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," said Frank Weber, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Development.
A quarter of the BMW Group vehicles sold in Europe are projected to have electric drivetrains 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 programs 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 programs are being realized as "Important Projects of Common European Interest," or IPCEI.
BMW has been analyzing 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-square-meter 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 optimizing production efficiency, costs and quality. Currently, up to 40 percent of a fully electric vehicle's CO2 emissions come from battery cell production.
Milan Nedeljković, member of the board of management of BMW AG responsible for production, said: "Our goal is to optimize 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 ($129 million) and about 50 employees will work at the plant.
BMW is working as part of a technology consortium with the Swedish battery manufacturer, Northvolt AB, and Umicore NV, a Belgian developer of battery materials, which will focus on recyclable cell design.
Recycling of batteries at the end of their life is complex. Companies must consider how to recycle the components and the potential to reuse raw materials in the best possible way.
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 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.