BMW will dramatically increase the number of lithium-ion battery cells it buys from lithium-ion battery producers Samsung SDI over the next two years, increasing its 2016 lithium-ion battery cell order with the South Korean firm by at least twenty to thirty percent over its 2014 orders.
That’s according to an official statement made earlier this morning by BMW to Reuters in which the automaker detailed a memorandum of understanding signed yesterday between it and its exclusive battery supplier. Embargoed until this morning, the multi-billion euro deal will not only ensure BMW has a steady supply of battery cells for its popular i3 electric car and i8 plug-in hybrid, but will also make it possible for BMW to bring the first of its non i sub-brand plug-in hybrids to market.
BMW’s i sub-brand — which includes all-electric cars like the i3, range-extended electric cars like the i3 REx and plug-in hybrid cars like the i8 sports car, currently makes use of Samsung SDI battery cells for all of its vehicles. With an emphasis on each car’s plug-in prowess, all cars in the i sub-brand can be thought of as purely electric or partially electric cars with occasional gasoline-engine help. Or to put it another way, electric cars with gasoline assistance.
Plug-in variants of BMW’s existing gasoline cars — like the soon-to-launch X5 e-Drive plug-in hybrid — are marketed as gasoline or diesel vehicles with electric assistance when required. Operationally opposite to the BMW i sub-brand, they will offer all-electric capabilities for short distances around town, but will make far more use of internal combustion engines or blended hybrid operation for their motive power.
Both types of plug-in form a part of BMW’s future lineup, allowing BMW to offer plug-in capabilities to as many different markets as possible.
Samsung SDI, which also supplies lithium-ion battery packs to Apple Computer, is not the first choice as battery supplier the automotive world with other automakers preferring to either buy cells from rival companies like LG Chem and Panasonic, or to build their own in-house battery packs. It should be noted however that multiple automakers, including Tesla, have courted Samsung SDI as potential battery suppliers in the past, while Ford Motor Company is currently working with Saumsung SDI to develop a more efficient battery for internal combustion engine vehicles.
While BMW’s near future plans include increased battery supply from Samsung SDI however, BMW isn’t discounting alternative ways of powering electric cars, admitting that like other automakers, it too is looking at hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as a possible power source.
Admitting that BMW still felt range anxiety was a big barrier to making electric cars part of its mainstream lineup, Klaus Draeger, BMW’s purchasing chief said that hydrogen wasn’t being discounted.
“This is why the whole industry is still looking very much at fuel cells because it is not clear what is also happening on the side of the electric infrastructure,” he said.
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