Heating with hydrogen with Bosch

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As the deployment of hydrogen fuel cell technology accelerates, Bosch, a partner of The Engineer’s Net Zero, is developing technologies for various sectors ranging from residential to industrial to transportation. Tom Austin-Morgan reports.

Hydrogen as a source of green fuel has long been considereda promising alternative to burning fossil fuels, but so far its adoption has been limited. However, that seems to be changing with various companies around the world testing multiple technologies across industries from home heating to mobility – not just cars, but trains, ships, and even airplanes.

Research from tech company Bosch has identified hydrogen as a megatrend and suggests that the green hydrogen market in the EU will be worth nearly 40 billion euros (£ 33.73 billion) by 2030 , with annual growth rates of 65%.

Residential

Experts say the current rise in gas prices could trigger the adoption of greener energy habits in the UK, with increasing interest in hydrogen.

A survey by Bosch found that a third of participants would like hydrogen to be adopted as a consumer fuel by 2030. As more people strive to be green, a third also said that ‘they would be willing to pay an additional £ 94 per year. months on average to use green energy such as hydrogen rather than natural gas. Additionally, 42% say the use of hydrogen could be the answer to future fuel crises.

Worcester Bosch’s hydrogen-ready boiler
(Credit: Bosch)

However, while the demand to be green is evident, research also shows that not enough is known about the benefits of using hydrogen or the UK’s strategy to adopt it. . In fact, half of those polled said they didn’t know if it was clean energy. In addition, two-thirds were unsure whether the UK had a strategy to implement hydrogen as the primary fuel.

Bosch UK Managing Director Vonjy Rajakoba said: “These are exciting times for us in the UK and beyond. As hydrogen plays an important role in the UK government’s decarbonisation plan, consumers are becoming aware of the positive impact hydrogen energy can have on the environment and our daily lives. We really hope that alternative fuels like this will be high on the agenda for COP26 in Glasgow this month. “

Hydrogen house engineering

Fuel cells convert hydrogen into electricity, and Bosch is developing stationary and mobile fuel cell solutions. From 2021 to 2024, Bosch plans to invest € 1 billion (£ 850 million) in fuel cell technology and estimates the market for mobile fuel cell components to be around € 18 billion (15 , £ 37 billion) by the end of the year. decade.

Dr Volkmar Denner, Chairman of the Board of Robert Bosch GmbH, said the company “is already H2 ready and has what it takes to be a leader in this market”. The company’s plan is to commission 100 stationary fuel cell plants this year. They will provide electricity to users such as data centers, industrial manufacturers and residential areas.

Carl Arntzen, CEO of Worcester Bosch, agrees: “We already have a hydrogen boiler for home central heating, developed here in the UK. We are meeting with government officials and other companies to provide insight into what hydrogen can do. “

For the heating and hot water industry, complete carbon removal is a complex issue, in large part because of the existing infrastructure where the majority of UK homes depend on natural gas. However, Arntzen adds, with a third of the UK’s greenhouse gases coming from our homes, it is clear that the UK will not meet its climate change targets without a revolution in heating technology. domestic and fuel.

He continues: “Replacing natural gas boilers with hydrogen gas may be the simplest solution to the country’s heating problems. The only byproduct of hydrogen use is water, which means it is a carbon-free fuel source and could be a key method to help decarbonize heating and cooling. hot water in British homes.

Stationary fuel cells

Bosch installed a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) at the central bus station (ZOB) in Bamberg, Germany at the end of March 2021 in partnership with city utility company Stadtwerke Bamberg.

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SOFC at Bamberg bus station (Photo credit: Bosch)

The refrigerator-sized factory generates around 10 kilowatts of electricity, with an overall efficiency of 60% for power generation. This is enough to cover the annual needs of more than 20 four-person households near the ZOB. The heat produced by the cell is used by a ZOB bakery for its heating and hot water systems. Using waste heat in this way increases the efficiency of SOFCs to 85%.

Dr Wilfried Kölscheid, Head of Stationary Fuel Cells at Bosch, says: “As we move towards alternative forms of energy, decentralized power supplies are becoming very important. The stationary fuel cell is perfectly suited to the extension of local electricity and heating networks in urban areas.

Dr Michael Fiedeldey, Managing Director of Stadtwerke Bamberg, adds: “Our experience with this fuel cell is expected to provide lasting benefits for the future energy supply of existing buildings and new neighborhoods.

“At the same time, we want everyone to be able to experience the new technology for themselves. That’s why we didn’t hide it in a basement, but instead put it in the middle of the ZOB, which is a traffic hub visited by over 20,000 people a day.

Once the COVID restrictions are lifted, an “InnoLab” at ZOB will be open to guests interested in visiting, with experts from both companies on-site to answer their questions.

The SOFC plant currently operates on natural gas, but it is adapted to hydrogen. Compared to the German electricity mix, an SOFC system reduces CO2 emissions by almost 40%, even when running on natural gas. As the fuel cell runs on hydrogen, it will no longer generate direct CO2 emissions.

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SOFC unit (Credit: Bosch)

SOFC production can be tuned to match demand, which means it can ensure a sustainable energy supply to cities and towns with high energy needs. In addition, connecting a series of fuel cells to the existing gas infrastructure is a way of relieving the power grid, which means that the additional electricity demand can be met using on-site generation.

The SOFC plant in Bamberg is connected via 20 sensors to the Bosch IoT Cloud, continuously providing data on power generation and operating status and helping to further develop the technology. In the future, Bosch claims that it will be possible to connect multiple SOFCs through the cloud to form virtual power plants and control them digitally using intelligent self-learning software, while preserving both the environment and resources.

Mobility

Bosch also recently entered into a joint venture with Chinese group Qingling Motor, creating Bosch Hydrogen Powertrain Systems (Chongqing) Co. Ltd., which aims to produce fuel cell powertrains for all Chinese automakers. A fleet of 70 trucks is expected to be tested on the roads before the end of 2021 and launched commercially within the next 18 months.

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Hydrogen-powered trucks will have several advantages over battery-powered trucks (Credit: Bosch)

“China is the most important growth market for electromobility,” says Stefan Hartung, Bosch board member and president of the Mobility Solutions business area. “Especially for large, heavy vehicles that travel long distances, the fuel cell offers clear advantages over the battery-powered electric powertrain. “

Bosch has already developed development and application skills with its fuel cell business in China, including the construction of a fuel cell center in Wuxi. It is now a matter of preparing the necessary manufacturing capacities for the components which will also be supplied to the joint venture.

The company is also developing the industrialization of hydrogen fuel cells at its German sites in Bamberg, Feuerbach and Homburg. In addition, in collaboration with Swedish specialist Powercell, Bosch is developing ready-to-market fuel cells, in order to start large-scale production on its own from 2022.


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