Carmaker BMW has seen the future, and it is electric.
“By 2023, the BMW Group will have 25 electrified models on the roads, as it systematically increases electrification across all brands and model series,” Frank Weber, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Development.
A quarter of the BMW Group vehicles sold in Europe are projected to have electric drive trains by 2021; a third in 2025 and half in 2030.
The lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles today are for the most part produced in China, with Europe lagging far behind. Demand, however, is projected to grow strongly in the coming decade.
To tap into this market, the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) is currently working with German and European industry on two programmes to support battery cell innovation. The aim is to establish an innovation-oriented value chain in Germany and Europe that meets the highest standards for sustainability and production carbon intensity. The programmes are being realised as “Important Projects of Common European Interest” (IPCEI)
The BMW Group has been analysing battery cells since 2008 and, thanks to this long-standing experience, already has extensive knowledge in the field of cell analysis. In November 2019, it opened a separate Battery Cell Competence Centre in Munich. Taking this a step further, BMW has now announced that it will be building a new 14,000 m² pilot plant for battery cell manufacture. The project is being supported within the framework of the European IPCEI funding process.
Using production processes and systems also employed in standard production, the company will be able to demonstrate the industrial feasibility of future battery cell generations. The main focus will be on optimising production efficiency, costs and quality. Currently, up to 40 percent of a fully-electric vehicle’s CO2 emissions come from battery cell production alone.
Milan Nedeljković, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Production: “Our goal is to optimise near-standard production of battery cells from the perspective of quality, performance and costs. The new pilot plant will enable us to close the final gap in the value chain from battery cell development, to production of modules and powertrain components, all the way to installation of fully assembled high-voltage batteries at our vehicle plants. This makes us the first car manufacturer to cover the entire process chain for electric driving.”
The pilot plant will be built in Parsdorf, near Munich, and is scheduled to go into service in late 2022. The total project volume is almost 110 million euros and about 50 employees will work at the plant.
The BMW Group is working as part of a technology consortium with the Swedish battery manufacturer, Northvolt, and Umicore, a Belgian developer of battery materials, who will focus on recyclable cell design. Faced with rapidly growing demand for battery cells, recycling of battery components at the end of their lifecycle and extensive reuse of raw materials will be key to closing the materials loop in the best way possible.
Northvolt will produce the battery cells at its own gigafactory currently under construction in Skellefteå in northern Sweden from 2024 on. Wind and hydroelectric power generated regionally in northern Sweden will provide the energy needed to produce the battery cells.
BMW Group has already reached a contractual agreement with its cell manufacturers that they will only use green power to produce fifth-generation battery cells. These cells will be installed for the first time later this year in the BMW iX3, followed by the BMW iNEXT and the BMW i4.