BMW Head Of Development: Electric Car Replacement Batteries / Upgrades Are Part Of Our Plan


BMW i3 Battery Module Cost

BMW i3 Battery Module Cost

Klaus Fröhlich, head of development at BMW, was interviewed by Engineering News. This statement, made by Fröhlich, caught our attention:

“We have defined a certain cell standard millimetre height so that we can build new batteries in 50 years that have the same cell standard, even if the chemistry and energy density will be very different. This means that, when your car fails after 15 years and you go to a BMW shop to have a new battery fitted, you can do so.” 

Future proofing today’s electric cars!

That newly fitted battery would certainly be more energy dense, which should provide more electric range. This upgrade path has not been formally announced by BMW, but it seems the plan is in place to do so.

Fröhlich made several others statements related to EVs, including:

“We have to clarify industry standards that, when the battery is flat, [vehicle owners] can get some form of compensation.” 

*See source link below for more of Fröhlich’s comments from the interview

Lastly, Fröhlich says that in 10 years, 10% of the cars on the roads will be electric. He adds that in 50 years’ time, the majority of cars will be plug-ins.

Hat tip to Mutwin Kraus!

Source: Engineering News

Categories: BMW

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82 Comments on "BMW Head Of Development: Electric Car Replacement Batteries / Upgrades Are Part Of Our Plan"

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This is a completely understated MAJOR advantage of EVs of ICE cars.

Since EVs powertrains don’t have nearly the levels of heat/friction that ICE’s do, EVs should last much longer and be upgradeable as far as newer/better/cheaper batteries.

This will lead to much lower TCO and much less environmental impacts over time vis a vis Dino-Mobiles.


If they really do it, Mr. Fröhlich will make everyone fröhlich (cheerful, merry, in German, I believe) 🙂

Hope every other automaker does it as well!!!

Perhaps frolic derived from that. Seems so, as I looked it up and its Dutch.

What really angers me about ice cars is that I had to sell a car that I really liked do the dumb engine having a impossible to fix oil leak. And the same crap is happening again were the oil is bumbling out on to the top of the engine.

Ice cars biggest laws are the transmission going or leaking fluid and oil leaks.

I bought a new Olds Aurora, and it started leaking oil almost immediately. Fixing it would have involved pulling the engine and tearing it apart. It was a lot cheaper just to add some oil periodically and living with the mess. The mechanic told me the engine could have been made not to leak if GM had been willing to spend about $1 more for some engine sealant and a few minutes of labor to apply it. That’s why I will always hate GM. Oh, and the transmission went out about 3000 miles after the warranty expired. The dealership wanted $4300 to replace it. An independent transmission shop told me the problem was a well known electrical part defect which they fixed for $300.

In The Netherlands we say ‘vrolijk’ (Dutch). The German word sounds almost the same yes.

It would make me really “fröhlich” if all mayor car-makers would meet and create a whole new standard!

Does anyone here remember how computers looked like some years ago? It was a quite nice era in terms of possibilities. There was this ATX stuff… Anyone remembering???

One could buy a case, a mainboard, ram, drives, stuff…

I would like to see that in the car industry:

Offer a base, batterie packs, motors, stuff! Let the customer decide what he really wants.

(I am aware of the few number of minor problems that would arise from such an approach, but at least for some parts of a car it would be wise… What exactly is the reason why lead-acid batteries are so cheap???)

Sorry, I got overwhealmed and forgot the “do-not-type-something-and-press-a-post-comment-button-when-in-overwhealmed-mode…”

I just wanted to say:

I would like the idea that battery-modules were standardized regarding some basic specs like size, connectors and voltages as this would allow customers to buy third-party replacement parts.

Standard sizes and connectors yes.
Voltage not, as an inverter can be added to match to required output This would allow optimised pack construction and multiple platform voltage matching charging formats to be accomplished.

