Almost all the platinum in fuel-cell stacks can be recovered: Bosch

Recycling can save more than 95 percent of the CO2 emissions caused by platinum mining; Bosch plans to repurchase and recycle its fuel-cell stacks when their useful life expires; the platinum recovered will be used in new Bosch stacks.

Autocar Pro News Desk By Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 19 Sep 2023 Views icon2825 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Almost all the platinum in fuel-cell stacks can be recovered: Bosch

The Bosch fuel-cell power module is in volume production. And with that, the technology company’s recycling plan is getting underway. Fuel cells contain what are known as platinum group metals (PGMs) – and circular economy models are a particularly worthwhile way to recover these valuable raw materials. For example, almost all the platinum in fuel-cell stacks – at least 95 percent – can be recovered. That is why Bosch aims to repurchase stacks when their useful life expires.

“By recycling, we can make the stacks more economical and at the same time reduce the carbon emissions associated with platinum mining,” says Thomas Pauer, the president of the Bosch Powertrain Solutions division. “We’re already laying the groundwork for recovering rare raw materials like platinum. Our estimates suggest that by 2030 at the latest, appreciable numbers of fuel cells will need recycling,” he adds.

Platinum acts as a catalyst in the fuel cell, accelerating the reaction of hydrogen and oxygen. Recycling platinum can save more than 95 percent of the carbon emissions associated with platinum mining.

PARTNERSHIP WITH HYLANE FOR REPURCHASE OPTION FOR STACKS

A first, important step in this direction is an agreement with the mobility provider Hylane, which provides for the repurchase of fuel-cell stacks by Bosch when their useful lives expire. Some of the hydrogen trucks leased by the Cologne-based startup feature Bosch fuel-cell power modules.

In the long term, this model agreement could serve as a blueprint for further Bosch fuel-cell activities, both mobile and distributed, as well as for electrolysis stacks. “In this way, we can create predictable and stable supply chains and improve the availability of resources. Using recycled platinum lets us greatly reduce stacks’ absolute carbon footprint, since we avoid the emissions that would otherwise occur during the mining of the metal,” says Thomas Wintrich, head of the mobile fuel-cell business unit at Bosch.

Under the new model agreement with Hylane, Bosch is guaranteed an option to repurchase stacks for mobile applications. The stacks themselves will be recycled by a third-party company. In the subsequent production process, Bosch will use the platinum recovered for new Hylane stacks. “We’re proud to have reached this innovative model agreement with Bosch that gives it the option to repurchase retired fuel-cell stacks. To achieve a sustainable transformation in mobility, it’s important that we consider not only vehicle use on the roads but the entire vehicle lifecycle as well,” says Sara Schiffer, the managing director of Hylane.

PLATINUM IN HIGH DEMAND

Platinum is in demand as a raw material in the automotive industry, in medicine and many other areas. In the automotive sector, platinum is used not only in fuel-cell stacks. In internal combustion engines as well, it is used in exhaust-gas treatment systems and lambda sensors.

According to a 2021 study by the German Mineral Resources Agency, worldwide platinum demand could increase by some 20 percent by 2040 compared to 2018 production. For fuel-cell stacks in mobile applications, the use of platinum alone accounts for over 80 percent of the stack’s carbon footprint.

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