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BMW CEO Oliver Zipse announced plans to completely revamp its battery-car strategy. They will have unique platforms for their new EVs starting in 2025.

This is a huge shift from where they were going before.

“The aim is to create an overall optimum with the new architecture,” CEO Oliver Zipse said during BMW’s quarterly earnings presentation on Wednesday.


A week before unveiling the all-new iNext battery-electric vehicle, BMW said it will “realign” its strategy and begin developing a unique architecture solely for “electric drives,” rather than sharing the same platform for vehicles using both battery and conventional gas and diesel powertrains.

That’s a complete about face for the Bavarian marque which, in recent years, had hoped to save money and simplify manufacturing by coming up with common architectures that could roll off the same line. But it also marks a return to BMW’s original strategy when electrified models like the all-electric i3 city car and plug-in hybrid i8 sports car used unique platforms.

“The aim is to create an overall optimum with the new architecture,” CEO Oliver Zipse said during BMW’s quarterly earnings presentation on Wednesday.

Over the past decade, the auto industry has gone back and forth on the appropriate approach to developing electrified vehicles, pure battery-electric models, in particular. Some, like the Ford Focus Electric and the Volkswagen e-Golf, shared common platforms with the gas and diesel versions of those vehicles. Others, such as the original BMW i models, as well as the new Ford Mustang Mach-E and VW ID.3, used unique architectures.

Each approach had both pluses and minuses. Shared platforms result in design compromises, often limiting the amount of batteries that could be stored on a vehicle – impacting range, among other things. But development costs can be held down, while increasing the flexibility of a company’s assembly lines.

Unique platforms, most adopting a skateboard-style layout with batteries and motors mounted below the load floor, can handle larger packs, increasing range and lowering a vehicle’s center of gravity. But that means additional development costs and the tooling up of plants dedicated solely to EVs.

With an upcoming wave of new products BMW had aimed for a compromise strategy. They use flexible platforms that can squeeze more batteries under the load floor for models like the all-electric i4 fastback due out next year. But there’s space for a conventional internal combustion engine for products such as the next BMW 4-Series.

Now, , “We will realign our vehicle architecture from the middle of the decade,” said Zipse, adding that, “Our new cluster architecture is geared towards electric drives” exclusively.

“Our new plant in Hungary plays a key role here,” said the CEO, noting that production of “the new BEV-centered architecture will start there.”

The plan is to make the new strategy a high priority, an all-new product development operation reporting directly to Zipse. But it will be able to reach out to all other areas within the company, from engineering to sales and marketing which “gives us more control and makes us much faster,” he explained.

The shared platform strategy had come under intense scrutiny within BMW, noted German magazine Automobilwoche, Over the summer, Manfred Wochs, the head of the BMW Works Council, had warned that it resulted in “too many compromises” that could set BMW back competitively, especially in key markets like the U.S. and China.

BMW is racing to get a leg up in an emerging market segment that currently is dominated by the upstart Tesla – with an assortment of traditional competitors, as well as start-ups like Lucid, Fisker and Rivian, aiming to gain share.

But Zipse insisted that BMW will be ready when its new EVs hit market around 2025. “We anticipate that the demand for fully electric vehicles will continue to increase significantly from 2025 onwards. Exactly then – keyword timing – we will ignite phase III of our transformation.”
 

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Tesla will be making a big shift as well by leaving behind the skateboard design:

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The Tesla Model S employed a "skateboard" design concept. As you can see from the image above, the chassis looks like a skateboard, and the battery sits within it, below the car. This frees up cabin space and creates a balanced center of gravity. Many other automakers are now using a similar concept for their electric cars.

Based on information revealed at Tesla's Battery Day and confirmed during the company's Q3 2020 earnings call, there may no longer be a Tesla skateboard design in the future. This is because Tesla is planning on putting its new 4680 battery cells inside a structural pack. Basically, the car's frame also serves as its battery pack.


2020 Tesla Shareholders Meeting and Battery Day


From Elon Musk:

“It’s not like existing cars stop having value. It’s just that if you have a structural pack, where the pack is contributing structural value to the car because of like the — sort of like the composite honeycomb effect of share transfer between upper and lower plate, then anything that doesn’t do that is going to have to have duplicate hardware."

“It’s going to weigh more. It’s going to cost more. And then the same goes for the front and rear castings. To be frank, we’re trying to make the car like you’d make a toy. If you had a toy model car, how would — and then it’s got to be real cheap and look great, how would you make that? You’ll cast it."
 
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