Just about every automaker on the planet is increasing its electric vehicle production to some degree in 2023, and BMW Group is no exception. In fact, BMW seems to be on a serious push to try to take more of the EV market. Naturally, it must know that its survival, and certainly its success, in the coming decade depends on how well and how quickly it electrifies its fleet. The news this month is that it is investing €800 million into production facilities at a Mexico factory for production of fully-electric NEUE KLASSE models as well as battery assembly. These EV elements of the factory, Plant San Luis Potosí, are estimated to create 1,000 new jobs.
This is not going to bring an immediate result, though. In fact, the NEUE KLASSE won’t be produced at all until 2025, starting in BMW’s factory in Hungary. Then they will be produced as well in Munich, at BMW’s manufacturing headquarters. And then production will finally begin at Plant San Luis Potosí in Mexico in 2027.
BMW is also investing in production capacity increases in the US. At its Spartanburg, South Carolina, factory, the German automaker is investing $1 billion into expanded production facilities for EVs. It’ll be going from almost nothing in the way of fully electric cars to production of 6 electric car models by 2030. It’s also investing $700 million into a nearby battery production facilities in Woodruff, South Carolina.
Of the €800 million being invested in the Mexico factory for EVs, €500 million is going to be invested in the battery production side of things. Clearly, BMW is happy with the production output and operations of this new-ish factory. “At the plant, which went on-stream in 2019, around 3,000 employees already produce the BMW 3 Series, 2 Series Coupé and the new M2– in some cases, exclusively for the global market. The plant is designed to be highly flexible, ensuring only minor adjustments are needed in the body shop and assembly to incorporate the new vehicle architecture. A special feature of the NEUE KLASSE is that the high-voltage battery is directly integrated into the vehicle structure. The assembly in San Luis Potosí is therefore being expanded to integrate this new process into operations,” BMW writes.
“With this new investment, our plant in San Luis Potosí will play a central role in BMW Group’s transition to electromobility. The company is increasing its commitment to Mexico and its stake in our facility, not only due to its strategic location but, above all, to a solid work team, which, in less than four years after starting operations, already produces three models that supply 74 global markets and stand out for their quality,” said Harald Gottsche, President & CEO at BMW Group Plant San Luis Potosí.
Perhaps saving the best for last, Plant San Luis Potosí is 100% powered by solar power. Much of the electricity comes from an onsite 70,000 m2 solar power installation. Other electricity comes from an external solar power plant. Plant San Luis Potosí also includes BMW’s first paint shop that does not produce wastewater. It does use water, but that water is then treated and reused on site.
BMW is making progress. It was a focus of quite a bit of ridicule among EV advocates (including here) for years. After rolling out its first “Born Electric” cars, most notably the i3, several years ago, it pulled up the stakes on its EV efforts and seemed to become an EV laggard and neglected to roll out another pure EV for many years. Perhaps even more frustratingly, it kept introducing very low-range, small-battery plugin hybrids — seemingly just aimed at qualifying for subsidies while having very limited, weak results cutting emissions. The NEUE KLASSE line, though, promises to be a big step forward. “The models of the NEUE KLASSE will use new, round lithium-ion battery cells developed specifically for what will then be the sixth generation of BMW eDrive technology. The new battery format will increase energy density by more than 20 percent and improve charging speed and range by up to 30 percent. At the same time, CO2 emissions from cell production will be reduced by up to 60 percent, as a result of cell suppliers relying on energy from renewable resources and, in the case of the raw materials lithium, cobalt and nickel, using a certain percentage of secondary material, i.e. material already in the cycle.”
All images courtesy of BMW.
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