It has been quite difficult to follow BMW’s position on electric vehicles over the past year. The German automaker’s electric vehicle leadership under ‘BMW i’ left to join a newly formed Chinese EV startup, and they announced having put their EV plans on the “back burner.”
Now comments made by Stefan Juraschek, Vice President of Electric-Powertrain Development at BMW, are giving us a better understanding of the reason why the company is holding back when it comes to EVs.
BMW expects years of difficulties for electric cars due to battery technology.
At a briefing at a BMW testing facility in Munich, Juraschek told reporters (via Bloomberg) that the automaker doesn’t expect a doubling of battery capacity for the next “~7 years” and in the meantime, the executive says that they will have to “walk through the valley of tears” in order to manufacture electric vehicles at a price competitive with gas-guzzling cars.
Friedrich Eichiner, BMW’s Chief Financial Officer, added:
“We’ve learned that people aren’t prepared to pay a higher price for an electric vehicle. I don’t see some kind of disruptive element coming from electric cars that would prompt sales to go up quickly in the next five to six years.”
Unlike some competitors, BMW is not heavily investing in battery technology and, therefore, it relies on suppliers to improve the technology. In the 2017 version of their BMW i3, the company introduced new battery cells from Samsung that enabled a capacity increased to 33 kWh – up from 22 kWh, which has been standard since the 2014 model year.
German competitors, like Daimler and Volkswagen, have announced their intentions to invest in their own battery manufacturing capability in order to stay competitive during the auto industry’s transition to electric propulsion.
Tesla led the way for electric automakers to invest in battery production. The company announced its plans to invest in battery manufacturing back in 2013 and the plant started producing battery packs in 2015. Battery cell production is expected to start any day.
While BMW doesn’t appear to be as optimistic as some of its competitors when it comes to electric vehicles, the company still recently greenlighted new electric vehicles for production, including a SUV X3 and battery-powered Mini, and it is reportedly working on the next gen i3, which should come in 2017 with a design refresh and up to 50% more range.