A few days ago, BMW announced that the first samples of battery cells for the new-generation Neue Klasse had already left the Parsdorf production line. These cells will be used in the company’s future electric vehicle models from 2025 onwards.
The main innovation lies in the design of the battery cells. The samples manufactured are cylindrical in shape in the 4695 format, which implies a diameter of 46 millimeters and a height of 95 millimeters, coinciding with the diameter of Tesla’s new 4680 cells and being slightly higher. BMW will also produce them with a height of 120 mm.
BMW touts its cells to Tesla
“Tesla needs to close the gap with us. In fact, we have no gap with Tesla.” So said Milan Nedeljkovic, Head of Production at BMW Group, when asked by Automotive News Europe about the company’s strategy to close the gap with its competitors, including Tesla, arguably the hottest name in technology. These statements reflect the German manufacturer’s confidence in its new battery cells.
To put this competition in context, in the third quarter, the BMW Group, which includes the BMW and MINI brands, sold fewer than 100,000 electric vehicles, while Tesla delivered 435,000. Despite this significant gap, both manufacturers have seen significant growth over the last three months: BMW Group by almost 80% compared with the same period last year, and Tesla by 27%.
Compared with the previous generation, and thanks to their higher energy density, BMW’s sixth-generation cylindrical cells have the potential to halve their manufacturing cost, offering up to 30% more range for a similar battery. It can reach around 800 km on a full charge. In addition, DC fast charging could reach 270 kW.
Developing the best recipe for large-scale production
“What we have here is a battery design that matches our products and our idea of the driving performance of our cars,” Nedeljkovic added. BMW’s new cells are not yet ready for large-scale production. Currently, samples are manufactured in-house at the company’s facilities.
This development strategy aims to avoid the “high volatility” associated with large-scale battery cell production. BMW focuses on perfecting the cells in-house before transferring the recipe and manufacturing process to its suppliers. CATL and Eve Energy will start manufacturing them in Europe, China and North America and deliver them to BMW’s six factories worldwide from 2025, to be part of the next generation of electric vehicles based on the Neue Klasse architecture.
In addition to the classic lithium-ion configuration, BMW is investigating other chemical formulations for Generation 6 cells, which could result in further cost reductions. “If you want to cook something really delicious, you need a good recipe, and that recipe determines the taste. We develop the recipe, i.e. the chemistry and physics of a cell. We modify the contents and evaluate how each component of the cell will influence performance,” concludes Nedeljkovic.