BMW has just laid the cornerstone for a massive expansion plan for its Chinese JV effort alongside Brilliance China Automotive Holdings. By 2020, the BMW Brilliance Alliance (BBA) will start making “new, more powerful batteries of the fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology for the fully-electric BMW iX3” at its ‘High-Voltage Battery Centre Phase II’.
Although BMW’s electric car efforts date back to 1972, it currently has only the i3 as a pure-bred EV offering. But plug-in sales are now 5% of overall sales globally, and that’s good enough of an incentive to start investing and focusing heavily on the pure EV segment.
Considering the fact that companies like GM, Tesla and even Audi are far ahead in terms of battery tech, battery density and the cost of EV battery production, BMW has a long way to go. The Model 3 from Tesla is the front runner, but other companies are quickly ramping up their investments to play catch-up with the market leader.
The only thing going for BMW is that they can charge a premium and their customers won’t bat an eyelid. That’s a big advantage for the transition to electric vehicles because cost is one of the main barriers to mass-market EV production. And I doubt BMW will ever go mass-market, which means it has some leverage to beat other companies to the finish line and be the first to have a comprehensive line-up of EV alternatives to their best-performing ICE (internal combustion engine) and plug-in counterparts.
That being said, it’s still an uphill course for BMW over the next few years as it expands its battery production capacity as well as its EV line-up. The China bid will certainly help, but there has to be more than just a promise of “Next 100.” What we need to see are some real moving parts in real-world scenarios generating some real sales for the company.