Bosch said Wednesday it will invest more than $200 million in its South Carolina factory to build fuel cell stacks that will power hydrogen-powered electric commercial trucks in the United States.
The South Carolina project is part of Bosch’s plan to invest more than $1 billion globally to develop fuel cell technologies by 2024.
Capital upgrades to the campus will include dedicating about 147,000 square feet of floor space to manufacturing a fuel cell stack, as well as maintaining a cleanroom and climate-controlled environment needed for quality-critical processes, the company said.
Fuel cell production at the facility is expected to begin in 2026. The German auto supplier said around 350 new jobs would be created.
Bosch said its fuel cells will be used to power electric heavy-duty trucks, including a version of the Nikola’s Tre electric pickup truck which is expected to enter production by the end of 2023. Bosch, which invested at least $100 million in Nikola in 2019, said last year that it would supply the company with hydrogen fuel cell modules.
The company’s investment in fuel cells marks a wider industry movement to use the technology for heavy-duty trucks and commercial vehicles. Fuel cells that convert hydrogen gas into electricity are expensive. However, they are considered particularly promising in Class 8 trucks and other heavy commercial vehicles because they are smaller and lighter than using batteries.
“The hydrogen economy is promising, and all of us at Bosch are on board,” Mike Mansuetti, president of Bosch North America, said in a statement. “This is an important milestone as we announce the first fuel cell production for Bosch in the US to support growing demand from our local customers as part of a diversified approach to powertrain technology.”
Hydrogen itself is not a source of energy. It is more of an energy carrier, making it a particularly good companion to weather-generated renewable energy sources such as the sun and wind.
And not all hydrogen is created equal. About 95% of hydrogen today is produced using a fossil fuel-heavy method called steam-methane reforming. Fraction is produced by electrolysis, a process that uses electricity to separate hydrogen and oxygen.
An even smaller proportion of hydrogen is produced from renewable energy. Companies including Bosch see “green hydrogen” as the most promising version of reducing the carbon footprint of commercial trucking.