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BMW Clarifies Electric Car & Battery Configuration Plans

BMW now says all new models based on its upcoming Neue Klasse platform will be pure battery-electric vehicles.

For some time, BMW has been waffling about its electric car intentions. CEO Oliver Zipse said back in May the company’s Neue Klasse platform, scheduled to arrive in 2025, would underpin a 3 Series size car that is purely battery-electric, but hinted that other models based on that architecture might use internal combustion engines as well. Zipse also made it clear that other BMW models that are not based  on the Neue Klasse platform would continue on with gasoline or diesel engines.

At the New York auto show this year, Zipse told the press, “When you look at the technology coming out, the EV push, we must be careful because at the same time, you increase dependency on very few countries. If someone cannot buy an EV for some reason but needs a car, would you rather propose he continues to drive his old car forever? If you are not selling combustion engines anymore, someone else will.”

Zipse has hinted that there could still be internal combustion engines included in some models built on the Neue Klasse chassis much as the original BMW i8 featured an electric motor at one end and a turbocharged 3-cylinder engine at the other.

Now Germany’s Manager-Magazin (paywall) reports senior officials at the company have confirmed that not only will the 3 Series size cars cars built on the Neue Klasse platform be battery-electrics, but that all variants — either larger or smaller — built on that chassis will be battery-electrics as well.

Round Batteries Are In, Prismatics Are Out At BMW

Last month, we reported that Samsung SDI plans to produce round battery cells that are 46 mm in diameter like Tesla’s all new 4680 cells but in various lengths, including 60 mm and 40 mm. At the time, it was not clear who the customers for those shorter cells might be. Now, Germany’s Suddeutshche Zeitung (paywall) says it has learned that BMW will transition away from the prismatic cells it has used up until now and replace them with 46xx format cells.

Having access to cells of various lengths gives manufacturers options, such as lowering the floor height of its cars or double-stacking two layers of cells to promote better cooling. Samsung SDI claims its new 46 mm diameter cells are more energy dense than the 4680 cells Tesla is using. The news report also says the Neue Klasse will use 800 volt architecture, a detail that has not been previously reported, according to Electrive.

The Takeaway

BMW has been skittish about the EV revolution. It jumped in with both feet at the beginning with its innovative i3 and i8 models, but found sales were disappointing. Presumably the return on its investments was disappointing. Once burned, twice shy, as the saying goes. Since then, the company has embraced the changeover to electric cars the way porcupines make love — very, very carefully.

But the tide is definitely turning in favor of electric cars and its fellow German automakers like Volkswagen Group and Mercedes are moving full steam ahead with their electric car offerings. BMW also has to be cognizant of the latest move by the EU commission to ban sales of cars with internal combustion engines by 2035. When it takes 5 to 7 years to design a new car, the time to start planning for new market realities in Europe is now.

The upshot is that BMW will continue to sell cars with internal combustion engines for as long as there is a demand for them and they can do so legally. Its doesn’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg and that is understandable, but it also doesn’t want to wake up one day and find what it thought was a goose is actually a turkey.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


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