Bosch Is Still Betting on Hydrogen Engines

Jackson Wheeler
6 Min Read


  • Bosch plans to launch a hydrogen combustion engine in 2024, building on its work in this sphere since 2016.
  • Hydrogen combustion engines are viewed as a way to achieve zero emissions with conventional but modified combustion engines, both in motorsports and in passenger cars.
  • In 2023, Bosch and Ligier revealed a hydrogen combustion race car prototype with a biturbo 3.0-liter V6 engine.

Despite the gains made by EVs over the past decade, hydrogen is still a hot topic with a handful of automakers that have developed and even fielded production hydrogen fuel-cell models. You can probably guess right away just which automakers we’re talking about: Toyota, BMW, and Honda.

And even as all three have invested in EVs, they’ve also been planning for a future in which hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles of all sizes will exist alongside EVs and will play an important role in the zero-emission landscape.

But fuel-cell vehicles aren’t the only types of hydrogen models we could see in that gleaming future. At CES this year, German supplier giant Bosch shed more light on plans for a different way to use hydrogen as a fuel to power cars: a hydrogen engine. And it’s due later this year.

“The company is also working on components for a hydrogen engine, which converts fuel directly into energy without first converting it into electricity,” Bosch said in a statement. “When powered by green hydrogen, this engine is practically carbon neutral.”

They’ve been planning for a future in which hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles of all sizes will exist alongside EVs.

One of the last few times we saw hydrogen engines in new passenger cars was under the hood of BMW sedans about 20 years ago, as BMW built small demonstration fleets of 7-Series sedans with engines modified to work on hydrogen.

One such prototype, the 750hL, featured a V12 engine that could run on gasoline or hydrogen, effectively making it a bivalent hybrid. The hydrogen tank itself could yield about 250 miles of range, allowing the driver to then switch over to the gasoline tank.

These experiments by BMW, despite being impressive from an engineering standpoint, did not really produce stellar performance or anything approaching everyday benefits for the consumer. Instead, they would have had to find gas stations and hydrogen stations, in addition to enjoying all the other running costs of a V12 BMW 7-Series.

Of course, this was 25 years ago. Since that time internal combustion engines have become more efficient, and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles have seen limited market debuts as well.

Just what could a modern take on the hydrogen engine look like?

In 2023 Bosch Engineering teamed up with Ligier Automotive to build a prototype based on the Ligier JS2 R race car, unveiling it at the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The prototype featured a biturbo 3.0-liter engine converted to run on hydrogen and featuring a reworked injection system, good for 563 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque.

Of course, the aims of a sports car with such an engine and something geared toward efficiency will be quite different. But the experiment demonstrated that performance cars with combustion engines could still be quite climate-friendly, and not just in auto racing.

Bosch is looking much further down the road than automakers that have already offered hydrogen models, to a future where hydrogen stations could be far more commonplace and allow gas-hydrogen hybrids to fill up their tanks alongside hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

Still, one of the main competitors of such cars will be EVs, as well as hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, at least if the automakers that have offered them thus far continue to do so while seeing hydrogen stations grow in number as well.

Needless to say, a future with hydrogen vehicles of any sort is still predicated on hydrogen stations being built to cover wider geographic areas than we’ve seen thus far. So quite a bit has to happen even for this type of a hydrogen future to become a reality.

Will hydrogen combustion engines take off once hydrogen stations become more plentiful, or will this remain a niche technology? Let us know in the comments.

Headshot of Jay Ramey

Jay Ramey grew up around very strange European cars, and instead of seeking out something reliable and comfortable for his own personal use he has been drawn to the more adventurous side of the dependability spectrum. Despite being followed around by French cars for the past decade, he has somehow been able to avoid Citroën ownership, judging them too commonplace, and is currently looking at cars from the former Czechoslovakia. Jay has been with Autoweek since 2013. 

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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