BMW apparently planning a pilot battery plant

According to a number of German media reports, BMW is planning a pilot plant for the production of battery cells for electric cars in the Bavarian district of Parsdorf, near Munich.

In November 2019, BMW opened its new Battery Cell Competence Center in Munich, where new battery cells will be developed, manufactured on a prototype scale and tested. The plant in Parsdorf now appears to be the next step in BMW’s battery cell strategy. The new plant is to be designed in such a way that a later expansion of production at the site is feasible.

A logistics centre was previously planned in the 40,000 square metre hall in Parsdorf. Now, according to reports in the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Merkur, BMW has approached the local council to obtain a change in the land use and development plan. According to these reports, Jörg Hoffmann, head of the battery and fuel cell department, is said to have personally addressed the municipal council. For the time being, one-third of the hall is to be rededicated to pilot production. The hall, which is already under construction, will not be bigger, but will look different: in contrast to a logistics hall, offices for developers are now also planned, a facade is to be changed, although no windows were originally planned for the warehouse.

As the Merkur writes, the local council is supposed to have approved the project. In terms of building law, it is now a “large-scale manufacturing industry” instead of the previous “special logistics area”. Very concrete scenarios are already mentioned in the reports: Initially, 50 engineers and technicians are to work in production, and a two-shift operation is planned from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Later, the company plans to switch to three shifts around the clock, and the number of employees is then to increase to about 150.

The Battery Cell Competence Center is not intended as a production facility, but as a development centre that can also investigate and improve the important production steps of the battery cells themselves. BMW then intends to use the knowledge gained here to incorporate it into negotiations and developments with cell suppliers, where the carmaker buys the cells in larger quantities after having secured much of the raw materials themselves.

The plant in Parsdorf is apparently intended to serve as an intermediate step here: The findings from the Munich prototype construction are to be applied here in small series. The improvements achieved there will then be incorporated into mass production. According to Hoffmann, BMW is still not interested in starting its own mass production of battery cells. Rather, they want to develop the technical knowledge both for the product and for its manufacture themselves, so that the cell suppliers manufacture the products exactly according to BMW’s specifications.

Hoffmann thus followed the line of BMW boss Oliver Zipse, who had chosen very similar words at the opening of the Battery Cell Competence Center. At that time, Zipse defended the strategy of continuing to buy in the components that are important for electric cars. As the BMW boss now stated in an interview published in the car manufacturer’s press site, the partners’ cell production is to become cleaner in the future. “We have now made a contractual agreement with our cell manufacturers that they will only use green electricity in the production of our fifth generation of battery cells,” said Zipse. BMW calls “fifth-generation battery cells” those cells that will be used in the future E-models iX3, i4 and the series version of the iNext.

At the same time, Zipse did leave a few details open during his speech in November: “If one day it should become necessary, we will be able to react,” he said in response to considerations of building the cells himself in the future. Hoffmann now also wanted to keep this option open. “The plant in Parsdorf can make a contribution so that we can make this decision at all,” Hoffmann is said to have told the municipal council.

With reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany, (both in German), (green electricity stipulation)


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