The electric offensive and transformation of BMW from a traditional automaker to a mobility firm is continuing at full steam, and the company is producing batteries at plants Leipzig starting May 3, while production began at Regensburg this month. The commencing of battery production at Leipzig and Regensburg comes less than a year after the announcements that the facilities, which have been in operation since 2005 and 1986 respectively, would produce batteries and eDrive components were made.
Batteries manufactured at the plants are of BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive architecture, and the start of production comes less than two weeks after The BMW Group divulged intentions to develop solid-state battery technology. With the addition of the two plants to the battery production network, BMW is now making batteries at three sites in Germany, including Group Plant Dingolfing.
“We expect at least 50% of the vehicles we deliver to our customers worldwide to be fully electric by 2030,” explained Michael Nikolaides, senior vice president production engines and eDrives. “And we are systematically expanding our production network for electric drivetrains in response to this.”
The first vehicles the batteries made at Leipzig and Regensburg will power will be the upcoming i4 and iX, which are at the core of BMW’s next-generation strategy. Together, the facilities are benefitting from more than 250,000,000 euros (approximately $300,000,000) worth of investment specifically to prepare them to supply batteries for BMW vehicles. When looking at the broader picture, which includes electric drivetrain component production at plants in Dingolfing and Steyr, Austria as well, the total investment amounts to roughly 790,000,000 euros, or $950,000,000. Expansion is set to continue until 2022 with more to inevitably follow.
BMW Group Plant Leipzig Battery Module Production
BMW Group Plant Leipzig is a pioneering facility for the automaker in terms of electromobility, as it produced the BMW i8 from 2013 until 2020, and continues to produce the i3 today. Last October, the plant celebrated production of the 200,000th i3. Starting next month, the 10,000 square-foot production zone previously reserved for the i8 will be used for battery module production with a staff of 80 that will grow to 150 by the end of the year. During 2022, after the initial investment phase of 100,000,000 euros is complete, a secondary battery module production line will be added at Leipzig.
BMW Group Plant Regensburg Battery Cell Production
BMW Group Plant Regensburg, known for building some of BMW’s most famous M models, has been producing plug-in hybrid versions of the X1 and X2 for a few years now. Production of a fully-electric variant of the X1 is set to begin in 2022. Starting in April 2021, the first of four coating lines for fifth-generation batteries came online. Up until last month, coating for BMW battery cells was applied at Group Plant Dingolfing and at the powertrain section of the BMW Brilliance Automotive Plant in Shenyang, China. The remaining three lines are set to ramp up and come online during the remainder of 2021. As of this writing, 100 employees work in battery component production at Regensburg, but by the end of 2022, after investments totaling more than 150,000,000 euros are complete, the staff is projected to grow to 300.
From Battery Cell to High-Voltage Battery Module
BMW’s battery modules are comprised of cells produced by partners to the exact specifications dictated by BMW for specific vehicles and models. The cells are first subject to a plasma cleaning before being coated for optimal insulation, thermal conductivity, and mechanical robustness. The cells are subsequently assembled into modules, which are then fitted in an aluminum housing which integrates the necessary connections, control units, and cooling system.
Global eDrive Production Network Focused in Germany
With BMW Plants Leipzig and Regensburg joining the battery production network, BMW has established itself as a global manufacturer of electrified drivetrains with a concentration in Germany. In addition to battery production occurring in the aforementioned locations in Germany and China, BMW also produces batteries at its largest production facility, Group Plant Spartanburg, and works with the Dräxlmaier Group to manufacture them at its plant in Rayong, Thailand. The BMW Group also builds electric motors at its Landshut facility, while BMW Group Plant Steyr manufactures housings. The automaker is also pursuing development of sustainable (recyclable) battery cells, along with the sustainable extraction of necessary materials, like lithium.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]