BMW targets sustainable battery supply

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German auto maker BMW Group is aiming to create a closed and sustainable material cycle for battery cell production. With the building of new pilot plant in Parsdorf, near Munich, Germany, which will produce lithium-ion battery cells, the company is taking the next logical step in ensuring it has capabilities in all areas of the battery cell supply chain.

Milan Nedeljković, member of the Board of Management of BMW responsible for production, explained the new plant’s function, “It will strengthen our expertise in production of battery cells. We will be capable of testing new systems technology and innovative production processes. Our goal is to optimize 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 company also recently opened a separate Battery Cell Competence Centre in Munich to develop both new cell technologies and manufacturing systems. The overall intent for both the Cell Competence Centre and pilot plant is to increase the rate at which new technologies can be brought to market. For example, production processes will be developed at the Competence Centre, then installed at the 14,000m2 pilot plant in Parsdorf. The company also wants to leverage production processes and systems already employed in standard production, with a focus on optimizing production efficiency, costs and quality.

Looking to sustainability, BMW is also working as part of a technology consortium with the Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt, and Umicore, a Belgian developer of battery materials. The collaboration is focused on creating an end-to-end sustainable value chain for battery cells in Europe, extending from development to production to recycling.

Northvolt will produce the battery cells at its own gigafactory currently under construction in Skellefteå in northern Sweden from 2024, which will obtain the energy needed to produce the battery cells exclusively from wind and hydroelectric power generated regionally in northern Sweden. Umicore meanwhile is developing a recyclable cell design.

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