Bosch said Wednesday it will invest more than $200 million into 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 floorspace to manufacture the fuel cell stack as well as support the clean room and climate-controlled environments required for quality-critical processes, the company said.
Production of fuel cells at the facility is expected to begin in 2026. The German auto supplier said about 350 new jobs will be created.
Bosch said its fuel cells will be used to power electric heavy trucks, including a version of Nikola's Tre electric semi-truck that is expected to go into production by the end of 2023. Bosch, which invested at least $100 million in Nikola in 2019, said last year it would supply the company with hydrogen fuel cell modules.
The company's investment in fuel cells marks a broader movement in the industry to use the technology for heavy duty trucks and commercial vehicles. Fuel cells, which 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 battery packs.
"The hydrogen economy holds great promise and at Bosch we are all in," Mike Mansuetti, president of Bosch in North America, said in a statement. "This is a significant milestone as we announce the first fuel-cell related production for Bosch in the U.S. to support the growing demand from our local customers as part of a diverse approach to powertrain technology."
Hydrogen is not an energy source, per se. It is more of an energy carrier, making it a particularly good companion to renewable sources of power generated by weather such as solar and wind.
And not all hydrogen is created equally. About 95% of hydrogen today is produced using a fossil fuel-heavy method called steam-methane reforming. A fraction is produced using electrolysis, a process that uses electricity to split hydrogen and oxygen.
An even smaller sliver of hydrogen is made from renewable energy. Companies including Bosch see "green hydrogen" has the most promising version to reduce the carbon footprint of commercial trucking.