Desktop computers are still like that. Game player build their own machine. Pick: a processor, a motherboard, a power supply, memory, HDD and/or SDD, a graphics card, an OS, an optical drive, keyboard, mouse, etc. It is a fun thing to do with your kids.

Even for Tesla who only sells EVs and doesn’t have a stealer network to satisfy, upgrading existing vehicles will cut into new car sales.

Unlike ICE vehicles, EVs are more like airplanes, where you have a solid chassis that can maintained to like-new standards and evenutally upgraded to new battery technology.

Imagine telling BMW dealers that after they sell an i3, not to expect any service income until they need a battery overhaul. What incentive do they have to sell EVs?

Other than someone else doing it and eating their lunch…that is.

That also invalidates the claim that people need dealerships so they can keep their car maintained.

If you don’t need to visit your dealership every 3,000-12,000 miles, why buy from a dealership in the first place?

The dealer has always several cars for test drives, no need to make an appointment weeks in advance. The dealer gives me always a discount from the list price, no need for a referrer from someone else and it’s not a silly 1.5% discount. If I have a warranty claim, the dealer is just a 10 minutes drive away, the next Tesla service center is a 2 hours drive away.

The stealership always gives you a discount from an inflated price to pay for his middle man cost and profit.

They “always” have cars for test drives and sale because their production capacity far exceeds demand.

My nearest service center is 5 minutes away near market where I buy most of groceries.

If I decide to upgrade my Leaf’s battery when the time comes, I’ll be paying Nissan to do it, and assuming they are making a profit. If I decide to get a new car, I’m going to shop around and possibly end up with a different car manufacturer. By offering the battery upgrade option, they are gaining consumer confidence and could keep consumers from buying other vehicles. In addition, other little things will start breaking requiring dealer visits. Lastly, it would become costly to produce older battery cells for older cars. However, I doubt they’ll actually do this.

If really a change of motor controller, BMS and battery needed it might easily be around 8.500$ on parts alone. Add a day of work and you arive easily at a sum above 10.000$. What if they offer you a battery upgrade for 12k$? Most people i encounter don’t want “a battery upgrade”, what they really want is a “cheap battery upgrade”.

I am pretty sure Nissan can replace a battery run down to 70% and will do so, but this will not be tomorrow. The first replacements (concering the masses) will be in 2 years or later. So Nissan has still enough time to figure it out.

Nissan is not doing this and I think it is going to hurt the Leaf’s future sales. Nissan sent lease returns to auction and that crashed the Leaf resale value. Nissan could have offered battery swaps for a fair price as the tech improved, and taken used 14 and 15 lizard batteries out of those cars. Go through them and then install them in 11 and 12 Leafs and resell them. 13 14 and 15 cars could be upgraded with 30 KW batteries and sold. This would keep the resale value up and increase the publics confidence in the Leaf. Reading that BMW has a path to battery upgrades makes me lean toward that brand. Who wants to own a car with poor range and no hope of improvement? Not me.

Tesla already does battery upgrades to its Roadsters.
Model S s can have their KW/hrs restricted by software.
The battery swap machine developed but not used will be on back burner for future pack up grades. Both S & X models have same battery footprint.

This makes purchasing an i3 way more attractive.

The new Chinese Samsung SDI’s battery plant is already making the new 94 Ah cells to replace the old 60 Ah.

BMW i3 will upgrade its battery from 21,3 kWh to 33,4 kWh soon.

Allowing current owners to upgrade is great news.

Do you have a source for the 33.4kWh claim? That would put the i3 at ~125 miles and I might go without the REx if that’s the case.

Pound for pound this would be a more aggressive upgrade then the Leaf’s upgrade if it is true.

But it makes me kind of wounder what type of range could I add to a Mitsubishi i-miev if I could get this battery to fit into it.

The new 94 Ah cells that will replace the 60 Ah cells are in production since last month.

Samsung SDI 94Ah cell:

Klaus Fröhlich: “We have defined a certain cell standard millimetre height”.

