German manufacturer Bosch has announced plans to launch its first hydrogen internal combustion engine for trucks this year, to add to its existing fuel cell and battery-electric offerings.

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Hydrogen engines are less efficient than fuel cells, so vehicles using them will require more H2 to travel the same distance.

But proponents say they hydrogen engines are cheaper to buy and easier to maintain than fuel cells — which are more easily contaminated by dirt and dust, and require very high-purity H2 to run.

“The hydrogen engine represents a further option in the powertrain mix of the future,” Bosch Mobility explains on its website. “Particularly in challenging environmental conditions, the hydrogen engine is characterized by its high robustness.”

In other words, they may be better suited to off-road heavy-duty vehicles, with the website showing construction-industry diggers and farmyard tractors as possible solutions for the technology.

Indeed, in an opinion piece published by Hydrogen Insight in March 2023, analyst Jamie Fox argued that off-road applications such as tractors and mining vehicles “might be a more natural fit” for H2 engines than trucks.

Other manufacturers, including US-based Cummins, German engine maker Deutz and South Korea’s Hyundai Doosan Infracore, are also developing hydrogen engines, with the US company explaining that internal combustion engines are suitable for trucking fleets as they are “a familiar technology to operate, maintain, troubleshoot and service”.

“The technology can offer the performance of a diesel engine,” said Bosch. “It will be suitable for commercial vehicles in the on- and off-road segments, such as heavy-duty long-haul trucks and construction machinery.”

The manufacturer first announced plans to develop a hydrogen engine in May last year, before presenting a Ligier race car fitted with a three-litre H2 engine at the Le Mans 24-hour race in June.

Bosch Mobility already offers four different injection systems for hydrogen engines on its website.