BMW Expands Chinese EV Battery Factory & Chooses Solid-State LiDAR Supplier

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BMW is a top electric vehicle producer. Indeed, it isn’t yet shipping 1 million EVs a year and it only has the i3 in its fully electric stable, but it already has plug-in versions of four of its popular models, to supplement the “born electric” i3 and i8. Overall, BMW’s plug-in vehicle sales have been growing significantly and they now represent 5% of BMW’s sales globally (7% in the US and 9% in the UK).

BMW’s plug-in vehicle sales have increased 73% in the US, 25% in the UK, and 646% in China this year.

Those plug-in vehicles need batteries, and there’s a good chance BMW knows that. There’s also a good chance that if BMW wants to put out another press release in a year highlighting 50% growth of its plug-in vehicle sales, it’ll need a lot more batteries.

The question readers and writers here on CleanTechnica constantly pose is: Who is really preparing for rapid electric car sales growth by securing the necessary batteries? Well, the news out of BMW’s Brilliance Automotive office indicates that it has just laid the foundation for a large expansion of its Chinese battery factory. (Note: BMW Brilliance Automotive is a joint venture between BMW Group and Brilliance China Automotive Holdings that was founded in 2014 — and first covered here on CleanTechnica in April 2013 and then December 2013 when more details came out.)

“At the ‘High-Voltage Battery Centre Phase II’, BBA will produce the new, more powerful batteries of the fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology for the fully-electric BMW iX3,” BMW writes. “Starting in 2020, the BMW iX3 will be built at the neighbouring BBA plant Dadong. … Earlier this year, production of the new BMW 5 Series Plug-in Hybrid got underway at the BBA plant Dadong.”

I learned a bit more about the scope of BMW’s electrified vehicle production with this news as well. The company apparently builds its plug-in hybrid versions of gas/diesel models in 10 factories around the world — unsurprisingly, on the same lines as the gas/diesel cars. These models are the 330e, 530e, 740e, and X5 xDrive40e. The 100% electric BMW i3 is produced in Leipzig, Germany. Additionally, there are three battery factories — in China, Germany, and the US — producing the batteries for those cars.

I’ve asked BMW a few questions about the production capacity and partners at the battery factories noted above, and have also asked more more details on the models that will benefit from the expanded production capacity in China. I’ll update this article if we receive that extra information.

Another avenue of innovation that BMW is trying to be a leader on is autonomous driving. Well, every auto company and their mother is trying to be a leader on this front, but BMW may actually be in the top 5 here.

On that topic, it was recently announced that Magna and partner Innoviz Technologies “will supply the BMW Group with solid-state LiDAR for upcoming autonomous vehicle production platforms.” See the video above for a visual elevator pitch.

“The new-business award, one of the first in the auto industry to include solid-state LiDAR for serial production, underscores Magna’s ability to support customers with flexible, scalable solutions and transform innovative technologies into automotive-grade products,” Magna writes. “While Magna has demonstrated via MAX4 the capability to develop a complete autonomous platform, it can also support customers by providing various building blocks of the overall system as in this case with BMW.”

Well, it’s certainly not easy to win a big supplier contract with BMW — you often have to be at the top of the industry. The question is cost, and we don’t have any real info on that.

“This solid-state high-resolution LiDAR technology generates a 3D point cloud in real time of the vehicle’s surroundings, even in challenging settings such as direct sunlight, varying weather conditions and multi-LiDAR environments. In addition, the solution provides a complete computer vision software stack and algorithms to turn 3D vision into critical driving insights. The Magna/Innoviz comprehensive sensing solution delivers on critical needs including performance, cost, and compact size.”

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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