Friday Fallback Story: Bosch is Testing Fuel Cell Vans

By April 7, 2023 4   min read  (721 words)

April 7, 2023 |

Fuel Cells Works, Bosch is Testing Fuel Cell Vans

FuelCellsWorks published this story for our members in Sept 2022 reporting that Bosch has begun road testing two vans equipped with fuel cell technology.

Dr. Markus Heyn, Bosch board member and chairman of the Mobility Solutions business sector, says fuel cells enable longer ranges and quicker refueling times, making them a suitable and economical drive solution for long journeys, particularly in light commercial vehicles where battery-based electric drives may face limitations.

  • Two demonstrator vehicles provide comprehensive data for the further development of the alternative drive system.
  • Bosch relies on its own fuel cell components for the tests.
  • Initial findings on range and refueling times are convincing.
  • Test drives at the IAA Transportation in Hanover make it possible for everyone to experience test vehicles.

Stuttgart – Transporters get goods to their destination quickly – ideally with a locally emission-free drive. But the longer the journey and the heavier the vehicle, the more battery-based electric drives reach their limits. This is where the fuel cell shows its strengths.

Bosch has now equipped two vans with this technology and started road testing. “The fuel cell enables long ranges and short refueling times, which makes long journeys more economical,” says Dr. Markus Heyn, Bosch board member and chairman of the Mobility Solutions business sector. “With the two fuel cell vans, we are expanding our system understanding and showing that the fuel cell can also be a suitable drive solution for light commercial vehicles.

The partner in the project is Abt eLine GmbH, which designed and implemented the conversion of the vehicles together with Bosch Engineering. At the IAA Transportation in Hanover, Bosch offers interested visitors the opportunity to experience the test vehicles and Bosch fuel cell technology in action.

“The fuel cell enables long ranges and short refueling times, which makes long journeys more economical” says dr Markus Heyn, Bosch board member and chairman of the Mobility Solutions business sector.

Mainly Bosch components in use

For the fuel cell system, the developers were able to rely almost entirely on Bosch components. A so-called fuel cell kit is used, which includes the stack, the anode supply module including hydrogen metering valve and recirculation fan, the control unit, the electric air compressor and storage components up to a large number of sensors. The technical basis of both vehicles is made up of purely electrically powered vans that are freely available on the market. The batteries and peripherals have now been replaced by the fuel cell, five storage tanks for a total of over ten kilograms of hydrogen and a smaller lithium-ion battery. “Accommodating the fuel cell components in the available installation space was a major challenge,” says Dr. Uwe Gackstatter, Chairman of the responsible Bosch Powertrain Solutions division. Among other things, the partner ABT eLine adapted the cooling as well as the vehicle control and the on-board electrical system. Bosch designed the fuel cell system, integrated it into the vehicle together with the hydrogen storage system and developed the associated controls. After the necessary technical tests, the vehicles were granted road approval.

The project is already providing important insights: Even when loaded, the vehicles can travel up to 540 kilometers and are fully refueled after six minutes. For fleet operators whose vans cover particularly long distances during the day and return to the depot in the evening, the fuel cell can be a good addition to the battery-electric drive in the future.

Fuel cell and hydrogen ready for the next step

The first Bosch components for fuel cells are already in series production. But that’s not the end of the work. “For further development, we need as much data as possible from real driving operations,” explains Gackstatter. Thanks to a cloud connection, the two test vehicles now deliver this to the developers’ computers in real time, thereby supplementing the measured values ​​from the test benches. With this knowledge, Bosch will in future be able to offer customers tested components and comprehensive support in system design.

However, further steps are required for the breakthrough of fuel technology. “Industry and politics must work together to remove obstacles to hydrogen technologies,” warns Gackstatter. Among other things, the development of a tank infrastructure and the production of green hydrogen in larger quantities remain tasks that can only be solved together.

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