BMW's Bold Promise Is Bad News For Rivals

Electric Vehicles / Comments

Especially Toyota.

It's become clear that battery-electric vehicles will replace ICE, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids in the not too distant future. Pinning down an exact date is not possible but automakers like BMW are planning accordingly. The race to be at the front of the EV pack requires advanced battery technology, specifically solid-state batteries. BMW has just announced it'll build a solid-battery prototype vehicle before 2025 with production models hitting the road by the end of the decade.

"The greenest electric car in the world will be a BMW - sustainable from the initial idea to recycling after its use phase," said Frank Weber, BMW's board member for development. "We are developing the battery cell of the future: it will be powerful, safe, cost-effective, and recyclable - from material selection to recyclability after the use in the vehicle."

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This bold initiative is part of the previously announced "Neue Klasse" strategy which will see all future BMW EVs underpinned by a single and very flexible platform. The just-revealed BMW i4 and iX, to compare, are built on a modified version of the CLAR platform. Pursuing solid-state batteries, however, is an especially challenging endeavor because they're more complex and more expensive to manufacture.

But the rewards for cracking the formula are huge: They're more powerful than today's lithium-ion batteries, they won't explode in a fire because they don't use a liquid electrolyte solution, and they provide more space as additional safety components aren't required.

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"We are doing intensive research on solid-state battery technology," Weber added. "By the end of the decade, we will be implementing an automotive-compatible solid-state battery for series production."

BMW is joining the solid-state battery race against Toyota, which has already committed to releasing its own prototype sometime this year. It aims to be the first global automaker to sell an EV equipped with solid-state technology in the first half of the decade - beating BMW by around five years. BMW's longtime domestic rival, the Volkswagen Group, is also pursuing solid-state batteries with the help of QuantumScape, a San Jose-based startup that also has the financial support of Bill Gates.

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