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The precious: Bosch's EV fuel cells will use way less platinum than usual, report says

Reuters claims it'll need about 10% of the platinum that other fuel cells require.

Platinum Getty
John Cancalosi/Getty Images

Precious metals are called precious for a reason. Some of these low-supply materials have uses in the automotive industry, which is part of the reason why something like a catalytic converter can be such an expensive piece to replace. But according to Reuters, at least one company is doing something about that.

Bosch's new hydrogen fuel cells use a drastically reduced amount of platinum, Reuters reported Sunday. The major auto supplier, which recently partnered with Sweden's Powercell, is working on a new fuel cell architecture that, according to Reuters' report, will "use only as much platinum as a diesel catalytic converter."

The average amount of a platinum in a hydrogen fuel cell, according to Reuters' conversations with analysts, is between 30 and 60 grams. Diesel catalytic converters, on the other hand, only use between 3 and 7 grams of the shiny stuff. At today's price of $27.54 per gram, that would reduce the platinum cost in each car from about $830 to about $83. That's not going to change the cost of most fuel cell cars overnight -- they average around $60,000 -- but it's still a step in the right direction.

A hydrogen fuel cell is a clever piece of tech. It uses chemical reactions to convert oxygen and compressed hydrogen gas into electricity, and its only byproduct is potable water. It remains an unpopular method of EV propulsion because of its infrastructure; hydrogen cars require dedicated filling stations that can't just piggyback on current gas station setups, which means the cost of entry is very high in areas with zero hydrogen infrastructure. Most fuel-cell activity is in California, where hydrogen filling stations already exist, with a bit happening on the opposite coast, as well.

Bosch and Powercell announced their agreement in late April. Bosch will be in charge of building and distributing the fuel cells, while Powercell will lend its expertise in these kinds of systems. The supplier hopes that by entering this arena, it can use its massive scale to reduce costs and give the industry another method of going electric. Bosch says it believes that up to 20% of global electric vehicles will use fuel cells by 2030.