BMW battery change targets 30% longer range, faster charging with cylindrical cells and cell-to-pack technology

Future BMW electric vehicles will go further on a charge and charge faster, while costing less to produce.

It’s one of the takeaways from a trove of information from BMW this morning as it detailed its battery strategies for next-generation electric vehicles, including a very different plan for the type of cells it has. will use: cylindrical cells, like Tesla, Lucid and Rivien.

All of this is to debut with its next-generation compact-to-midsize electric vehicles called Neue Klasse and from 2025 with a model the size of the current 3-series.

Cylindrical cells (which BMW calls round in a statement) involve a diameter of 46mm and two different heights yet to be disclosed. Tesla’s 4680 is expected to be one of them. With it, BMW stresses that the volumetric energy density will be increased by more than 20% compared to the prismatic format that it has locked down for its current electric vehicles.

Comparison between 4680 and 2170 – Panasonic

BMW claims that with the incorporation of these cylindrical cells and changes in the chemistry of lithium-ion batteries, it will be possible to obtain a significant increase in the autonomy of its most high-end models, up to 30 % better.

A flip-flop on which the battery is better

The announcement confirms a surprising shift in BMW’s battery philosophy that has been reported by various sources in recent months. Klaus Fröhlich, then head of R&D at BMW, told this correspondent in 2017, when the automaker’s current fifth-generation battery technology was being developed, that we wouldn’t see cylindrical cells in a BMW without revolutionary chemistry, because they are inherently more risky. .

Cylindrical cells have evolved gradually since then, and as Tesla pointed out in its Battery Day in 2020, the breakthrough for cylindrical cells is more in manufacturing, with the potential for huge cost savings.

BMW’s Neue Klasse models will use a cell-to-pack strategy, with cell modules eliminated and the pack integrated into the body. They will operate at 800 volts, with a charging current of up to 500 amps. This will reduce charge times from 10% to 80% state of charge by up to 30% according to BMW. In the BMW i4, this charging window officially takes 31 minutes, so with the new technology it could be reduced to 22 minutes, for example.

CATL's third-generation cell-to-pack technology

CATL’s third-generation cell-to-pack technology

The automaker also announced plans to set up battery cell factories for China, Europe and North America, each with an annual capacity of up to 20 gigawatt hours. This includes factories with CATL and EVE Energy in China and Europe, and the company said “plans call for the construction of two additional battery cell factories in the North American Free Trade Area, USMCA, for which the partners have not yet been named.”

US plans in preparation

BMW said in 2021 it would build a future all-electric model in South Carolina. Globally, it currently uses batteries from CATL, Samsung SDI, Northvolt and EVE Energy.

With the use of more secondary (recovered) materials and renewable energy for manufacturing, BMW aims to reduce the carbon footprint of battery cell production by up to 60% compared to the current generation of battery cells. battery. It is also working to establish circular loops for raw materials and battery cell recycling, with certified mines and a closed loop for nickel, lithium and cobalt in China.

LFP batteries for select models, battery costs halved

Although all current BMW electric vehicles – the i4, iX and iX3 which are not sold in the United States – use the company’s fifth-generation battery technologies, the company said that with its upcoming sixth-generation battery technology, there will soon be the ability to use lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) cells for the first time, avoiding cobalt and nickel in the cathode material.

2021 BMW iX3

2021 BMW iX3

The company claims that “based on current market assumptions” it has been able, through development, production and purchasing, to reduce battery costs by up to 50% – an astonishing achievement. In addition, he says he has set himself the goal of bringing the manufacturing costs of electric vehicles to the same level as internal combustion vehicles.

BMW also said it will show a demonstration vehicle with high-voltage solid-state batteries “well before 2025”.

There’s also a slight shift in the company’s EV goals in the announcement. BMW says that globally, its goal is to have more than two million fully electric vehicles on the road by 2025, and that the Neue Klasse “has the potential to further accelerate market penetration of e-mobility”. He says that with this addition, he could reach 50% of EV sales before 2030.

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