In the wake of severe disruptions in the automotive supply chain and energy crisis in Europe, world’s largest autoparts supplier Bosch warns that the automotive industry needs to invest in alternatives beyond just battery cells.
“We are currently seeing the consequences of the gas shortage for Germany and Europe because we prepared too few alternatives,” said Markus Heyn, Head of Mobility Services for Robert Bosch, told the German newspaper Stuttgarter Zeitung.
“In the automotive industry, we should use this occasion to ask ourselves what we can do if there should ever be too few battery cells.”
He added, “everyone would certainly like to see an alternative to battery power. But this will only exist if we have prepared it in good time.”
Heyn said that investments into hydrogen fuel cells, which are more suitable for heavy commercial vehicles, is necessary to ensure that the economy is resilient enough to withstand shocks in battery supply and cost.
In the wake of the energy crisis and soaring prices of raw materials needed for EV battery manufacturing, past projections of EV prices coming down have all missed the mark.
Instead of becoming more affordable, prices of EVs have increased across all segments. Prices of the Chinese market Wuling Mini EV, the world’s cheapest EV, have increased by 30 percent in March this year, mostly due to increase in battery cost.
Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz is shifting its EV battery strategy for its Daimler Truck division, part of the company’s measures to hedge risks against rising raw materials cost for batteries.
It wants to move its truck division towards lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, which don’t need nickel and cobalt, the two most expensive minerals used in battery manufacturing.
Although LFP batteries are cheaper, more durable and safer, LFP batteries are not suitable for many passenger cars because of its lower power density, meaning that it is larger, heavier, and exerts a greater space premium on compact to mid-size cars. However, LFP batteries are suitable for large trucks.
By moving its truck division towards LFP and keeping its passenger cars business on regular NMC (nickel-manganese-cobalt) lithium batteries, it can at least spread out the risks.
"My fear is if the entire passenger car market, not just Tesla or the high-end cars, moves to batteries, there will be a fight," Martin Daum, Daimler Truck's CEO, told Automotive News. "And a fight always means higher pricing."
Daimler Trucks is also developing hydrogen-fuelled fuel cell electric trucks, which don’t need big batteries and its fuel cells combine hydrogen with oxygen from air to generate electricity.
Mercedes-Benz GenH2 trucks are currently undergoing trials on public roads. The company is also developing liquid hydrogen (LH2) refuelling technology with Air Liquide.
Daimler Trucks say with LH2, cryogenic liquid hydrogen at minus 253 degrees Celsius is filled into two 40 kg tanks mounted on either side of the chassis. With good insulated tanks, the hydrogen can be kept for a sufficiently long time without active cooling.
The company says it prefers liquid hydrogen over gaseous ones because the liquid state fuel has a significantly higher energy density in relation to volume, thus directly improving range and performance.
A 1,000 km range is possible, with fast refueling time comparable to regular diesel-powered trucks. Series production is targeted to start in the second half of this decade.