bloomberg) -- Robert Bosch GmbH, the world’s largest auto-parts supplier, joined forces with fuel-cell stack maker Powercell Sweden AB, in a bet the technology will eventually play a key role in making trucks and cars greener.

The partners will co-develop polymer-electrolyte membrane fuel cells that Bosch will then manufacture under a global license, according to an emailed statement Monday. The stack will add to Bosch’s lineup of fuel-cell products, which turn hydrogen into electricity, and will be launched “in 2022 at the latest.”

Hydrogen fuel cells have long been lauded for their potential to replace dirtier ways of generating electricity and for portability that could help resolve range-anxiety concerns with battery-powered cars. But the technology, which emits only water vapor, has struggled to gain traction -- mainly because of high cost, a lack of infrastructure and the complexity of storing hydrogen.

Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz unit rolled out a fuel-cell version of its popular GLC SUV for fleet customers last year in a fresh push to refine the technology. Toyota Motor Corp. and South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. have also been among the industry’s biggest fuel-cell backers.

Bosch, based in Stuttgart, Germany, said Monday that it expects the fuel-cell business to be worth “billions of euros” for the company over the long term. It estimates that as much as 20 percent of electric vehicles worldwide will be powered by fuel cells by 2030.

Global automakers have taken divergent approaches to technology as they seek to comply with stricter emission limits. Volkswagen AG is focusing mainly on purely battery-powered vehicles, while Toyota, Daimler AG and BMW AG are opting for a broader approach where combustion-electric hybrid vehicles play a more prominent role.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.