Bosch Gets License for Fuel Cell Stacks as Nikola Seeks Supplier

April 30, 2019 by Alan Adler, @AlanAdler

When Nikola Motor revealed its hydrogen fuel cell-powered semi-trucks at the two-day Nikola World event earlier this month, the company didn’t mention it had broken up with PowerCell, its fuel cell stack supplier.

“The stacks have performed well, and we have achieved the needed performance,” said Per Wassén, PowerCell Sweden AB chief executive. “PowerCell could not accept the business terms proposed by Nikola for a continued cooperation.”

Now a workaround could keep them together.

Robert Bosch, Nikola’s supplier for power electronics and other major systems on the emission-free heavy-duty trucks, said Monday it expanded a co-development deal with PowerCell. Bosch now has an exclusive global license to sell the fuel cell stacks to automotive manufacturers.

FUEL CELL FUTURE

Bosch sees the potential for billions in making and selling fuel cells. It paid PowerCell about $56 million for the license and will pay a royalty on every system it sells. Bosch estimates that up to 20 percent of all electric vehicles worldwide will be powered by fuel cells by 2030.

“Commercializing technology is one of our strengths.,” said Stefan Hartung, a member of the Bosch board of management and chairman of the Mobility Solutions business sector. “In the fuel cell domain, Bosch already has a strong hand, and the alliance with PowerCell makes it even stronger.”

Bosch’s license matters because Nikola could miss its 2022 target to begin producing trucks if forced to test a new fuel cell stack.

Bosch and Nikola had hinted that such an arrangement could be in the offing, though neither would confirm details.

“We are very proud of our strong relationship with Bosch,” said Trevor Milton, Nikola founder and chief executive.

POWER CELL PRODUCTION

Bosch expects to be producing the PowerCell S3, which Nikola has been testing, no later than 2022. The decision whether to buy the stacks under Bosch’s license is up to Nikola, a Bosch spokesman said.

“As previously announced, we are not working with PowerCell,” Milton said. “We are going in a different direction with our fuel cell stack, which we will announce when the time is right.”

Nikola plans to begin performance testing of the Nikola One semi at a U.S. Army lab in Michigan late this year. The Army’s $60 million Ground Systems Power & Energy Vehicle Environmental Laboratory in Warren, Mich., recently added fuel cell-testing capability.

Fifty Bosch engineers are working with Nikola. The automotive supplier is learning about fuel cell stacks as part of the cooperative work, said Jason Roycht, commercial vehicle and off-road business leader at Bosch North America.

“This isn’t just a wish,” Roycht told Trucks.com. “There is a lot of thought behind it. I’m pretty bullish.”

Alan Adler April 18, 2019
Nikola Motor gained the confidence of suppliers for its fuel-cell trucks and hydrogen station plans by fostering collaboration and taking their advice.

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