BMW confirms use of round-battery cells for New Class
BMW officially confirms using new round-format battery cells in its ‘New Class’ electric models from 2025. Partners will produce the cells in six factories with annual capacities of 20 GWh each. BMW has confirmed CATL & Eve Energy as suppliers.
The new round cells, which will have a uniform diameter of 46 millimetres and two different heights, are expected to increase energy density by more than 20 per cent, boost charging speed by up to 30 per cent and improve range by up to 30 per cent. To meet the demand for battery cells for the New Class, the BMW Group has already awarded a double-digit billion euro contract to two partners to build battery cell factories: CATL and EVE Energy. Both partners will build two gigafactories each in China and Europe. Each battery cell factory will have a total annual capacity of up to 20 GWh.
Two additional battery cell factories are to be built in the region of the North American Free Trade Area USMCA.
“The newly-developed sixth generation of our lithium-ion cells will bring a huge leap in technology that will increase energy density by more than 20 per cent, improve charging speed by up to 30 per cent and enhance range by up to 30 per cent,” according to Frank Weber, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Development. “We are also reducing CO2 emissions from cell production by up to 60 per cent.”
Rumours about the switch in battery technology began a few months ago, with Eve Energy entering the conversation in August. At the time, it was noted that while unclear where Eve Energy would be building the cells, the company had announced plans for a new factory in April. Eve Energy announced that it would create a 50 GWh factory in Chengdu at the time but did not specify which cell format. Eve Energy already has the appropriate knowledge for the cells, as the company is the production partner for the extremely fast-charging 4680 cells of the Israeli battery developer StoreDot.
In the future, Eve Energy could also locally supply the BMW plant under construction in Debrecen, Hungary, where the New Class will initially be built. At the end of March, there were reports that Eve Energy was also planning to build its first European battery cell factory in Debrecen. According to the announcement at the time, Eve Energy had signed a non-binding letter of intent with the city government to acquire 45 hectares in an industrial area to build a cylindrical cell production facility.
A few weeks ago, CATL also announced plans to build a 100-GWh battery cell factory in Debrecen. However, BMW competitor Mercedes-Benz immediately announced that it would be the primary customer of CATL’s new Hungary plant – there was no mention of round cells at the time. However, according to the above-mentioned Reuters report, BMW could also be supplied from the CATL factory.
Samsung SDI has also announced plans for a production plant for 46XX cells with heights between 40 and 60 millimetres. Whether the South Korean company are the third partner in the alliance and where precisely the plants of all BMW suppliers will be built cannot be said with certainty without official statements so far.
Some details have been confirmed regarding the new battery format: Compared to the prismatic cells of the current battery cell generation, the nickel content is increased on the cathode side, and the cobalt content is reduced in the round cells. On the anode side, the silicon content is increased. As a result, the volumetric energy density in the cell grows by more than 20 per cent, according to BMW. In the ‘New Class’ model with the most extended range, this is up to 30 per cent higher (according to WLTP). BMW does not specify an absolute range.
It has been known for some time that the vehicles in the New Class will use an 800-volt system with up to 350 kW charging power. In this way, a significantly increased charging performance can be achieved with direct current charging at a current strength of up to 500 amperes, BMW specifies in its recent announcement. “The time required for charging from ten to 80 per cent is reduced by up to 30 per cent.”
The cost of the new type of battery storage is nevertheless said to be “significantly” lower than today’s costs – by up to 50 per cent. The Munich-based company explains this with the new round cell, the new integration concept and the comprehensive in-house know-how from its Battery Cell Competence Center.
At the same time, BMW remains explicitly committed to developing solid-state batteries: “The company aims to have high-voltage batteries of this type ready for series introduction by the end of the decade. The BMW Group will present a demonstrator vehicle with this technology on board well before 2025.”
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It takes quite a bit of restraint to not mention that Tesla is the one who developed the 46 mm diameter cylindrical cell format completely in-house. And Panasonic, CATL, Samsung, LG, BAK & others are planning production of cylindrical cells of this diameter is due to this development.
Now I do like the development of various lengths however it was reported months ago that the variable length cells were developed by Rimac in conjunction Samsung in 4640, 4660 & 4680 lengths. With battery customers Aston Martin, Koenigsegg; thier ownership of Bugatti; and them helping Porsche develop their next super car platform expect to see some of the highest performance cells on the planet to come in this format. It only makes sense for BMW to move to this format. I wonder if this is the beginning of them reevaluating the decision to develop CLAR2.0 to launch for 2026 model year instead of developing to a dedicated BEV platform.