The BMW Group, which has made its battery technology available to suppliers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in commercial vehicle markets, has made several significant investments to its manufacturing footprint for batteries and electric drives. The recent moves, the company said, were expected to help it “prepare for the steadily increasing sales of electrified vehicles,” and to strengthen its role as a “pioneer in e-mobility.”
In Leipzig, Germany, the company said it is further expanding its production capacities for electric drives. From 2021, the Leipzig plant will
also produce battery modules for the high-voltage batteries of the BMW Group’s electrified vehicles. By 2022, the company said it will invest more than 100 million euros in the site to prepare for the steadily increasing sales of electrified vehicles, strengthening its role as a pioneer in e-mobility.
“We are consistently ramping up the production of e-drives to meet our ambitious electric mobility targets,” said Michael Nikolaides, head of Planning and Production Engines and E-Drives. “Just recently, we opened our Competence Center for E-drive Production in Dingolfing and doubled the production capacity for high-voltage batteries at BMW Brilliance Automotive in China by opening another battery center. Now we are also stepping up our battery production output in Germany.”
The large-series production of battery modules at the Leipzig site is scheduled to start as early as in mid-2021.
The Leipzig site is the e-mobility pioneer among the BMW Group’s plants: As the production site of the BMW i3, the BMW Group’s first all-electric vehicle, it has been involved in electric mobility since 2013.
Global production network
To date, the high-voltage batteries for all electrified vehicles of the BMW and Mini automobile brands have been produced at the three in-house battery production facilities in Dingolfing, Germany; Spartanburg, S.C., U.S.A.; and Shenyang, China. The new battery module production in Leipzig will join this network from 2021 onward.
As early as 2021, one in four BMW Group vehicles sold in Europe is expected to be fitted with an electric drive. By 2025, it’ll be one in three, and one in two by 2030. In 2023, the BMW Group will have 25 electrified models on the road, half of which will be fitted with an all-electric drive.
BMW Group said it has doubled the production capacity for high-voltage batteries at its BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA) joint venture in
Shenyang, China, including the opening of a new High-Voltage Battery Center in the Tiexi District of Shenyang. It will produce the fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology used in the fully electric BMW iX3.
The BBA joint venture was founded in 2003. BMW Brilliance has been producing high voltage batteries since 2017. The company said High Voltage Battery Center I was the first BMW facility outside of Germany with complete battery production capabilities, including R&D. Within three years, the joint venture was constructed and began operations as High Voltage Battery Center II.
The new battery center was officially opened in a formal ceremony in September that was attended by high-level representatives of the Chinese government and BBA. Representatives of the BMW Group attended the event virtually.
“China is of high importance to the BMW Group, both as a market and as a location for production and innovation,” said Milan Nedeljković, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for production. “Our investments underline our strong commitment to China and Shenyang over the long term. And the investments are ongoing: The Tiexi and Dadong plant extension projects are well on track. And we are preparing for future growth: With this new battery center, we more than double the capacity of our local battery production in China.”
The company said China is the group’s largest single market and sets the tempo for e-mobility around the world. There are reportedly 75,000 electrified BMW models on China’s roads today.
Production of the new fully-electric BMW iX3 will take place in China at BBA Plant Dadong, and the high-voltage batteries it requires will be supplied by the new battery center nearby.
The high-voltage battery for the fifth-generation BMW eDrive was developed from the ground up using new cell technology. The high-voltage batteries’ output and energy content can be flexibly scaled for use in different vehicle concepts and segments, said the company.
The new battery center is the first location in the BMW Group production network to manufacture fifth-generation high-voltage batteries. At the same time, the Competence Centre for E-Drive Production in Dingolfing, Germany, is also gearing up to produce the new batteries. These will be installed in additional products, such as the BMW iNEXT and the BMW i4, starting next year.
And now for something completely different: The southern side of the new battery center operated by BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA) is
home to a plot of land of around 13,000 m2 where BBA associates grow peanuts.
The idea started two years ago, when construction of the new center began. “We wanted to create a more diverse, greener and more natural environment for our associates and at the same time make sensible use of existing land,” said Flora Zhu, senior manager with Utility & Facility Management. “The idea of peanuts immediately took hold, as the hot summers and high humidity in Shenyang provide ideal climatic conditions.”
The associates are involved in planting, watering and harvesting throughout the peanut season, which runs from May to September. The first harvest, following the factory’s groundbreaking in 2018, produced 2000 kg of peanuts. This year’s harvest was 3200 kg.
Every October, associates organize charity events at BBA’s three plants, where the homegrown peanuts are among the goods on sale to colleagues. The proceeds go to local communities to support infrastructure projects.
From battery cell to high-voltage battery
According to BMW, the production process for high-voltage batteries consists of two main steps: First, the battery cells are tested and then assembled into larger units, the battery modules, in a highly automated process.
The BMW Group procures the battery cells from partners, including Northvolt, who produce them according to the group’s specifications. The BMW Group uses different battery cells depending on which one provides the best characteristics for the relevant vehicle concept.
The battery modules are then mounted into an aluminum casing along with the vehicle connectors, control units and cooling units. The size and shape of the aluminum casing as well as the number of battery modules used vary depending on the vehicle variant. The result is a high-voltage battery that is adapted to the vehicle.
This combination of standardized battery modules and casings flexibly adapted to the vehicle has several advantages, said BMW. First, it ensures uniform properties and quality standards in the production of the high-voltage batteries. Second, the modular design of the high-voltage battery serves as the basis for a wide range of e-drive variants.
The modular approach is a crucial prerequisite for being able to respond quickly to customer demand and take advantage of cost savings, said the company.