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A hydrogen truck on tour

Putting the fuel-cell powertrain to a real-world test

A young man in a black t-shirt, seen from behind, walks toward a blue and white truck parked sideways. On the horizon is the skyline of a metropolis.

A truck driving on a Chongqing road is nothing unusual — unless it happens to be equipped with an exclusive powertrain. An endurance test underway in China is assessing 70 trucks equipped with Bosch fuel-cell systems to see how they fare out on the road. Hu Gang is among the test drivers.

The day-to-day routine in a hydrogen-powered truck

“To start, you press two buttons, check the hydrogen and battery levels, and you’re good to go!” says a clearly delighted Hu Gang. “No engine noise, just the hum of the cooling fan. And the truck accelerates faster than any truck with a combustion engine.” This 46-year-old road-testing trucker is a logistics driver at Qingling, a Chinese company that partners with Bosch in fuel-cell technology for commercial vehicles.

Seventy trucks powered by Bosch fuel cells are traveling the roads around Chongqing and also making trips to Chengdu, a city a little over 300 kilometers away. The greater Chongqing region is roughly the size of Austria. Road-test drivers like Hu Gang can pinpoint weaknesses in this new type of powertrain as it runs continuously on highways and byways. The insights gleaned from road-testing trucks will go to benefit the production models to come.

View of a megacity. Pictured are skyscrapers in a densely developed urban setting, intersected by a wide river.
Hu Gang’s line of work has him crisscrossing Chongqing, the city and the rural region of the same name with some 32 million inhabitants.
A man wearing a black T-shirt and sunglasses sits in the driver’s cab, holding the door open and looking back past the photographer.

I have complete faith in Bosch’s hydrogen powertrain. The reliability of the entire system is excellent.

Hu Gang, truck driver

Fuel cells for the long haul

A truck winds down a lonely road through verdant forested mountains.
On China’s roads in a hydrogen truck featuring the Bosch fuel-cell system

There are good reasons for powering trucks, particularly long-haulers, with a fuel cell. It generates the electricity for the powertrain. A truck equipped with the Bosch fuel-cell system can travel more than 500 kilometers on a full tank holding 11.7 kilograms of hydrogen. It takes just five to ten minutes to refill the hydrogen tank, including safety checks. This powertrain is an excellent choice for trucks because it doesn’t add much weight. And the required batteries are relatively small. They serve as intermediate storage units, temporarily buffering the electricity produced continuously by the fuel cell. The electric motors can draw on this stored electricity when they are not getting their energy directly from the fuel cell.

My first journey with the hydrogen truck from Chongqing to Chengdu and back was the first trip of this kind in China in real-world operation. There were so many question marks: will the hydrogen hold out? Will everything work? There were plenty of statistics from the computer, but no practical experience yet.

Hu Gang, truck driver

Power modules, tanks, and the powertrain

A man with an athletic build wearing a black t-shirt, sunglasses, and gloves looks at the engine installed below the truck’s tilted cabin
A peek under the hood: Hu Gang inspects the fuel-cell system’s core component, the power module.
A man with an athletic build wearing a black t-shirt, sunglasses, and gloves looks at the tank below the truck’s tilted cabin
A look behind the tilted cab: the hydrogen tanks that give the vehicle a range of more than 500 kilometers are installed here.
A man with an athletic build wearing a black t-shirt, sunglasses, and gloves squats at the truck’s rear left twin wheel
Checking up on the powertrain: an electric motor is installed on the rear axle. Running on electricity drawn from the fuel cell and temporarily stored in a battery, it drives the rear wheels.

The power module is the core component of the Bosch fuel-cell powertrain. It triggers a chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen to make water and generate the required electrical energy. But there’s more to this system: it also includes a battery to store electricity, an electric motor to drive the rear wheels, and an electronic control unit that regulates energy flows to the powertrain.

The fuel-cell system holds great promise as a tool to help tackle environmental challenges; Bosch is the technology leader when it comes to deploying it in commercial vehicles. And Hu Gang is a road-testing trailblazer. He’s one of the drivers gathering day-to-day experience with the version of trucks that come very close to what production models will be. The lessons such drivers learn on the road will help ensure that future mass-manufactured fuel-cell trucks will operate flawlessly.

Now that the Bosch fuel-cell powertrain has proven its merits for everyday road haulage over countless kilometers, it can be mass-manufactured for more sustainable mobility. Bosch aims to start mass producing all of the fuel-cell powertrain’s core components in 2022.

0 g/km

local CO₂ emissions. The fuel-cell system is a clean machine.

How can long-haul trucks become more sustainable?

Zoomed in: How can long-haul trucks become more sustainable?

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On the road to sustainable mobility with fuel cells

A truck traveling fast on a two-lane highway, shot at an angle from the front left. A mountain panorama provides the backdrop.
On the road from Chongqing to Chengdu: Hu Gang on a run with his hydrogen-fueled truck featuring the Bosch fuel-cell system.

Just 70 of some 4.8 million new commercial vehicles registered in China in 2021 doesn’t sound like much of a breakthrough or any sort of ecological turning point — at least not yet. But this is just the beginning of a success story.

“This promising technology is extremely interesting! I would like to help it become established,” says Hu Gang. “My truck doesn’t emit a gram of CO₂ while driving. And if we succeed in producing the hydrogen without using fossil energy sources, it will be a completely carbon-neutral powertrain.”

The driver wearing a black t-shirt and sunglasses behind the wheel of the truck shot from the left, smiling at the photographer through the open driver-side window

Hu Gang, 46

Test driver

“Even at a young age, I dreamed of becoming a professional driver. I learned truck driving quickly and it suits me very well. I think it’s just perfect that my passion has become my job.”

This experienced 46-year-old trucker lives in Chongqing. These days, he’s working as an instructor, training drivers of trucks equipped with the Bosch fuel-cell powertrain. In 2016, his driving skills saw him featured on the Chinese TV show National Vehicle King Challenge.

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