Klaus mentions only a standard height, not standard dimensions.
An upgrade from 21.3kWh to 33.4kWh in the same volume sounds unlikely so soon.
Could the 94Ah cell be thicker than the 60Ah cell? Anyone seen dimension figures for the SDI 60Ah & 94Ah cells?

They have the same size.

The new cells are 37 Ah for PHEVs and 94 Ah for EVs.

The picture doesn’t prove the same size cell. I hope you’re right and Samsung SDI are quietly producing a cell with a 50% greater density.
Even at a 50% increase, the BMW i3 will have around 126 EPA mile range. If the Chevy Bolt releases around the same time at $15k less money and 200+ miles of range, the i3 is going to struggle in the USA.
Add in that the BMW i3 is German manufactured with Chinese batteries and the future looks bright for Chevy.

On the other hand, the i3 would then be able to add enough volume in the gas tank to nearly match the AER, giving it over 200 miles of range, except you needn’t have any range anxiety (unlike the Bolt) because it can run on gas. Plus, under normal driving, most people will be within the AER and almost never use gas, so they would both be functionally all electric except that the i3 could run on gas if necessary. Is that how people would think about it? Not sure, but some would. As far as converting ICE drivers, the REx seems like a big selling point. Worked on me! Although we rarely use the REx in reality. Just playing devils advocate.

The photo shows the 60 & 94 Ah cells have the same height. Unfortunately, the thickness of the cells is not shown.
Samsung’s website has not yet been updated to show the 93Ah cells in production:
Samsung’s ‘next technology roadmap’ lists the 2013 & 2106 cells at 130 Wh/kg while the 2019 cells increase to 250 Wh/kg.
No mention of volume density.
We need dimensions before we can say what the increase in i3 battery capacity will be.
For the i3 volume is the main limiting factor, although the extra mass of the Rex does blunt acceleration.

Probable problems:
– You can’t use the higher charging power that the battery actually allows because the charging electronic was not designed for it.
– Even when like switching from NiCd to NiMH (which are quite similar as a non-rechargeble battery replacement), for “high power” charging the software had to be changed, because the batteries behave differently at that point when you have to reduce the charging power to not damage the cells.
– In newer vehicles they’ll probably decide in the future for some reason to create a new battery pack. If the old isn’t needed quite often anymore, things will get expensive (e.g. see Tesla Roadster upgrade).

-> Without very well upgradeble charging electronics, this won’t work very well. Sadly today in most cases it’s extremely integrated to the rest, so it’s hard to upgrade.


A bigger capacity abttery will still be hugely useful, even if charging speed can’t quite keep up. Most people will still be charging at home, overnight.

you raise a good point but one way to get around the issue that you raise is to enable recharging that bypasses the inverter. tesla currently does this, i believe; the supercharger is a dc charger that bypasses the on-board charger, where the on-board charger is used when recharging is done from an ac power source.

your point is still value with regard to home charging because home charging will not use dc fast charging. that said, there is a limit to how fast you would be able to recharge at battery under home charging. i think tesla can support about 15kW home charging but you have to install a 240v/70a circuit.

Unlike ICE, general EVs top-up on a daily/regular basis (not when the “tank” is empty). If you have Level 2 at home, you can charge at 5kW / hour. If you charge while you sleep, that would be 40kWh, regardless the size of battery.

depending upon how cold it is (which determines how much you have to use cabin heating), 40kWh might get you 80 miles or so of driving, so you can’t assume that home charging will always be sufficient. bigger cars will of course need bigger batteries, but it is my opinion that people in the U.S. don’t really “need” big cars like SUVs; so it is a matter of government policy to create incentives to get people to choose smaller cars.

another issue arises when you forget to recharge – and that does happen. when you forget to refill an ICE, it’s not a big deal because refills are fast; when you forget to recharge a BEV, it’s more of a big deal.

