How Innovative Is Auto?

In the Boston Consulting Group list of the top 50 most innovative companies in the world there are few surprises.

The top three are Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. Alphabet comes in at 4.

Not much of a surprise there. You could mix up the names and it would probably be about right.

The first automotive company, at number 5, is Tesla.

Again, not much of a surprise there, either.

But there isn’t another automotive company on the list until position 21. Toyota.

Bosch is down a few spots at 26, although one might argue that its innovation profile undoubtedly has something to do with its Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology, too—not just Mobility Solutions.

Next is Hyundai, at position 33. It wasn’t that many years ago when Hyundai was considered to be not much more than a car company for people who wished they could buy a better car but couldn’t; now it is a highly innovative provider of some of the most remarkable vehicles on the road.

General Motors makes the list at 42, and crosstown rival Ford is just behind it at 43.

Mitsubishi is at 48, but odds are it is not for its motor vehicles (the company has a multiplicity of companies under its umbrella).

So if we subtract Mitsubishi but keep Bosch, there are 6 automotive companies on the list. Or 12%.

Still, it seems that there could be, should be, more.

To be sure, it is a whole lot more difficult to make significant developments in vehicles than in consumer electronics.

But one might imagine that with all of the ways that auto OEM execs are describing their companies the positioning on the list would have more than one company in the top 10 and more than two in the top 25.

Why Connecting Brakes to the Internet Is a Good Idea

By Gary S. Vasilash

Nowadays, more and more devices are being connected to the internet, from thermostats to doorbells to refrigerators to traffic signals to car brakes.


Yes, explains Rich Nesbitt, head of Product Management, Chassis Systems Control, Bosch, the brakes that the company is producing are ready to be connected to the ‘net. Whether they’ll be connected or not is a decision, of course, of the OEM deploying that brake capability.

(Image: Bosch)

Nesbitt says that the connectivity provides advantages during the development of the braking system, as information can be readily collected and then deployed by the engineers.

It can also provide benefits for the driver, whether it is monitoring the brakes so as to determine when service will be required or, taking advantage of vehicle-to-infrastructure connection, providing information about the road conditions ahead.

And it can provide benefit to the OEM, as this is still more data that can be harvested from vehicles for purposes of monetization.

Nesbitt talks about the hows and why of internet-enabled brakes on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Jack Keebler, journalist and consultant, and me.

In addition to which, McElroy, Keebler and I talk about a number of other subjects, including Ford’s recent recalls, vehicle affordability (or lack thereof), the consequences of high gas prices on sales of pickups and large SUVs, and other subjects.

And you can see it all here.

Bosch Investing Big in Hydrogen

By Gary S. Vasilash

One of the fuels that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention—despite it being the most-abundant element in the universe (yes, universe)—is hydrogen. There are a few hydrogen cars out there—like the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Nexo—and a few commercial trucks running tests (e.g., Toyota with the Port of Long Beach; Nikola with Anheuser-Busch).

While electrical outlets are seemingly everywhere and access to hydrogen fueling facilities is challenging at best, the idea of electrifying the fleet has become the norm and hydrogen is something of an afterthought.

Bosch is “all in” on hydrogen. (Image: Bosch)

However, Mike Mansuetti, president of Bosch in North America, announced, “We are all in for the hydrogen economy.”

Bosch on a global basis is investing $1-billion between 2021 and 2024 on the development of mobile fuel cells.

What’s more, in order to produce hydrogen (although there’s lots of hydrogen out there, hydrogen tends to bond with other things like oxygen, as in water), Bosch is investing some $600 million by 2030 in developing hydrogen electrolysis (the means by which water can be transformed back into its constituent elements).

Will these efforts result in more crossovers and cars with fuel cell stacks within the next few years?

It’s not likely.

According to Bosch’s Paul Thomas, executive vp of Mobility Solutions, America, the commercial applications, where there is a regular, defined route, and where there can be refueling stations built and regularly used (no company is going to want to build out a hydrogen refueling facility that gets used only once in a great while), are more likely to be where hydrogen will gain traction.

That said, there’s something that Bosch is doing that is quite interesting: the company, long known for its prowess in fuel injection technology, is, Mansuetti said, experimenting with hydrogen injection in internal combustion engines.

Think of all of the engine plants that OEMs have right now.

Were it that they could use that capacity to produce engines that burn hydrogen (no emissions) rather than gasoline, that might be a really compelling reason to make hydrogen a viable alternative to electricity. After all, they’ve already paid for all of that machinery and equipment, so if hydrogen would help them reduce their carbon footprint and meet regulatory requirements, why not?

Probably not because they seem so committed to battery electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles would be too much to deal with.

Why 2030 Isn’t Going to Be All That Different from 2020

Yes, there will be more electric vehicles. But not all EVs. So internal combustion engines need improvement.

By Gary S. Vasilash

Bosch, Sujit Jain, president, Powertrain Solutions for Passenger Cars, Commercial & Off-Road, and Electric Vehicles at the company’s North American operations, points out, has been advancing—and producing—technologies for the auto industry essentially for as long as there has been an auto industry.

And today isn’t any different.

The company is not only making massive investments for developing and utilizing Industry 4.0 capabilities, but it is investing heavily in the development and production of everything from microprocessors and fuel cells in order to advance the functionalities and performance in the auto industry.

It is committed to the electrification of vehicles, whether this makes the form of hybrids, full battery electrics or fuel cell powered vehicles.

But while Jain says company projections have it that the number of battery electric vehicles in the U.S. will grow from about 2% of the market in 2020 to 30% by 2030, that still leaves 70%, the large percentage of being combustion engines. Yes, they may be hybrids, but there is still gasoline or diesel being burned.

So one of the things that Jain and his colleagues are doing is developing the ways and means to increase the efficiency of those engines, both in terms of performance and emissions reduction.

Some of the things that they are pursing, Jain says on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” include synthetic fuels, electrically heated catalysts to reduce cold-start emissions, and hydrogen fuel injection (i.e., instead of a hydrogen fuel cell, this would be a combustion engine running on hydrogen).

Jain talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Kelsey Mays of, and me on this show.

After Jain’s segment, the three of us talk about a variety of subjects, including former Nikola head Trevor Milton being charged with three counts of criminal fraud related to the company he founded; Tesla’s Q2 financials ($1.14-billion in GAAP net income), the possible consequences of it opening up its charging network to other brands, and the move from upscale-shopping districts for its stores and galleries to lower-end real estate; Magna’s growth and technological breadth; and more.

And you can see it all here.