BMW has developed a new generation of batteries it says will deliver a 30 per cent improvement in range between charges, 30 per cent faster charging and yet be 20 per cent lighter than the packs currently powering its electric cars.
Billed as the cornerstone of a major EV product offensive starting in 2025 – dubbed Neue Klasse – the Gen6 battery system also claims to be significantly cheaper to produce.
Currently, the battery packs account for 40 per cent of the production costs of a car, according to Marie-Therese von Srbik, who led the Gen6 battery cell development. Of this cost, 80 per cent is due to the cost of battery cells. She says the new battery cuts the costs of battery packs by 50 per cent, while at the same time significantly reducing the emissions involved in the battery production process.
With the Gen6 platform, BMW is aiming to halve the price of its battery packs, which would enable its EVs to compete directly on price with its internal combustion engine vehicles.
In terms of range, the new battery’s performance is combined with improvements in aerodynamics, tyres and weight-saving materials to deliver savings of 33Wh/km, leading to the claimed 20 per cent range improvement.
The most noticeable technical change with the new batteries is the adoption of cylindrical cells. BMW had been using rectangular prismatic batteries in its packs. The cells will have a 46mm diameter like Tesla’s 4680 cells, but will come in two heights of 95mm and 125mm (for larger vehicles), both of which are taller than Tesla’s 80mm cells.
The cells themselves will continue to use NMC chemistry and will be manufactured by existing partners CATL and EVE.
To produce the new batteries, BMW is going to build six new factories around world with its partners, on top of the five factories it already currently operates. Two of these will be in China, two in Europe, and two in the United States, Mexico or Canada. Each will be able to manufacture up to 20GWh of batteries per year.
BMW pins its EV promises on efficiency, claiming to be more accurate in terms of its range promises to everyday motorists than rivals. Rather than using best-case scenarios to pitch expected range, BMW executives say the company defines its EV range based on regular use on cars with various popular options included.
At the heart of Tesla’s success has been its battery pack and BMW clearly sees Gen6 as being the engineering breakthrough that can put them back at the front of the premium pack in the age of the electric car.