BMW aims for end-to-end sustainable battery cycle

BMW is developing a sustainable material cycle for lithium-ion battery cells in a bid to “optimise quality, performance and costs”.

The firm is constructing a pilot plant near Munich to help in its aim to “penetrate all aspects of the battery cell value chain”, from material selection to development to production and recycling.

The €110m project will “test new technology systems and innovative production processes” to increase battery cells’ capabilities and demonstrate large-scale manufacturability. The plant is set to open in late 2022.

Milan Nedeljković, member of the Board of Management of BMW, said: “The new pilot plant will strengthen our expertise in production of battery cells. Our goal is to optimise near-standard production of battery cells from the perspective of quality, performance and costs. 

“The new pilot plant will enable us to close the final gap in the value chain from battery cell development, to production of modules and powertrain components, all the way to installation of fully assembled high-voltage batteries at our vehicle plants. This makes us the first car manufacturer to cover the entire process chain for electric driving.”

The additional testing and manufacturing capabilities in the pilot plant aim to advance battery cell technology to “series maturity” with the least implementation time and enable suppliers to work to their own specifications.

This is part of a sustainability boost driven by electrification, as BMW plans for a quarter of BMW vehicles sold in Europe to be electric by 2021, a third by 2025 and half by 2030.

BMW is also collaborating with a technology consortium, including Swedish battery manufacturer, Northvolt, and Belgian developer of battery materials, Umicore, to bring the circular economy approach to battery cells in Europe.

A contractual agreement has been made with the cell manufacturers to only use green power to produce the fifth generation batteries. As a result, about 10m tonnes of CO2 will be saved over the next ten years.

Frank Weber, member of the Board of Management of BMW, added: “This continued expansion and our comprehensive battery cell expertise will give sustainability a major boost. We are not just focused on the most efficient battery cell, but on its entire value chain. That is why we are working with our partners to create a closed material cycle for battery cells.”

BMW recently announced a supplier’s carbon footprint will be a key factor in tendering decisions as part of its sustainability goals.

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