BMW to source for key raw materials in electric car batteries

BMW chairman Oliver Zipse unveiled the new electric i4 concept on Wednesday.
BMW chairman Oliver Zipse unveiled the new electric i4 concept on Wednesday.PHOTO: BMW

MUNICH • BMW is securing its own supply of lithium and cobalt - key ingredients in batteries for electric cars.

BMW chairman Oliver Zipse said at the Bavarian company's annual accounts press conference in Munich on Wednesday: "We have long-term supply contracts with CATL and Samsung SDI.

"Starting this year, we will be sourcing the key raw materials - cobalt and lithium - ourselves and making them available to our suppliers."

He said BMW has its own competence centre for battery cells in Munich, "where we have pooled all our knowledge in battery cell chemistry, mechanics and physics".

He said BMW aims to double the range of its batteries by 2030. This would mean a real-world range of around 600km per full charge.

BMW also announced at the event that its next-generation 7series limousine is an all-electric variant. By 2023, the BMW Group will have 25 electrified models on the road - more than half of them all-electric.

The chairman acknowledged one of the main challenges of EVs - durability.

"A car is the most complex technical overall system you can buy as a customer today," he said.

"Unlike consumer electronics products, a car has to be able to run safely and reliably for 10 to 20 years.

"There is nothing comparable, with such complex safety-critical interactions, in the hands of individual customers."

He added that customers' mobility needs vary widely across the world and a one-size-fits-all solution does not apply.

"The 'one model for the world' approach no longer works," Mr Zipse said.

The chairman took some time to showcase the new electric i4 concept, which was on stage with him.

"I can confirm again today - the design is very close to the production model we will release onto the market next year," he said.

He noted that the i4 will have a range of up to 600km (which is likely to translate to a real-world range of 500km). It has up to 530 horsepower and "is a true BMW" to be built at the company's main plant in Munich.

Its production line will be shared with the conventionally powered BMW 4-series Gran Coupe.

"The i4 is powered by the fifth generation of our electric drive train, which is a completely new unit we developed ourselves."

He also noted that "our electric engines are designed so they no longer need rare earths".

As a company, BMW reduced CO2 emissions from production by 25 per cent from the previous year, Mr Zipse said.

"Our water consumption per vehicle is the lowest in our industry. That makes us a benchmark in the industry," he said, adding that "by the end of this year, all our locations worldwide will obtain their externally purchased electricity exclusively from renewable sources".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2020, with the headline 'BMW to source for key raw materials in electric car batteries'. Print Edition | Subscribe