According to Reuters calculations, Bosch would only need a tenth of the platinum used in current fuel cell vehicles.
Hopes of reviving demand and prices of platinum increasingly hinges on widespread uptake of fuel cells in vehicles, ships and trains to make up for dwindling amounts used in each device, analysts say.
The spot price of platinum has shed more than 40 % in the last five years, burdened by persistent oversupply, before rebounding slightly in recent months.
But hopes that fuel cells will boost longterm demand may be dampened after Germany’s Robert Bosch GmbH told Reuters that platinum was expected to play only a “minor role” in its plans to mass produce fuel cells.
Privately-owned Bosch, which last month signed a deal with Powercell Sweden AB to mass produce fuel cells, said its fuel cell design was not finalised, but it expects them to use only as much platinum as a diesel catalytic converter.
A catalytic converter in a diesel passenger vehicle typically uses three to seven grammes of platinum compared with around 30-60 grammes currently needed for a fuel cell for the same vehicle, according to analysts.
“There has been lots of optimisation work concerning platinum in fuel cells,” Achim Moritz, product manager for mobile fuel cells at Bosch, told Reuters.
“If you look at a diesel catalytic system, there is about the same amount of platinum content you need for a fuel cell,” he added.
He declined to give specific estimated figures for the S3 fuel cell system it is developing with Powercell and expects to launch by 2022, citing commercial sensitivities.
Bosch’s fuel cell deal with Powercell, announced last month, was another signal that the technology is poised to be rolled out more widely as governments toughen emissions regulations.
China is leading the way, targeting two million fuel cell vehicles by 2030.
Fuel cells generate electricity through a chemical reaction using hydrogen as a fuel and platinum as a catalyst, but comprise only a fraction of the electric vehicle (EV) market even though they allow vehicles to travel much longer distances between charges than battery powered cars.
For years, fuel cells were expected to boost platinum demand dramatically, but doubts have increased due to reports that scientists have found ways to cut the amount of platinum they contain.
The best selling fuel cell vehicle, Toyota’s Mirai, is expected to cut platinum by twothirds to around 10 grammes per vehicle in its next version, down from 30 grammes in the current model, according David Hart, director of E4tech consultancy, based in Lausanne.
“They (fuel cell makers) all have a pathway of using less platinum, which is fairly clear,” Hart said.
Toyota Motor Corp declined to comment. Hyundai Motor Co has cut the amount of platinum needed for the fuel cell stack in the latest edition of its NEXO, released last year, to 56 grammes from 78 grammes previously, a company spokesman told Reuters.
Hyundai plans to invest over six billion euros to make 700,000 fuel cell systems annually by 2030.