BMW aims to get more power at lower cost with new battery cells

BMW aims to get more power at lower cost with new battery cells

Business news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

Newly developed round cells are expected to give BMW’s planned “Neue Klasse,” the company’s planned vehicle platform, a significant competitive edge. The new batteries are made up of cylindrical cells, as is the case with its major competitor Tesla. BMW has now signed a corresponding supply agreement with partner companies.

The new lithium-ion round cells offer more than 20% higher energy density thanks to advanced cell chemistry. BMW thus aims to increase the range by up to 30%, and the batteries should also charge 30% faster. Last but not least, CO2 emissions from the production of these new-generation batteries are expected to be 60% lower than those of previous batteries, explained BMW’s Chief Development Officer Frank Weber.

To meet its long-term demand for such batteries, BMW plans to work with CATL to build battery cell factories with an annual capacity of up to 20 GWh each at six locations in markets that are important to the company – two each in China, Europe and the North American Free Trade Area (USMCA). In addition, BMW board member Joachim Pabst said the company has agreed with its partners that they will use a proportion of secondary material (i.e. material from recycling) for the raw materials lithium, cobalt and nickel and use green electricity in production. The contract is worth a double-digit billion euro amount.

In conjunction with a new, optimized vehicle electrical system architecture, the use of the new batteries is expected to reduce the production costs of BMW’s electric vehicles by 50%; the long-term goal is to bring the production costs of such vehicles to the level of corresponding models with internal combustion engines.

The new BMW round cells have a uniform diameter of 46 mm and two different heights. In relation to the prismatic cells of the fifth generation of BMW battery cells, the nickel content in the sixth-generation BMW round cells is increased on the cathode side and the cobalt content is reduced at the same time. On the anode side, the silicon content is increased. As a result, the volumetric energy density in the cell increases by more than 20 percent.

The storage system plays a key role in the body structure of the Neue Klasse. Depending on the model, it can be integrated flexibly and in a space-saving manner in the installation space (“pack-to-open-body”). The cell module level is eliminated.

The voltage level of the energy storage, drive and charging technology of the Neue Klasse is also increased to 800 volts. This offers several advantages: Among other things, it optimizes the supply of energy to DC fast-charging stations. There, a significantly increased charging capacity can be achieved at a current of up to 500A, so that the time required for charging is reduced from 10 to 80%.

To meet the demand for battery cells for the Neue Klasse, BMW has already awarded a double-digit billion euro contract to two partners for the construction of battery cell factories: CATL and EVE Energy. Both partners will build two gigafactories each in China and Europe. Each of the battery cell factories will have a total annual capacity of up to 20 GWh. Two additional battery cell factories, for which the partners have yet to be nominated, are to be built in North America.

BMW intends to place greater emphasis on the reuse of raw materials in the future – in doing so, those responsible are taking into account the increasing social discussion about the environmental impact of e-mobility. Circular cycles reduce the need for new raw materials, lower the risk of violating environmental and social standards in the supply chain, and generally lead to significantly lower CO2 emissions. The vehicle manufacturer’s long-term goal is to use a fully circular battery cell. In China, the company is currently establishing a closed loop for the reuse of the raw materials nickel, lithium and cobalt from high-voltage batteries, thus laying the foundation for a future-proof materials cycle.

As part of the further development of battery technology, BMW engineers have for the first time provided for the possibility of using cathodes made of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) with the sixth generation. In this way, the critical raw materials cobalt and nickel can be completely eliminated from the cathode material in the future. In parallel, BMW is also pushing ahead with the development of all-solid-state batteries (ASSB). The company aims to be able to present high-voltage batteries of this type that are ready for series production by the end of the current decade. The BMW Group will present a demonstrator vehicle with this technology on board well before 2025.

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