BMW boosts batteries with solid-state arriving by 2025

21 April 2021

BMW Group is boosting its battery development efforts. From government grants to solid-state batteries (SSB), the OEM is looking to throw its weight behind the ramp-up of a European value chain focused on this new and vital component.

The carmaker considers high-performance, sustainable-energy-storage systems as a cornerstone for the future of individual mobility. This is reflected in the Neue Klasse lineage, which has helped shape the design and engineering of BMWs from the early 1960s. Now it is a driving force behind the carmaker’s sixth-generation e-drive technology.

‘With the Neue Klasse, we will make a big leap in technology in electric drive,’ said Oliver Zipse, chairman of the board of management at BMW. ‘We want to significantly increase the energy density of the cells and reduce the costs of material use and production at the same time. We will also significantly reduce the use of primary material to ensure a truly 'green' battery.’

Solid-state battery

Planning beyond the current generation of electric technology, BMW is looking to the highly coveted SSB. By the end of the decade, the OEM wants to implement an automotive-compatible SSB for series production. It has even raised expectations by pointing to the arrival of the first demonstrator to feature this technology before 2025.

‘The greenest electric car in the world will be a BMW – sustainable from the initial idea to recycling after its use phase. We are developing the battery cell of the future: it will be powerful, safe, cost-effective, and recyclable - from material selection to recyclability after the use in the vehicle. All of this will be created in a European value chain,’ said Frank Weber, member of the BMW board of management for development.

Electrically-chargeable vehicles (EVs) are currently powered by lithium-ion batteries, which uses a liquid electrolyte between the cathode and anode. As implied by the name, an SSB would use a solid component rather than a liquid one, improving performance as well as safety.

BMW points to its ‘extensive in-house expertise’ within the electric-drive value chain, including the advancement of cell chemistry. From Gen3 (BMW i3) to Gen5 (BMW iX3), the carmaker reduced cobalt content from 33% to 10%, while nickel content rose to around 80%. Up to 50% recycled nickel is also used in the high-voltage battery pack of the new BMW iX.

Increasing the efficiency, safety and sustainability through the chemical composition of batteries will be essential for BMW as it looks to an electrified future. It aims to grow deliveries of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) by 50% annually by 2030, while its subsidiary Mini, will introduce its last internal-combustion-engine (ICE) model in 2025. To pull this transition off, BEVs must be powered by a battery capable of pulling its own weight.

European electrification

Zipse also recently received a grant decision supporting the group’s battery projects within the framework of the battery IPCEI (Important Project of Common European Interest). Within this framework, BMW is looking to develop sustainable, innovative, function-optimised, and cost-effective battery cells as a key element of a European value chain.

This project is in turn supported by the federal ministry of economics and the Bavarian state ministry for economic affairs, regional development and energy. ‘With the joint European projects, we have successfully built up the battery value chain in Germany and Europe and secured sustainable jobs,’ Federal minister of economics and energy, Peter Altmaier, said. ‘We support BMW in two concrete projects in the field of battery technology. Both projects are central to the further expansion of electromobility in Germany.’

'The development of battery cells is an ideal fit for Bavaria's automotive industry and tech-industry as a whole. Bavaria is supporting this IPCEI project from BMW with co-financing in order to secure added value in a central high-tech field with great future potential,’ said Bavaria's minister of economic affairs, Hubert Aiwanger.

Within the second IPCEI, BMW will focus on the next generation of lithium-ion cells, the development and optimisation of process technologies, as well as the construction of a prototype production plant for innovative battery modules and systems. It is also looking at the recyclability of battery materials, with the aim of achieving a fully cyclable unit. 

‘Because electromobility is becoming increasingly important, we have to produce the battery cells needed here in Germany, preferably in Bavaria. Our aim must be to participate economically in this climate-friendly technology and to make Europe more independent of suppliers from third countries,’ he concluded.