China to dominate hydrogen transport this decade, with major growth in Europe and US not expected until 2030s: Bosch

China will lead the market for hydrogen fuel cells in the transport sector, with limited growth in Europe and the US until the 2030s, the chairman of fuel-cell manufacturer Bosch said yesterday (Thursday).

Speaking at a press conference, Stefan Hartung explained: “In 2023, we launched production of [PEM] fuel cell systems in Stuttgart, Germany, and Chongqing, China.

“China will likely be leading the market for the time being. We don’t expect to see major growth in Europe and North America until the next decade.”

Contrary to reports elsewhere, this comment was not about the hydrogen industry in general.

Bosch has an agreement with Swedish fuel-cell maker PowerCell to jointly produce and advance the latter’s PEM technology — with the German manufacturer having an exclusive licence to manufacture and market the fuel-cell stack for automotive applications.

China became the world’s largest market for hydrogen-powered vehicles last year, with a 38.8% share of the global market. According to Korean analyst SNE, 5,362 of the 5,600 fuel-cell electric vehicles sold in China in 2023 were commercial vehicles, ie, trucks, vans and buses.

China also has more H2 refuelling stations than any other country, with 354 in operation at the end of 2023.

Nevertheless, the EU passed a law last year — the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation — that requires the 27 member states to ensure that, by 2030, publicly accessible H2 filling stations — capable of serving both heavy-duty and light vehicles — are set up in every “urban node” and every 200km along the core routes of the planned Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T).

The TEN-T core network links “urban nodes” — an EU term for 424 major cities in the bloc with ports, airports and rail terminals — across Europe.

Bosch chairman Stefan Hartung speaking at yesterday’s press conference. Photo: Bosch

The US also has plans to roll out a national network of hydrogen refuelling stations between 2027 and 2030, according to the Biden administration’s recent National Zero-Emission Freight Corridor Strategy.

Hydrogen engines

Hartung added that he expected a bright future for vehicles powered by hydrogen engines — a product also being produced by Bosch.

“From a technical point of view, hydrogen engines represent the fastest path to climate-neutral commercial vehicle transportation. Vehicle platforms, production lines and components, all of this is 90% identical to diesel engines and just as robust and powerful, only without carbon emissions.

“A hydrogen engine with our injection technology will be on the road in India as early as this year, and we are already working on five production orders from well-known truck manufacturers from all three of the world’s major economic regions.

“By 2030, we expect the market for our hydrogen engine technology to be worth almost €1bn [$1.06bn].”

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