The BMW Group has laid the foundation stone for its new electric car plant in Debrecen, Hungary. The company is investing more than one billion euros in the site, where series production for the first all-electric New Class vehicle will start in 2025.
A full vehicle plant with press shop, body shop, paint shop and assembly is being built on an area of more than 400 hectares in the northwest of the Hungarian city of Debrecen. The capacity is around 150,000 units per year. BMW also emphasises that this is to be the world’s first CO2-free car plant.
In terms of production itself, BMW is focusing even more on flexibility. “Plant Debrecen will set new standards in highly innovative vehicle manufacturing,” says BMW board member for production Milan Nedeljković during the laying of the foundation stone. “This plant is state-of-the-art in terms of flexibility, sustainability and digitalisation in the entire automotive industry.”
A month ago, the Munich-based carmaker gave details of its so-called ‘iFactory’ strategy. The production strategy, which BMW also calls “the master plan for the production of the future” in the announcement, will first be applied in its entirety in Debrecen with the New Class, but will be implemented in all BMW plants in the future.
The New Class is a cluster architecture on which the brand’s future electric cars are to be based – as a pure electric platform, not a mixed platform with internal combustion engines as is currently the case at BMW. Recently, however, there have been reports that there might have been a change of strategy regarding the New Class: According to these, the possibility of also integrating combustion engines is currently no longer being pursued. In addition, according to the latest statements by BMW boss Oliver Zipse, the New Class will “mainly focus on the mid-size segment” – previously it had been said that vehicles from the compact to the luxury segment would be based on the cluster architecture.
According to Zipse’s statement on the mid-size segment, the debut of the New Class, internally called NK1, built in Debrecen, will be a vehicle in the 3-series segment. While there has been speculation in the past about an electric 3 Series sedan, it could also be a 3 Series-sized crossover or SUV.
BMW did not comment on this in the current announcement on the laying of the foundation stone. Instead, production director Nedeljković praises the possibilities of the new platform in a new plant. “The Neue Klasse is a unique opportunity for us to completely rethink automotive production in every respect,” he says. “In BMW Production, our strategic vision is the BMW iFACTORY with its three dimensions: LEAN. GREEN. and DIGITAL., and we are going to implement it perfectly in our new.”
A significant part of the energy required is to be generated directly on the plant site by large-scale photovoltaic systems. The plant will obtain 100 per cent of the electricity it needs from regional renewable sources. The use of geothermal energy is also being investigated. The paint shop also plays an important role: Until now, the drying system in other car plants has been based on gas-powered burners. In Debrecen, BMW relies on new electric heaters.
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