The BMW Group has publicly stated that its future success in a competitive electric vehicle market relies heavily on “powerful, innovative and sustainably produced” battery cells. When BMW’s Neue Klasse (New Class) EV architecture launches in 2025, the German automaker says the EV platforms will use newly developed 46mm diameter battery cells, the same larger design that Tesla uses. .
Last August, we covered a report that BMW was planning to adopt Tesla’s 4680 (46mm by 80mm) cylindrical battery cells – the largest EV cells to date. Tesla has already manufactured the 4680 cells itself at Gigafactory Texas, but the automaker has also enlisted other battery makers to help produce the cell to maximize its availability.
One of the interested parties was EVE Energy in China, which was also to produce the 4680 EV cells for BMW. At the time, the German automaker wouldn’t comment, but said battery news would come in early September.
Here we are, just over a week into the month and BMW has confirmed that it will adopt 46mm diameter cells for its next EV platform, but with a twist. Additionally, we learned that the automaker is pouring double-digit billions into battery makers to erect gigafactories in Europe, China, and the USMCA (United States, Mexico, Canada) free trade area.
BMW recruits CATL and EVE for the production of 4680 EV batteries
BMW Group confirmed its new battery ambitions in a press release today, sharing a wealth of new information about its sixth generation of battery cells and some of the performance they will deliver to the 800V Neue Klasse platform. from BMW.
First, BMW says the cylindrical cells were specifically designed for its new EV architecture and can increase the range of its highest-end model by up to 30% (WLTP). Frank Weber, Member of the Management Board of BMW AG responsible for development, elaborated on the specifications:
The newly developed sixth generation of our lithium-ion cells will bring a huge leap forward in technology that will increase energy density by more than 20%, improve charging speed by up to 30% and increase range by up to at 30%. We also reduce CO2 up to 60% of emissions from cell production. These are important steps for sustainability and customer benefits.
Did you catch it? Weber mentions lithium-ion cells. We previously wondered if BMW intended to implement lithium iron phosphate (LFP) chemistry in the 46mm cells, which could enable cheaper BMW electric vehicles. Additionally, critical raw materials such as cobalt and nickel can be entirely avoided in the cathode material, providing greater durability.
Although BMW has clearly committed to cylindrical lithium-ion EV cells, the automaker said the sixth-generation battery technology will also have an option for LFP cathodes for the first time. Additionally, BMW Group says it is developing all-solid-state batteries (ASSB) and aims to reach series introduction by the end of the decade. BMW has pledged to present an electric vehicle demonstrator equipped with this technology “well before 2025”.
Another important aspect to note is that BMW states that although the cells will be 46mm in diameter, they will be available in two different heights. It didn’t share those heights, but expect it to be 80mm like the Tesla Cells, joined by a second height option.
To meet this looming demand for its new 46mm cells, BMW already has contracts in place with two battery manufacturers while it seeks a third. The two contracts awarded are with CATL and EVE Energy in the “double-digit billion-euro range” to help each battery manufacturer erect multiple gigafactories – two in Europe and two in China.
Each of the battery cell factories is expected to have a total annual capacity of up to 20 GWh. BMW says it is already planning two additional battery cell factories in North America, but those partners have not yet been chosen. If and when that happens, these locally produced cells are a stepping stone for future BMW electric vehicles to qualify for federal tax credits in the United States under the revised terms of the Inflation Reduction Act. As long as the luxury automaker can deliver a vehicle with an MSRP below the price thresholds.
On the wings of its planned six gigafactories, BMW estimates that the costs of its sixth generation of battery cells can be reduced by up to 50%, based on current market assumptions.
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