BMW invests big in new EV battery plant

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New US battery factory will supply BMW’s Neue Klasse electric cars built in Spartanburg.

BMW has partnered with Japanese battery manufacturer Envision AESC to secure cells for its next generation of US-built ‘X’ electric SUVs.

Envision will build a 30GWh facility – sufficient capacity for roughly 300,000 electric vehicles per year – near BMW’s Spartanburg plant in South Carolina.

This site will supply cylindrical battery cells of BMW’s own design – claimed to be 20 per cent more energy-dense than current-generation rectangular units – for BMW’s Neue Klasse EVs by the end of the decade.

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Joachim Post, BMW board member for the purchasing and supplier network, said: “We’re delighted to have found a partner in Envision AESC that will supply our plant in Spartanburg with high-performance battery cells going forward.

“The new round cell specially designed for the electric architecture of our next-generation models will allow us to improve range [and] driving performance and reduce charging time.”

As previously reported, the first car to use the manufacturer’s next-generation platform and cells will be a Tesla Model 3 rival, equivalent to today’s BMW 3 Series sedan, arriving in 2025.

But the Spartanburg plant currently builds the X3, X4, X5, X6 and X7 SUVs, so batteries built in South Carolina would no doubt be destined for a larger model. A BMW Group spokesperson confirmed this to Autocar Business: “Envision will supply battery cells solely for the future production of fully electric BMW X-models in Spartanburg. Other plants that also produce fully electric cars are supplied by different partners.”

BMW recently confirmed a significant expansion of its battery production facilities in Munich, Germany, which presumably will cater to European-built models.

The spokesperson followed: “Plant Spartanburg plays a critical role in our worldwide production network. It is a cornerstone of the global success of the BMW Group. The home of the BMW X models that are very popular all over the world. Going forward, it will also be a major driver for our electrification strategy.”

Envision aims to reduce the environmental impact of the new factory by using solely renewable energy to power the site, assisted by an artificial intelligence-led energy-management system.

All cobalt, lithium and nickel used in its batteries will come from certified mines offering transparency on material-extraction methods and responsible mining practices.

Recycling will also be key: a spokesperson for Envision told Autocar Business that 100% of the company’s production materials are handled by local recylers, with no waste going to landfill.

Envision has been on a rapid upward trajectory. Mercedes-Benz inked a deal with the firm earlier this year, prompting a $2 billion investment from the battery firm for a new plant in Kentucky, the US. Opening in 2025, this facility will initially output 30GWh annually – eventually rising to 40GWh – and employ 2000 staff.

Established as a joint venture between Nissan and NEC in 2008, Envision has supplied batteries for roughly 650,000 electric cars – including the Nissan Leaf – to date.

These are produced at Nissan’s site in Sunderland, the UK, in a bespoke 1.9GWh facility, set to be expanded to 11GWh in 2024. The expanded plant will supply batteries for the Leaf’s successor, due the following year, and may eventually scale up to 38GWh.

Envision claims to have had zero “critical” battery malfunctions thus far.

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