OEMs make battery progress

Toyota and BMW are both upping their cell games

OEMs make battery progress
Toyota's plant is at Liberty, just southeast of Greensboro, NC

Japan’s Toyota will invest another $8bn to add c.3,000 jobs at its TBMNC battery manufacturing plant in North Carolina, bringing total investment at the site to c.$13.9bn and job creation to more than 5,000. And it represents a significant move for the OEM in the direction of BEVs and PHEVs rather than the HEVs it has previously favoured.

An additional eight BEV and PHEV battery production lines will be added at TBMNC to two previously announced, for a total of ten BEV/PHEV battery lines. The plant is already slated to have four battery lines for HEVs.

“Today’s announcement reinforces Toyota’s commitment to electrification,” says Sean Suggs, president of Toyota North Carolina. By 2025, Toyota plans to have an electrified option available for every Toyota and Lexus model globally.

Production will be increased in a phased approach, with line launches planned through 2030 to reach a total production of more than 30GWh annually.

Battery expertise

On the other side of the Atlantic, Germany’s BMW has opened a training centre at its new battery plant in Debrecen, Hungary, where series production for the first BEV model of the firm’s Neue Klasse initiative will start in 2025. “The Neue Klasse is our promise for the future because it gives us the opportunity to completely rethink mobility and collaboration,” says Ilka Horstmeier, BMW management board member for people and real estate and labour relations director.

“We shape our transformation through people and places together with our employees — they make the difference. With the start of the first 100 students and the opening of the training centre here in Debrecen, we are underlining the relevance of education and training as a decisive factor for the future orientation of our company,” she continues. The Debrecen plant is designed for a production capacity of 150,000 units/yr.

Earlier this month, the first battery cell samples of those that will be used in Neue Klasse models from 2025 onwards rolled off the production line at the firm’s new Cell Manufacturing Competence Centre (CMCC) in Parsdorf, just east of Munich. “With the CMCC, we are strengthening Germany’s capacity for innovation,” says Milan Nedeljkovic, BMW management board member for production, promising a “quantum leap in technology in the Neue Klasse”.

“The CMCC is the perfect complement to our existing Battery Cell Competence Centre in the north of Munich,” says Frank Weber, BMW management board member for development. “Development takes place there, then we scale the best product towards a series process in Parsdorf. Thanks to cross-divisional collaboration, we are able to link product and process in a unique way.”

At these two Bavarian battery cell competence centres, BMW is “systematically pursuing future milestones, such as the ramp-up of the sixth generation of BMW electric drive trains and development of all-solid-state batteries”. The CMCC has received investment of c.€170mn ($180mn), with German federal and Bavarian state ministries supporting the project within the framework of the European Important Projects of Common European Interest funding process.

Motoring forward

Another legacy OEM making electrification progress — but on motors rather than batteries — is France’s Renault. It will supply an all-in-one architecture for the new E7A motor — which will make it 30pc more compact for equivalent power than current motors equipping the Megane E-Tech and the Scenic E-Tech BEVs — and rare-earths-free rotor technology — which will shrink its carbon footprint by 30pc. By using a wound rotor instead of permanent magnets, Renault aims to improve engine output, securing its supply chain and avoid reliance on countries that produce rare earths and magnets.

Its partner on the E7A, Valeo, will in turn supply a stator that promises to boost power and efficiency. The new E7A motor will, as a result, boast capacity of up to 200kW. The new motor also promises to help shorten battery charging times as the system will be built for 800V instead of today’s standard 400V.

Mass production of the E7A is targeted to start at Renault's Cleon factory just south of Rouen at the end of 2027.

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