Bosch: CO2 Targets Need Carbon-Neutral Liquid Fuels

Carbon-neutral liquid fuels for internal combustion engines should feature in carmakers’ future plans if European carbon emissions targets are to be met.

That’s the opinion of Bosch chairman Dr Volkmar Denner when delivering his company’s annual press conference, this year by online presentation owing to coronavirus restrictions. While the automotive supplier giant has been deeply involved in developing battery vehicle powertrain technology, such as its eAxle, Denner said ICE powertrains have a vital role to play in meeting Europe’s Green Deal target to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Denner said: “In our view, climate action policy should not be merely defensive, or indeed restrictive. A policy of sacrifice and prohibition would only inhibit our engineers’ ingenuity. We want technology neutrality and, in the end, this means a technology offensive. First and foremost, neutrality means that there is more than one path to sustainable mobility.”

Bosch’s development of electric powertrains will continue unabated but so will work on all the alternatives. Denner added: “Batteries are one way but so are renewable synthetic fuels and fuel cells. We will need alternative powertrains, and we will need ways of making combustion engines themselves carbon neutral.”

However, he warned battery-blinkered regulators that they, too, must be open to alternative fuel sources if the automotive industry is to provide the best and quickest route to carbon neutrality. Denner added: “We can achieve this with renewable synthetic fuels. Precisely for this reason, it would help to consider such renewable synthetic fuels in fleet consumption, instead of tightening the CO2 rules for purely automotive emissions in a time of crisis.”

Denner also made great play of his company’s future plans in hydrogen fuel cell technology. He said Bosch will be bringing a heavy-duty vehicle capable fuel stack to market by 2022 in a bid to accelerate adoption of the technology among commercial fleets. Denner explained: “Hydrogen is figuring prominently as a subject of debate, but it’s high time it was commercialized.”

He set out a three pronged strategy to address this including:

  • Governments must subsidize hydrogen production, either by lowering energy taxation rates or scrapping them altogether; lower rate of energy tax, or by exempting it altogether;
  • Vital research must also be supported by the public-purse to make the technology commercially viable more quickly;
  • The taxpayer must also support the establishment of a viable infrastructure and transportation logistics, including nationwide networks of hydrogen filling stations.

With this sort of backing from governments, Denner said one-in-eight newly registered heavy duty vehicles in Europe could be powered by hydrogen fuel cells as early as 2030. He added that, with this vision in mind: “We started field tests in Germany in 2019, and will this year be setting up pilot plants in the UK, China and the United States. By 2030, we forecast that the market volume for fuel-cell power plants will be more than €20Bn ($32.5Bn).”

Later, answering questions from journalists, Denner concluded: “Fundamentally, when it comes to hydrogen, we see our role as this – we should focus on what we do best. For example, using hydrogen… in ICE vehicles or fuels derived from hydrogen to work with those.

“Building large scale systems for the generation of hydrogen or liquid carbon neutral fuels we do not believe is within our scope. On the other hand, never-say-never because a fuel cell can also be used differently because you can use oxygen to power a vehicle, for example, and we are thinking about these different options.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_


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