BMW enters consortium with battery technology specialists

15 October 2018

15 October 2018

BMW, Northvolt and Umicore have formed a ′joint technology consortium’ in order to work together on a value chain for battery cells for electrified vehicles in Europe.

The project is seeking to press ahead with the sustainable industrialisation of battery cells in Europe and the associated acquisition of skills, from cell chemistry and development through to production and ultimately recycling.

The development activities of the consortium will help to create high-tech jobs, and thereby fully supports the EU Battery Alliance, founded by European Commissioner MaroÅ¡ Å efÄoviÄ, stating: ′Batteries are instrumental in our transition to clean mobility and clean energy systems. Thanks to genuine involvement of actors from all segments of the battery value chain, Europe is becoming the lead player in this strategic area. I, therefore, welcome that key actors of our automotive sectors are investing in the future of European battery innovation and manufacturing.’

In a statement, BMW says that the chief objective of the project is to make battery cells sustainable by establishing a closed life cycle loop. This starts with a recyclable cell design and continues with a manufacturing process that mostly uses renewable energy. The next step is a long period of primary use as a drive battery, possibly followed by another phase of secondary use as a stationary energy storage device. At the end of its life cycle, the cell is recycled and the raw materials reused, thereby completing the loop.

′Given the growing numbers of electrified vehicles, establishing a broad basis for procuring battery cells is becoming a matter of greater strategic significance for manufacturers,’ the statement says. ′With Northvolt as a partner focused on sustainable production and the BMW Group in its capacity as a carmaker that is already developing its battery cells today, this can be achieved to great effect. Because battery cells contain essential resources and materials, feeding these back into the loop becomes more and more important as electric vehicles multiply in number. As Umicore is a global leader in the development and production of active materials for battery cells and resource recycling and the BMW Group has expertise in material and cell design, there are high hopes for some major achievements in this area too.’

New centre

To accelerate the development of battery cells and further progress in cell design and chemistry, BMW will inaugurate a new battery cell centre of excellence in summer 2019. Besides battery cell development, other key skills will be pooled there too, from the production of battery cell prototypes to build-to-print expertise.

′The sustainability approach of Northvolt makes it a highly appealing company for us, that was furthermore very receptive to our ideas,’ remarked Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Development. For this reason, the BMW Group and Northvolt have been collaborating for some time now as part of a strategic technology project.

In September, BMW announced a partnership with solid-state battery developer Solid State. The German OEM is aiming to utilise the developer’s technology for use in high-performance electric vehicles.

The company has also said it plans to source €4 billion worth of battery cells from Chinese company Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) over the next five years.

The contract sees €1.5 billion worth of cells supplied from a new CATL plant to be built in Erfurt, East Germany. The rest will come from China.