Recently, Automotive Rhythms ventured to Munich, Germany to delve into the BMW Group’s electric vehicle strategy, advanced technologies, and research methodologies. Each will lead the German automaker into a future focused on the reduction of ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles and cleaner, more welcoming e-mobility infrastructure. We learned from Dr. Simom Erhard — Head of Gen6 Energy, Performance, Lifetime — that BMW is working on its 6th generation of newly-developed round battery cells, dubbed NEUE KLASSE, that will feature innovative architecture for BMW’s e-Drive technology. Enthusiasts of the Bavarian brand can expect this next generation of electrified vehicles to arrive in 2025.
If you recall, BMW began its sustainable journey in 2013 with the “Born Electric” i3 and i8 models that became the foundation of its EV platform. Today there are numerous BMW EVs like the i7, i4, and iX. Moving forward, “The Ultimate Driving Machines” powered by NEUE KLASSE will see a reduction of charging times by 30%, increased driving range of 30%, reduction of C02 by 60%, and a reduction of battery cell costs by 40%, which is the key reason why EVs have higher price points. If you decrease the price and resources for the battery pack, the vehicle price also lowers. In addition, Level-3 high-speed charging will be less detrimental to the battery’s lifespan.
“The newly-developed 6th generation of lithium-ion cells will bring a huge leap in technology that will increase energy density by more than 20%, improve charging speed by up to 30%, and enhance range by up to 30%,” stated Frank Weber, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Development.
In Bavaria, we had a chance to test drive a 2023 iX M60 (Gen 5 battery) high-performance electric Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV) with system output of up to 610-horsepower and 811 lb-ft of torque. The EPA range of the SAV is estimated at 280 miles, but the vehicle typically stops charging at 299 miles. Now imagine a 2025 or 2026 iX with NEUE KLASSE; theoretically, the driving range would increase to approximately 390 miles. Yet, BMW still provides the top-end performance you are accustomed to from their e-machines. After igniting the dual electric motors with full throttle, the iX M60 took off like bullet trains. Not only is the sustainable and emissions-free EV fast as Marlins with a 0 to 60 mph time of 3.6 seconds, but it integrates three core products from BMW into one mega ride: BMW i, BMW X, and BMW M GmbH. In addition, an aluminum spaceframe with Carbon Core Technology is lighter than conventional materials to reduce weight. Furthermore, icon Adaptive LED Headlights with Laserlight technology and BMW’s new space-aged vertical kidney grilles add digital flavor to the SAV. Lastly, Iconic Sounds Electric provides a futuristic audible experience as if you’re piloting an Imperial Star Destroyer from Star Wars.
For Gen 6, vital objectives such as sustainability, safety, integration, and energy storage were considered. BMW made a strategic decision to shift to a cylindrical cell since the design and style advantage allow for the inclusion of more cells into the battery module. Thus, extra energy is the resulting outcome. Specifically, Gen 6 features one large module instead of many smaller modules. The product planning also led to the building of BMW Group’s Battery Cell Competence Center in Munich. Moreover, the company will build battery cell factories with partners at six locations in USMCA, Europe, and China. A commitment has been made by these partners to utilize a portion of secondary materials for certified mining of lithium, cobalt, and nickel, and to employ green power from renewable energies for the manufacturing processes to further reduce CO2. Yet, the amount of cobalt required has been decreased with NEUE KLASSE, which is better for the environment. NEUE KLASSE can also handle 800 volts. Overall, the carbon footprint of BMW battery cell manufacturing will be reduced by up to 60% in relation to the current Gen 5 battery cells.
The BMW Group is confident that innovative, powerful, and sustainably-produced battery cells such as NEUE KLASSE are pertinent to future electromobility. By 2025, the company is aiming for two million fully electric vehicles to occupy our roads. By 2030, the wishful thinking is for 50% of BMW Group’s global sales to be constituted by EVs. This proclamation is inclusive of electric MINIs and Rolls-Royces as well.
I’m particularly interested in experiencing NEUE KLASSE in the recently-introduced BMW i7 luxury flagship that achieves 318 electric miles per charge and produces 536-horsepower. I test drove and thoroughly evaluated a 2023 i7 xDrive60 variant of the high-tech marvel back in the US at the BMW Test Fest program and became an instant fan. The 7th generation 7 Series is an evolutionary wonder as humankind continues to figure out how to reduce carbon footprints. As a result, we have no choice but to seek alternative fuel options to power the transportation industry, and currently, e-mobility is the best solution at our disposal. All electric BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive, Highly Integrated E-Drive units on the front and rear axles, and BMW’s Gen5 Lithium-Ion 101.7 kWh battery unit comprise the i7’s electric powertrain. To extend the i7’s efficiency, only one motor needs to run on the highway, and initially, iDrive is subdued but will kick in immediately when traction is required.
Times are changing as the auto industry continues to gear up for an all-electric shift. So, are you ready for a BMW with exhilarating high-speed gravitational pull, ultimate comfort, and high-tech amenities? On the one hand, owners desire to reduce their carbon footprint. But, simultaneously, the other hand still requires an ultimate BMW driving machine that has been electrified and digitized while commanding a massive and stylish presence on the road. The future has arrived!