BMW is now producing the first battery cell samples, which it will use in the New Class models from 2025. Production occurs at the manufacturer’s new Cell Manufacturing Competence Center (CMCC) in Parsdorf, Germany.
Operations at BMW’s competence center for battery cell manufacturing east of Munich have been underway since May. The facility spans an area of 15 000 m2. “Experience will be gained from all processes, and the lessons learned will be analyzed to optimize the use of resources further,” says BMW. A pilot cell production facility is also being built on-site.
According to BMW, the first battery cell samples for the future ‘New Class’ (Neue Klasse) have now rolled off the production line in Parsdorf. They will be used in the carmaker’s upcoming EVs from 2025. With the BMW Vision Neue Klasse concept, the Munich company provided a visual preview at the IAA Mobility show in Munich at the beginning of September.
Higher energy density, more extended range
BMW also focuses on innovations in the drive system, such as the cell format. The battery cell samples now produced at the CMCC are round cells of the 4695 format (46 millimeters in diameter, 95 millimeters in height), but that is the only detail the manufacturer mentions.
Otherwise, BMW repeats already-known facts, such as that the round cells for the vehicles of the New Class have the formats 4695 and 46120 and should be able to increase the range by up to 30% (according to WLTP standards).
Compared to the prismatic cells currently used, the nickel content in the round cells is increased on the cathode side, while the cobalt content is reduced. On the anode side, the silicon content increases. As a result, the volumetric energy density in the cell should increase by more than 20%.
“Production of battery cell samples in Parsdorf marks the next logical step in our battery cell strategy,” says Frank Weber, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Development.
“The Cell Manufacturing Competence Center is the perfect complement to our existing Battery Cell Competence Center in the north of Munich,” he continues. Development occurs there; then, we scale the best product toward a series process in Parsdorf. Thanks to the cross-divisional collaboration, we can uniquely link products and processes.”
Battery, drive train, and charging technology in the New Class will have a higher voltage of 800 volts. “Among other things, this will optimize how energy is supplied to direct current high-power charging stations, which can achieve a much higher charging capacity with a current of up to 500 amperes, thus reducing the time it takes to charge from 10 to 80% by up to 30%,” states BMW.
Cell manufacturing begins with electrode production. Here, the base material, comprising, for example, graphite for the anode and nickel oxides for the cathode, with binders and solvents, is metered and mixed in a precisely measured ratio. This creates the so-called ‘slurry’, which means wafer-thin metal foils are coated and then compressed after drying.
In technical jargon, this is referred to as “calendering”. The highest level of precision is required: the foil is just a few micrometers thick, thinner than the threads of a spider web, while the coating is in the micrometer range.
During cell assembly, the coated foils, called ‘calendered electrodes’, are wound into so-called “jelly rolls” using the separator and inserted into the cell housing. The cells are filled with electrolytes, charged for the first time, and checked for functionality and quality.
Raw materials are among the significant cost factors for cell production. Therefore, efficient and responsible use of raw and carrier materials is necessary and makes sense from an environmental and economic perspective.
“Residual materials from the production process will be collected at the CMCC, sorted, and fed back into the cell production cycle. In addition to working on the cell manufacturing process, BMW Group experts also focus on reusing materials and components from the whole battery after its initial use in the vehicle,” says the press release.
At the Battery Cell Competence Center (BCCC) in Munich, the first battery cells made from 100% recycled and secondary (battery-grade) cathode material have been manufactured and tested using state-of-the-art characterization methods.”
“Our cell suppliers are already delivering battery cells containing secondary raw materials (e.g., nickel) from various used-battery sources (including production waste). The long-term aim of the BMW Group is to reuse all raw materials in recyclable high-voltage batteries.”
Around 80 people work at the CMCC in Parsdorf. Investments in the manufacturing competence center for battery cells amount to approximately 170 million euros. As reported, BMW is also building a prototype line for solid-state battery cells at its CMCC in Parsdorf based on designs from partner Solid Power.
The CMCC will also operate fossil-free, relying on electricity produced using renewable energy, including from photovoltaic systems on the roof of the building. The building will also be supplied with regenerative heat produced using state-of-the-art groundwater and air heat pumps.
BMW has ruled out its own large-scale battery cell production and will continue to source cells from various manufacturers. However, it will be responsible for preparing the cells for module installation and final assembly in a high-voltage battery.