I can easily do 80 miles with my 18.8 kWh battery i3…even in winter time.

i’ve got a chevrolet volt and in the winter my aer can dip down to the low 20’s while in the warmer months it can be as high as 50 miles.

Thank you for that reality check, notting.

It’s simply not believable to think that EV makers are going to make their battery packs backwardly compatible for 50 years. History shows that auto makers are far too invested in planned obsolescence; that is, they want to sell you a new car every few years, not help you upgrade your existing car.

Even if that were not true, in 50 years battery tech will have changed so much that it wouldn’t make any sense to continue to assemble the packs in the same manner, even if we’re still using something properly described as “packs” instead of a radically new technology.

Backward compatible for 50 years is probably unnecessary, but backward compatible for even 10-15 years would go a long way. Then at least you’d know your car won’t be obsolete before you have reasonably driven it into the ground. At year 10-15 or so you buy a new battery (if you want) and you drive it 10 more years. 15-25 years is going to cover 99% of car owners needs/desires for driving a car.

Fantastic news! Now only if the price will come down to $1500 (+$500 install) for a 15 year old EV battery, we’d have a long term EV solution. As of now, even if it costs $100/kWh, 50kWh battery would cost $5500, something most people are unwilling to pay outright for 15 year old car.

$5,500 is about the cost to replace a BMW transmission and perhaps a few other maintenance things. I know a lot of people who have put silly money into keeping their old BMWs running.

a lot of what informs the willingness of people to put “silly money” into repairing a car is consideration of the cost of a new car. $5,500 is a bargain compared to the price of a new car.

Right. I put a grand into my old ’89 Toyota, runs like a dream. Every part I replaced was original with the car.

It’s only a bargain compared to well functioning used cars. If I could buy a comparable used car for less money than battery replacement on 15 year old car, why would I spend the money? Might as well junk it and get a used car. And it just so happens that 15 year old running BMW costs less than $5500!

I’m in a bit of a odd boat right now with old cars and keeping them running. My plan is that if my old gas powered car has a $500 plus repair bill I plan to dump it and then get a electric car.

The only thing stopping me from wanting to keep my old cars running is the fact that I want to get a EV.

You can’t do a straight comparison to a 15 year old used car with less range. Because it isn’t like replacing an automatic transmission in an ICE car, and still ending up with a car that performs the same as any other used car.

Part of the price you are paying is to get a car that is substantially better than other stock used vehicles of the same year.

I’m not one to put $5k into a 10+ year old car that is not worth $5k in the first place.

All the other stuff wears out as well. Bearings, steering, brakes, seats, carpet, headliner, dash cracked and warped, etc, etc,.

I’ll stick with new or newish.

the reason why a person would pay thousands of dollars to repair an old car is because they intend to keep it for a while. if you get to 100,000 miles and are thinking about getting a new car in a year or so, and you encounter a major repair expense in your current car, then you would obviously just accelerate your new car buying plans.

many people would have difficulty in doing without a car altogether so just not having a car at all is not an option, you end up having to make a choice between repair or replace. which way you go has a lot to do with how much disposable income you have.

Yes, or you get one thing fixed for a couple hundred and then something else goes wrong. Then there goes another couple hundred., Hundreds later you have a car that really has not much left to replace. As long as the engine is good, ‘Seafoam’ and ‘Marvel Mystery Oil’, keep it running.
Although in today’s modern a go-go world most people don’t want to put up with the inconvenience, headaches, of fixing a car.
Spending is better than mending. Its a ‘Brave New World.’ Its a mentality.

“which way you go has a lot to do with how much disposable income you have”

That’s the point. People who are likely to own 10 or 15 year old cars are poor people. They won’t have $5500 upfront to replace the battery. Then they look around, find a cheap used gas car of similar vintage, and junk the EV. Battery replacement prices have to come down, far below $100/kWh ($10/kWh would be nice).

