From material selection to prototype construction: The battery cell technology of the future is taking shape at the BMW Group Battery Cell Competence Centre

Munich. The BMW Group is building on its leading
position in the world of electric mobility and has pooled its many
years of experience with battery cells and extensive knowledge in the
field in a new Competence Centre. The purpose of the facility in
Munich is to advance battery cell technology and carefully dissect the
production processes. “The new Battery Cell Competence Centre puts us
in an enviable position,” said Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of
Management of BMW AG. “Taking the technology currently in the BMW i3
as a basis, by 2030 we will be able to double the energy density of
our battery cells – and therefore also the operating range of the
vehicles for our customers.”

The BMW Group today presented its new high-tech Competence Centre to
media representatives from around the world in the presence of
Bavarian state premier Dr Markus Söder, revealing state-of-the-art
labs, research facilities and prototype systems.

And Zipse continued: “Battery cell technology is a key success factor
in our electric vehicle offensive, as it influences both operational
performance and battery costs. Our unrivalled expertise throughout the
value chain ensures we are always at the cutting edge of technology.
We can specify the exact formats we want to procure, as well as the
materials and the conditions involved. As a result, we are ideally
positioned to drive forward the rollout of our electrified vehicles.”

The new Competence Centre maps the entire value chain of battery cell
technology – from research and development to a cell’s composition and
design, and its suitability for large-scale manufacture. The facility
brings together the full breadth of the company’s expertise and lays
the foundations for adding to it. The short distances and
cross-functional collaboration at work here will enable complete,
transparent and sustainable development of battery cells. Here, it is
important that consideration is given to the issue of recycling from
the outset.

The BMW Group is investing a total of € 200 million in the Competence
Centre and employees 200 people here. With this investment, the
company is making a statement technologically but also safeguarding
jobs and key skills. The company is working together with its
employees to define the future of electric mobility at the BMW Group.
“The Joint Works Council has been committed to the Battery Cell
Competence Centre from the outset,” said Stefan Schmid, Deputy
Chairman of the Joint Works Council at BMW AG. “The employee
representatives at the BMW Group are actively involved in shaping
these future-focused areas of the automotive industry, with the aim of
developing the specific expertise of our employees within the company
– and in so doing securing jobs for the long term during the process
of transformation.” 

Materials development at the root of cell development

The BMW Group is developing future generations of battery cells at
the new Competence Centre, focusing on customer-relevant aspects, such
as improving energy density, available peak output, service life,
safety, charging characteristics and performance at varying
temperatures, and reducing battery costs. The BMW Group’s aim of
developing the best battery cells for its models was formulated with
these specifications at the forefront, reflecting the company’s
commitment to giving electrified vehicle owners the very best cells
for the vehicle concept at hand.

Selecting the right materials from the beginning is crucial if these
high standards are to be met. For this reason, the experts at the
Competence Centre are constantly investigating innovative materials
and systematically comparing them with one another. This leads to the
creation of new material sets for the battery cell’s individual
elements: the anode, cathode, electrolyte and separator. The way in
which the various materials interact – the cell chemistry, in other
words – is another fundamental factor in the evolution of the cell design.

To guarantee access to the latest developments and knowledge at all
times, the BMW Group works together with renowned worldwide partners
throughout the value chain. These partners range from scientific
institutions and universities to established companies and start-ups.
And that enables the company to acquire know-how, ensures it is not
dependent on individual developments and means it can create synergies
and ultimately shorten development times. Working with a network of
partners allows the BMW Group to consolidate its in-depth
understanding of this cutting-edge technology and exploit the
potential and opportunities of future innovations.

Cutting-edge laboratory and analytical equipment

Experts from around the world in the new development laboratories and
facilities are striving to enhance the chemical composition and design
of battery cells. Simulation and chemical analysis are assisting cell
development from the word go.

The BMW Group has been analysing battery cells since 2008, allowing
it to draw on many years of experience and, as a result, extensive
expertise in the field. The laboratory at the new Competence Centre
boasts the state-of-the-art technology and methodology needed to
further expand the company’s knowledge, monitor trends for the battery
cells of the future and play an active role in shaping developments.

The laboratory has been producing internally developed test cells in
small formats for some years already with the aim of identifying the
ideal cell structure from the myriad materials and variants. Great
value is placed here on minimising the quantities of material used
while optimising their properties.  If a cell passes the initial
durability and charging behaviour tests, it is subjected to further
testing in a larger format. An entire testing hall is on hand for this
purpose and enables a wide variety of test types. The experts are also
able to make use of an in-house safety lab, where the battery cells’
robustness can be investigated under extreme conditions. In this way,
the BMW Group is able to maintain the same high standards of safety
despite increasing energy densities and faster charging capabilities.

