Mobility Solutions

Milestone in automotive technology 100 years of Bosch starter motors A further step in the electrification of the automobile

  • For safe, comfortable engine starts
  • 1914: start of a new line of business
  • Today: more than twelve million starter motors manufactured worldwide every year
Add to my press materials
Save text
  • March 17, 2014
  • Mobility Solutions
  • Press releases

press release

A century ago, in March 1914, Bosch presented its first electric starter motor for automobiles. This marked a giant leap forward in automotive electrification, which would make driving safer and more comfortable. Electric starter motors were a great relief for motorists of the day. It took a lot of effort to start a heavy, large-volume engine, but now chauffeurs no longer had to work up a sweat cranking the engine. What’s more, with manual starting there was always a risk that the crank handle might slip or suddenly kick back – possibly causing serious injury.

The electric power for the new starter motor came from the vehicle battery, which was part of the Bosch automotive lighting system. Bosch had launched this independent power supply system only a year earlier. While the earliest starter motors weighed almost ten kilograms and delivered just 0.6 kilowatts of power, the starter motors in today’s portfolio weigh between 1.9 and 17 kilograms and cover a power range of 0.8 to 9.2 kilowatts, demonstrating just how far starter motor technology has advanced.

The start of a new line of business
“The starter motor is typical of the products Bosch launched in the early days of motorization. All of them were designed to eliminate shortcomings in function, operation, and safety,” says Ulrich Kirschner, president of the Bosch Starter Motors and Generators division. It was Gottlob Honold, Bosch’s chief engineer, who had the idea of using an electric motor to start the engine. Other manufacturers had already attempted to do the same; while the results of their efforts worked relatively well, they were still unsuitable for everyday use and series production. So if Bosch moved quickly, it could develop a better starter motor of its own.

No more cranking
It wasn’t uncommon for motorists to come to serious harm when, instead of turning over, the engine would kick back a short way and cause the heavy crank handle to hit them. At a time when many people were still suspicious of the recently introduced automobile, this danger might all too easily tarnish its public image. Owners – predominantly wealthy individuals who were becoming keen on driving their automobiles themselves rather than being chauffeured – demanded a more convenient alternative. The new electric starter motor could be operated safely and reliably, first by means of a foot pedal and soon after at the touch of a button.

An innovation with a future
Initially, most of the demand for electric starter motors came from North America. This was reason enough for Robert Bosch to ramp up starter motor production at the company’s plant in Plainfield, New Jersey in 1914. Initially, sales of the new device remained modest; by 1927 Bosch had sold approximately 11,000 units. Then the starter motor gradually became more widely accepted, and nearly 550,000 were sold by 1933. But still it took decades for the crank handle to disappear completely from the world’s roads.

Starter motors save fuel
Series production of starter motors specifically tailored for use in start-stop systems began in 2007. To save fuel, this function stops the engine when the vehicle is at a standstill. As soon as the driver presses the gas pedal, the engine starts again – quickly, quietly, and automatically. In order to achieve further reductions in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, Bosch engineers are working on gradually extending the scope of engine shutoff. In what is known as coasting mode, the engine will initially be shut off whenever the vehicle is coasting to a stop. Later, the coasting function will be extended to stop the engine even while on the open road, whenever the driver’s foot is no longer on the gas pedal.

Ready to start at any time
Today, Bosch offers a broad spectrum of robust, reliable starter motors for gasoline and diesel engines – for passenger cars and commercial vehicles, supporting both 12 and 24 volt vehicle electrical systems. In addition to ease of integration, Bosch starter motors are lightweight, compact, and powerful, reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Bosch manufactures more than twelve million starter motors every year, and these are installed in at least one in every five newly manufactured vehicles worldwide.

Mobility Solutions is the largest Bosch Group business sector. In 2015, its sales came to 41.7 billion euros, or 59 percent of total group sales. This makes the Bosch Group one of the leading automotive suppliers. The Mobility Solutions business sector combines the group’s expertise in three mobility domains – automation, electrification, and connectivity – and offers its customers integrated mobility solutions. Its main areas of activity are injection technology and powertrain peripherals for internal-combustion engines, diverse solutions for powertrain electrification, vehicle safety systems, driver-assistance and automated functions, technology for user-friendly infotainment as well as vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, repair-shop concepts, and technology and services for the automotive aftermarket. Bosch is synonymous with important automotive innovations, such as electronic engine management, the ESP anti-skid system, and common-rail diesel technology.

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 375,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2015). The company generated sales of 70.6 billion euros in 2015. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiaries and regional companies in some 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing and sales network covers some 150 countries. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. Bosch employs 55,800 associates in research and development at 118 locations across the globe. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to deliver innovations for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.”

Further information is available online at and,

PI8462 - March 17, 2014

Your contact person for journalists

Jutta Hofmann

Share this information