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Bosch believes AIoT, electrification, and green hydrogen are the way forward; investing €1B in fuel cells to 2024

Bosch, the supplier of technology and services, is combining the internet of things (IoT) with artificial intelligence (AI)—thus, AIoT—and believes electromobility will allow it to develop new business opportunities on the back of the profound technological and ecological changes currently occurring. “Bosch came through the first year of the coronavirus pandemic well,” said Dr. Volkmar Denner, the chairman of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH, at the press conference to present the company’s 2020 annual report. “We are one of the winners in the transition to electromobility, and we are significantly expanding our software business by tying in artificial intelligence.”

In powertrain technology, electromobility is establishing itself as Bosch’s core business. Denner reported that the company is making heavy upfront investments in this area—a further €700 million this year alone. Up to now, its upfront investments in electromobility total €5 billion.

Currently, Bosch sales revenue from electrical powertrain components is growing twice as fast as the market, at almost 40%. The aim is to increase annual sales fivefold to a total of some €5 billion by 2025 and to break even one year earlier. Overall, Bosch had acquired orders worth over €20 billion by the end of 2020.

In the first three months of this year, Bosch Group sales climbed 17.0% year on year.

AIoT. Bosch aims to leverage the competitive advantage it derives from its experience in combining connectivity (the internet of things, IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) to generate future business and become a leading AIoT company. Bosch foresees that AI-enabled products will generate sales worth billions of euros over the next few years.

Sales of connectivity-enabled devices for the home are expected to double: from four million last year to around eight million units in 2021. In addition, Bosch wants to use AI to evaluate data relating to how its customers use its products, and in this way to provide software updates that create new functions and services for those customers.

In the field of video security, for example, video analysis based on neural networks opens up new possibilities. To this end, Bosch is integrating detectors both into new cameras and into an AI box that can be connected to installed devices. The first application is a traffic detector that will initially be able to detect and locate vehicles precisely in busy traffic situations, even under difficult lighting conditions. The more data that flows into the customer application, the more AI will be able to do, including accurate accident detection, the company says.

Electrification megatrend: new opportunities in several business areas. Global efforts to combat climate change are boosting electrification and green hydrogen. Denner believes electrification opens up new opportunities in electric heating in buildings as well as in electric driving. In electromobility, the key drivers of change are falling battery costs and emissions standards designed to meet climate action targets. In building technology, especially in heating and air-conditioning, the use of heat pumps and renewables is playing a growing role.

Hydrogen megatrend: fuel-cell market worth billions. Bosch is also focusing on a growth market for the hydrogen megatrend: the company believes the market for green hydrogen in the EU will be worth almost €40 billion by 2030, with annual growth rates of 65%.

Bosch is developing both stationary and mobile fuel-cell solutions. From 2021 to 2024, Bosch plans to invest one billion euros in fuel-cell technology.

The plan is to put 100 stationary fuel-cell plants into operation this year. They will supply electricity to users such as data centers, industrial manufacturers, and residential areas. One stationary solid-oxide fuel cell, located in the center of Bamberg, Germany, was brought into operation at the end of March 2021 together with Stadtwerke Bamberg, the city’s public utilities.

Bosch estimates that the market for mobile fuel-cell components will be worth around €18 billion by the end of the decade. Bosch recently entered into a joint venture with China’s Qingling Motor Group to produce fuel-cell powertrains. A test fleet of 70 trucks is set to be on the roads before the end of this year.

Denner: EU plans may threaten carbon neutrality. Denner does not believe that the EU’s initial plans for the Euro 7 emissions standard make sense; however, he expressed his satisfaction that the debate was now showing signs of movement and becoming more objective.

Climate action is not about the end of the internal-combustion engine. It’s about the end of fossil fuels. And while electromobility and green charging power make road transport carbon neutral, so do renewable fuels.

—Volkmar Denner

The Bosch CEO reminded his audience that climate-neutral mobility is almost as ambitious a goal as flying to the moon was in the 1960s. But instead of just setting the big goal of “first man on the moon” and leaving it up to engineers to decide how to achieve it, as US President Kennedy did at the time, the European Commission is doing things the other way around.

This is a surefire way to cut off alternative paths to climate action. If society truly wants climate action, it is essential that we do not play technological approaches off against each other. Instead, we must combine them.

—Volkmar Denner



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