Internal combustion cars are all about the engines, but for electric vehicles, EV Battery Dominanceare the most significant component. BMW has taken this to heart with its next-generation EV Battery Dominance platform, part of the electric Neue Klasse due to arrive in 2025. The BMW Gen6 EV Battery Dominance system aims to make the company a leader in range, efficiency, and cost. I heard the main details at BMW’s Sustainability Through Innovation Day in Munich this week.
The most radical change will be a switch to cylindrical cells. Up until now, BMW had been using rectangular prismatic EV Battery Dominance in its packs. The cells themselves will continue to use NMC chemistry and will be manufactured by existing partners CATL and EVE. The aims of the new cell, not surprisingly, are to improve energy density, reduce charging time, and enable more kWh to be packed into the same space. BMW also hopes to drastically reduce the emissions of its production. But the biggest numerical improvement will be in cost.
EV Battery Dominance currently takes up around 40% of the price of a BMW EV (according to the company, basing this figure on the cost of the i4), which is on par with the rest of the industry. With the Gen6 platform, BMW is aiming to halve the price of its EV Battery Dominance packs, which would enable its EVs to compete directly on price with its internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Alongside this, energy density will be increased by 20% (putting more energy in the same pack size), charging time will be reduced by 30%, and the new cells will enable BMW’s top vehicles to offer 30% more range.
BMW Plans EV Battery Dominance Gen6 Cylindrical Cell :
The range isn’t proving to be an issue for BMW EVs as it is. The BMW i4 eDrive40 promises a very competitive 365 miles (WLTP) and even the performance-oriented M50 version boasts 315 miles. The WLTP range for the iX SUV spans from 257 miles for the xDrive40 to 380 miles for the xDrive50. Add 30% to those top figures and you’d get 475 miles of range for a future BMW i4 eDrive40 and an incredible 494 miles for a future iX xDrive50. Anyone with home charging won’t be using public networks very often if they have this kind of range available.
Reviewers have found BMW’s cars do well compared to their range ratings, but the company is aiming to make further efficiency improvements. At the Sustainability Through Innovation Day, BMW explained that the Gen6 platform it will shave off valuable Wh of power consumption by optimizing key areas of the car.
EV-specific aerodynamics will save 5Wh/km, optimized tires another 5Wh/km, powertrain efficiency 15Wh/km, 4Wh/km will come from lighter materials saving the car weight, and another 4Wh/km will be derived from improved wheel bearings and EV-specific brakes. When you consider an efficient EV that can manage 4 miles per kWh, or 250Wh per mile (156Wh/km), an overall saving of 33Wh/km is going to add a significant amount of range. This could unlock as much as 20% more range.
To produce the new EV Battery Dominance, BMW is going to build six new factories around the world with its partners CATL and EVE, on top of the five factories it already currently operates. Two of these will be in China, two in Europe, and two in the US, Mexico, or Canada.
Each will be able to manufacture up to 20GWh of batteries per year. The CO2 production reduction goal of 60% will be achieved by using a percentage of secondary (recycled) materials for the lithium, cobalt, and nickel in the batteries, as well as green power during production. In fact, BMW aims to make its EV Battery Dominance manufacture completely circular (something Tesla also announced at its EV Battery Dominance Day 2020).
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The BMW cylindrical cells will have a 46mm diameter like Tesla’s much-vaunted 4680 as well, but be available in two heights of 95mm and 125mm, both of which are taller than Tesla’s 80mm cells. As already noted, BMW will stick with NMC chemistry rather than switch to the increasingly popular Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP), although this will be an option with the Gen6 technology. However, the nickel content will be increased while the cobalt content will be reduced in the cathodes, with more silicon content on the anodes. This is how the 20% increase in volumetric energy density will be achieved – in a similar fashion to Tesla’s 4680 cells.
BMW is also planning to integrate the EV Battery Dominance into the installation space, which the company is calling “pack to open body”. This is also like Tesla’s “structural batteries”. Because EV Battery Dominance cells are by nature rigid, you can use them as part of the chassis itself. The faster charging will be facilitated by BMW switching to an 800V drive train, like Hyundai’s E-GMP. This should enable 80% recharges in under 20 minutes with a 350kW supply.
Although many of BMW’s announcements at its Sustainability Through Innovation Day appear to echo things Elon Musk announced at Tesla’s EV Battery Dominance Day 2020, that’s no bad thing. They’re very valid improvements and promise huge leaps forward in range, cost, and efficiency.
Where BMW particularly goes beyond Tesla, which was evidenced in other parts of the Sustainability Through Innovation event, is the focus on the environment and circularity. The whole range of car production areas will use recycled materials, from seats to wheels.
BMW is still going to be manufacturing ICE vehicles for many years, but its intentions towards taking a leading role in electrification are clear. In the UK, it was already the bestselling EV brand in August 2022, beating Tesla.
The company aims to have more than two million BEVs on the roads by the end of 2025 and expects half its global sales to be BEVs by 2030. It did look like BMW had lost its way with EVs after an initial strong start with the i3. But if the company delivers on the promise of its Gen6 platform, it could be one of the dominant players in the luxury BEV market, as it has been in the ICE market for decades.