A sustainable and reliable supply path until 2025 and beyond

Sustainability and supply reliability are key factors in the ongoing
expansion of electric mobility. For the BMW Group’s procurement
specialists, ethical production and processing of raw materials begins
at the very start of the value chain, which is why they closely
scrutinise the battery cell supply chains – all the way back to the
mines from which the materials are sourced. Complying with
environmental standards and respecting human rights take top priority.
The BMW Group publishes an up-to-date list of the countries of origin
for cobalt on its website (see: ).

The company has also restructured its supply chains for the upcoming
fifth generation of high-voltage batteries and will begin direct
procurement of cobalt and lithium for battery cells in 2020. This
ensures complete transparency regarding the origin of these two vital
raw materials for batteries. Added to which, the relevant agreements
guarantee a reliable supply of these materials until 2025 and beyond.
In future, cobalt will be sourced directly from mines in Australia and
Morocco, and lithium from countries including Australia.

Manufacturing technology of the future

The BMW Group is also taking steps to ensure that future generations
of battery cells can be manufactured on a large scale. The Competence
Centre offers both ideal overall conditions and high-quality
production facilities conforming to the industry standards of
established cell manufacturers. New production technologies have been
integrated here, bearing in mind the importance of flexibility with
cell format in order to create greater scope for incorporating
different developments.

Manufacturing battery cell prototypes enables full analysis and
understanding of the value chain processes for the cells. Adding the
BMW Group’s in-house production expertise to the equation means the
company can commission a specific chemical composition, mechanism and
design for battery cells. In future, the BMW Group will be in a
position to enable potential suppliers to manufacture cells in
accordance with its particular requirements.

Recycling-friendly design

Batteries that are no longer fit for vehicles can be reused in
stationary energy storage systems, helping to integrate renewable
energy into the public power grid, increase grid stability and lower
energy costs for consumers. The BMW Group has launched several major
innovations with this in mind. The company is also using battery
storage systems to steadily optimise power supply at its plants around
the world.

For a number of years now, the BMW Group has been pursuing a
carefully conceived recycling policy for battery cells in batteries
that can no longer be used as stationary storage devices either.
Viable recycling techniques have been developed with partners during
and since the development of the BMW i3. These and other recycling
methods are now being upscaled for industrial applications. Again, the
company has teamed up with partners for the job at hand. The aim is to
achieve a recycling rate in excess of 90 per cent. When designing the
battery cells, the BMW Group sets out to ensure that it will be
possible to recycle them efficiently at a later stage.

The Battery Cell Competence Centre will enable the BMW Group to build
even greater expertise in the recycling of batteries and to work even
more intensely on recycling techniques that lend themselves to use on
an industrial scale.

In an effort to further increase recycling rates, the company is
constantly trialling recycling concepts for new vehicle components in
its recycling and dismantling centre. In addition, the BMW Group is
collaborating with research institutes and suppliers to drive the
implementation of new recovery technologies for materials that will be
used more often in future.

International production network for electric mobility

The BMW Group has created a highly flexible production network that
can react quickly to the changing demand for electrified models.
Today, the company already builds electrified vehicles at eleven
plants around the world, and integrates them into the existing
production system.

The batteries required for the electrified models come from the
company’s three battery factories in Dingolfing (Germany), Spartanburg
(USA) and Shenyang (China). The BMW Group has also located production
of batteries in Thailand as part of a link-up with the Dräxlmaier
Group. BMW Group Plant Dingolfing plays a leading role within the
network as a competence centre for electric drive systems.

Ambitious targets for electrified vehicle sales

The BMW Group is one of the world’s leading suppliers of electrified
cars, with a total of twelve models in its line-up at present. The
company has set clear targets for sales of its electrified models. In
2021 they should account for a quarter of all vehicles sold by the BMW
Group in Europe. This figure should rise to one third in 2025 and then
to half of all vehicles sold in Europe in 2030.

In order to achieve these targets, the BMW Group will offer a
selection of 25 electrified models from 2023. Providing the platform
for this undertaking are the flexible vehicle architectures for
all-electric, plug-in hybrid and internal combustion models that allow
the company to react swiftly to changing circumstances. More than half
of the 25 models will have all-electric drive systems.