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BMW Wants to Boost EV Capability With New Round Battery Cells

BMW claims these new cells will offer better performance at a lower price.

BMW round battery cells
Battery cells aren't exactly exciting to look at, but the aesthetics aren't the point.
BMW

The chemistry inside of an electric vehicle battery is important in determining how it will perform, as well as how much it'll eventually cost to install in an EV. As BMW prepares for a new generation of electric vehicles, it's turning to new battery tech to help make those cars more efficient and less costly.

BMW on Friday announced that future EVs on its Neue Klasse electric-only platform will rely on newly developed round battery cells. But instead of building these cells itself, BMW signed contracts with CATL and EVE Energy, who will supply the automaker with these components from factories in China and Europe. BMW also wants to have two cell production facilities in the North American free trade zone, but partners have not yet been announced for that.

Current BMW EVs use what are called prismatic cells, which are flat, rectangular battery cells. Measuring 1.8 inches in diameter, with two different possible heights, BMW claims its new round cells will be able to increase the maximum range of its vehicles by up to 30%. In addition, BMW says these cells will be 20% more energy dense, and thanks to the Neue Klasse's 800-volt electrical architecture, charging speed should be about 30% faster.

These improvements don't come from the shape alone. Cell chemistry will also play a role. BMW's new round cells increase nickel content on the cathode and silicon content on the anode, while reducing reliance on cobalt in the anode. BMW said also that it will offer optional lithium-iron-phosphate cathodes, which sacrifice a bit of performance in the name of reducing costs for entry-level EVs. Solid-state batteries are also being researched, with the automaker hoping to unveil a production-ready solid-state battery by the end of the decade.

In the name of sustainability, BMW promises that cell production will rely on recycled metals, in addition to receiving commitments from suppliers that the cells will be produced using renewable energy. The hope is that BMW will reduce its cell-production carbon footprint by 60%.

BMW's Neue Klasse platform will start making its way to customers in 2025. We should see a compact sedan and SUV first, essentially de facto electric versions of the popular BMW 3 Series and X3. It's all part of a big ramp-up in production that will see 50% of BMW's sales comprising EVs by 2030.