BMW is currently working on its fifth generation electric powertrain technology and it arguably represents the biggest change in electric motor and battery technology for the German automaker since the launch of the BMW i3 in 2013.
BMW’s fifth generation electric powertrain technology is going to enable the company’s first long-range electric vehicle. It features more integrated, powerful, and yet compact drivetrain and battery packs with higher energy capacity.
Battery Packs, Modules, and Cells
Today, BMW’s biggest battery pack is the i3’s 33 kWh pack, but the fifth generation technology will include battery packs with more than twice the energy capacity. The BMW iX3, which was unveiled in China earlier this year, is going to be the first vehicle to feature this new powertrain. It was already announced that the electric SUV will feature a 70 kWh battery pack.
In the basement of a prototyping lab in one of BMW’s many facilities in Munich, the automaker showed us an “early prototype of the battery pack”, but we weren’t able to take pictures of it.
Unsurprisingly, they went with a skateboard-like platform, which has somewhat become the standard for bigger battery packs over the last few years.
They appear to still be experimenting with battery module configurations as the packs that we saw, both an iX3 pack prototype and an iNext pack prototype, looked fairly rough.
One thing is clear, the new battery modules will be made of li-ion prismatic battery cells.
It is becoming the standard in electric vehicles from legacy automakers. Only Tesla and a few new EV startups are venturing into using cylindrical cells.
BMW is already using Samsung 94 Ah prismatic cells for the BMW i3. The automaker’s PHEV vehicles also use the prismatic cells.
New electric drive unit, which is dubbed ‘Heat’, and it is indeed impressively compact for a 200 kW system.They can pull as much as 250 kW at peak output from this relatively small electric machine.
While they are sticking to the prismatic format, they are experimenting with different sizes and chemistry.
The prototyping line is capable of making about one thousand cells per year, which is enough to make several prototype battery packs.
Juraschek explained that they want to gain an expertise in battery manufacturing and chemistry in order to work more closely with battery makers.
Electric Motors and Drivetrains
One thing that BMW has no issue bringing in-house is electric drivetrains. For the fifth generation, BMW is moving away from permanent magnet motors and integrating the electric motor inside the drive unit to create one entire compact system.
BMW claims to have made several innovations with this motor including with the more compact and easier to manufacture coil system seen in the pictures above.
The automaker plans to use the drive units in a variety of different powertrains from PHEV to BEV including single and dual motor configurations.
Source: Electrek, 2018.
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