In the future, Bosch wants to get more involved in the hydrogen business. The group plans to develop components for electrolysis: an area of activity worth 500 million euros.Green hydrogen has long been considered a viable alternative to fossil fuels.
But the big breakthrough has not materialized in Germany so far due to high costs. The war in Ukraine has presented Europe with new challenges. Countries want to move away from Russian gas and towards clean energy sources: a way to break free from dependency on Russia. Rising prices for natural gas are seen as another driving force for hydrogen. As a result, according to EU estimates, demand is expected to increase to around ten million tons a year by 2030. Both in the private sector and in industry. The possible uses are diverse.
In any case, Bosch is participating in this veritable trend. "Climate protection cannot wait," says Stefan Hartung, chairman of the board of management at Robert Bosch GmbH. "We want to support the rapid development of hydrogen production in Europe with Bosch technology." The group wants to become an important player in the future, especially in the business with components for electrolysers. Such systems use electricity from wind power, hydropower or solar energy to electrochemically decompose water. Hydrogen is produced during electrolysis. Especially “green” hydrogen if companies use regenerative energies for its production.
Power supply: a first for a hydrogen power plant
Background: According to Bosch, the electrolyser components market is expected to have a volume of around 14 billion euros worldwide, with the group expecting the greatest growth in Europe. The plan is to invest around three billion euros in climate-neutral technologies over the next three years.
Electrolyzers focus on so-called stacks, i.e. stacks of individual cells that are connected in series. They carry out the reverse reaction of fuel cells: water is broken down into hydrogen and oxygen by electrical energy. Nevertheless, there are parallels: In both cases, Bosch relies on proton exchange membranes through which chemical reactions take place. Stacks form a unit together with the control unit, the power electronics and the sensors; they are combined into so-called Smart Modules. These components are to be delivered from 2025.
Hydrogen production on different scales
With the new modules, Bosch wants to react flexibly to market requirements. In any case, the aim is to develop components that are suitable for different requirements. This includes, for example, small systems with a maximum output of ten megawatts, but also large-scale systems in the onshore and offshore sectors in the gigawatt range. According to the plans, the modules should be able to be used both in new buildings and in the conversion of existing systems.
In order to optimize the maintenance of the smart modules, there are plans to connect them via the Bosch cloud. When maintenance is due, only part of the system has to be taken off the grid, but not the entire complex. If components have to be replaced, this should also be done from the point of view of sustainability. Bosch is currently working on recycling and circular economy concepts.
In production, Bosch relies on economies of scale to optimize costs. In contrast to components from other manufacturers, the new components for electrolysers can be mass-produced at several European locations. Bamberg and Feuerbach in Germany, Tilburg in the Netherlands, Linz in Austria and Budweis in the Czech Republic are under discussion. Know-how should also come from the automotive sector. The manufacturer wants to create new jobs in this area.
Fuel cells - another business area related to hydrogen
On top of that. Bosch is also working on fuel cells to supplement the hydrogen strategy. Stationary cells could be suitable for retail, also for small data centers, small companies or for the operators of charging stations. Bosch initially wants to equip trucks with the mobile fuel cell, with a series star in 2022. The portfolio includes various individual components up to the complete fuel cell module.