BMW is investing big in electric mobility, throwing some €200 million at a brand new "battery cell competence center" in Munich dedicated to advancing its electric drivetrain technology. The idea is for BMW to develop its own expertise in battery design, from packaging, testing and weatherproofing right down to the level of cell chemistry and production technologies.
The company is already working on its fifth generation electric powertrain, which combines the motor, transmission and power electronics into a single component, saving a lot of space in the process. It's also cheaper and lighter, as well as scalable to fit a range of different vehicles, and it sidesteps a difficult part of the procurement process by using no rare earth metals.
The company is working on modular design to the point where by 2020, any model series will be able to be fitted with any drivetrain.
This move, along with some of BMW's autonomous car pursuits, signals exciting prospects for the marque in the next 10-15 years. But we're still unsure how premium brands like BMW will fit into a longer term autonomous future. When transport is a super-cheap, on-demand service, owning a car is more expensive and inconvenient than grabbing a ride, and young people stop learning to drive since it's no longer a necessary skill, what's the value of the premium badge?
These are broader issues, but certainly it's exciting to start seeing the wheels of commerce turning among established brands as we move toward the electric revolution.
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