BMW’s ‘New Class’ with cylindrical battery cells from CATL

The Chinese battery giant CATL will be supplying BMW with cylindrical lithium-ion battery cells for electric vehicles starting from 2025. The cells will be used in BMW’s next generation of EVs, the so-called ‘New Class’.

This news was announced by CATL (via Reuters), which has confirmed the signing of an agreement with BMW, but without elaborating on it. We guess that details will be announced later by BMW itself.

Nonetheless, it’s pretty surprising considering that the German manufacturer so far was relying on prismatic cell format and that it’s also the primary type produced by CATL. If the switch from the prismatic to cylindrical cell format at scale is true, then there must be a serious reason behind it.

‘Neue Klasse’

Earlier this month, we heard a rumor that BMW will use cylindrical battery cells in its next-generation platform, “Neue Klasse”, as this type of battery can lower battery system cost by as much as 30% (compared to prismatic format).

In its current e-models, such as the iX and i4, BMW relies on prismatic cells of various sizes. This could be different for the New Class. BMW’s existing suppliers are to manufacture the new cells – currently CATL, Samsung SDI, Northvolt, and EVE Energy.

BMW has been using prismatic cells since the i3, but a change in cell format does not come as a complete surprise. BMW had already announced last year that it was developing a new generation of batteries for its “New Class” electric cars.

Cylindrical

The word “cylindrical” is crucial but does not say the exact format on the table. Tesla recently launched in-house production of the 4680-type cylindrical cell, a step up from the 2170-type and previous 1865-type.

BMW’s new round cells are expected to exceed the energy density of Tesla’s cells (4680) by “at least a double-digit percentage”. However, which round cell format or cell chemistry the Munich-based company favors is not mentioned. Recent news about the newest CATL battery cells (CTP or Cell-To-Pack) being 13% more efficient than those of Tesla could indicate that the Munich manufacturer is still following another path. We’ll have to wait for confirmation.

Cost is crucial

BloombergNEF notes that in 2021, carmakers paid an average of $118 per kWh of battery on the pack level, and the battery cells typically make up four-fifths of the price of a battery system. The Bloomberg report suggests that the switch to the newest cylindrical cell format would help to lower costs.

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