BMW appears highly confident about its latest generation of battery cells as it claims that “Tesla needs to close the gap” with them.
The electric vehicle revolution starts with batteries, and Tesla has been regarded as having an edge on that front thanks to its early investments into battery production with Panasonic.
However, some other automakers have since followed and started to close the gap with their own investments.
BMW believes that it has closed the gap.
The automaker is preparing to launch its 6th generation battery cell developed in-house by the BMW Group Cell Manufacturing Competence Center in Parsdorf, Germany.
BMW claims several improvements with those cells:
- New bigger format: 46 mm by 95 mm or 120 mm depending on the version
- 20% increase in energy density
- 60% lower production-related carbon emissions
- They claim 30% more range and up to 500-mile (~800-km) EVs, but that’s at the battery pack level – not just due to the cells
BMW Group production head, Milan Nedeljkovic, claims that the performance surpasses Tesla’s (via Auto News):
“Tesla needs to close the gap with us. In fact, we don’t see a gap to Tesla… What we have here is a battery design that suits our products, and our idea of how driving performance is fulfilled in our cars.”
The new cell is based on a format first unveiled by Tesla in 2020, the 4680, which was a big step forward for cylindrical cells, but BMW has now made it even bigger.
BMW is developing the manufacturing process for the new cell in Germany, but it plans to partner with CATL for the volume production.
Nedeljkovic had an interesting analogy about the process:
“If you want to cook something really nice you need a good recipe, and the recipe determines the taste. We develop the recipe, namely the chemistry and physics of a cell. We change the content and test how each single cell ingredient will influence performance. As the next step, you need to find a manufacturing process that matches your recipe. That’s why we have this production facility here in Parsdorf to make sure that the dish tastes as good as it should.”
While all that talk shows confidence, the 6th gen BMW batteries are not going to make their ways into new EVs until 2025.
I think this is mostly all talk. There’s a chance that BMW actually reverse-engineered Tesla’s 4680 and truly believes that they have an edge, but somehow, I doubt it.
Top comment by Renaissance
Anyone can make a few novel, next-generation cells in a lab.
The hard part is achieving mass production, while keeping costs low and quality high. When BMW is producing 50 GWh of these per year and putting them in affordable vehicles, then they’ll have something to brag about!
The truth is that Tesla is still improving its 4680 cell and it is still nowhere near where it needs to be to match the level announced at Battery Day.
Also, it’s important to note that the most important factor for mass-market vehicles is the cost of those battery cells in volume production.
Clearly, BMW doesn’t have that yet since it is still 2 years away. We are going to have to wait until then to see if the claims hold.
In the meantime, I am happy to see the friendly competition with Tesla on the battery front from a major legacy automaker.
Author: Fred Lambert