In a future were people are driving around with 150 kilowatt batteries that could be possible. In that if let’s say you could fit 150 kilowatts into a BMW i3 or Mitsubishi i-miev for $6000 dollars then it would be possible to put a 30 kilowatt battery pack into a old ev.

For the record I do keep track of a lot of the old cars that people drive at work. What is the main factor that turns a 15 year plus car into a beater is when the dino juice equipment in it starts to go. In that the old cars start kicking out a lot of smoke and the engines start breaking up as all the different ice components die. But the main thing that makes me want to scrap some of these older cars is the dirty smoke they give off and the noise they make.

i don’t consider myself “poor” but i traded in a 12 year old honda accord when i bought my volt. when the car got beyond 100,000 miles and i had to start paying for major service repairs, i figured the car worked fine for me so i considered the cost of repairs to be less than the cost of a new car.

I would consider no one who has the possibility to post here “poor”…

In fact I would consider no one as poor who even thinks about the possibility of owning a car.

Anyone here with a household income less than 100$/month??? No one??? I thought so…

If you consider < $100/mo to be poor, by gosh, we won the war on poverty. Very few people are poor! In fact, much of the world is no longer poor! Hooray!

Wait, wait. I have a better idea. Let's make under $1/mo to be the poor. Now we solved the poverty problem everywhere in the world! Wow, I'm a genius! Nobel Peace Prize, here I come!

A 10 year old Leaf might be basically worthless (from a sales standpoint), but this is talking about BMW, and a 10-year-old car that was originally $70k (the new PHEV X5, for instance), might still be worth putting $5k into in 10 years. Heck, even a 10-year old leaf is worth putting $5k into if everything else about it is in good shape, especially if putting in updated batteries improves range to make it more comparable to a new, $30k leaf.

One could also see it that way:

If you have a EV at the age of 10 years which is worth let’s say 2000$ with a bad battery and you put in a new battery that is worth 5000$ the car would be worth around 7000$.

Aint that sound at least a little bit logical?

To me this approach sound not bad at all.

Most likely I will never be able to buy a new Tesla Model S, but I will hopefully be able to somewhen buy a used one let’s say 15 years old – I really don’t care – at a low price and put some more money into a new battery.

Taking a used LEAF and adding a new battery will somewhen also be possible and most likely even cheaper.

For a low-income household there is no question that it is good news when replacement batteries are offered for EV’s.

your logic is not correct; cars are generally not assets that appreciate in value. the “blue book” value of a car assumes the car to be mechanically sound. an upgraded battery does no more to increase the value of the car than does an upgraded furnace increase the value of a house.

the reason why you would upgrade that battery in an electric vehicle is for your use. if you want to sell the thing then you are better off selling the thing as is and leaving it up to the next owner to decide whether to upgrade the battery.

What if I decide to not sell the car and instead drive it?

that was my point; you would upgrade the battery for your own benefit and not because you think that the car will be worth more in a sale.

What you say is generally true. However, there are cases that run contrary to that line of thinking. Ever see an add for a 15 year old car or truck that is prices several thousand above the perceived retail value? And in the add, the seller notes “just rebuilt transmission, has 75k mile warranty; also new tires and CV joints” etc etc. The seller spent $3k or more on an old car probably worth only $3k, but then sells it for $5k b/c of the spending. The key is generally a shop rebuilt transmission with a transferrable warranty. So, if an EV owner puts a new battery in an old EV, and assuming Nissan/BMW etc warranty replacement batteries in the same way they warrant new ones, I could definitely see the retail value of a vehicle going up several thousand dollars to reflect this information.

premiums for old cars are usually for cars that the seller tries to pass off as “collectibles”. so the reason why the car would get a premium is because the buyer wants that specific car, and so he is paying the premium for one that is in “like new” condition. for example, i might consider paying a premium for a rebuilt 1978 amc pacer. granted, amc made oddball cars, but i happened to like some of their cars.

Your comparison is wrong.
When you fix and old car to keep it running, you just try to get it as close to its original working condition.
If you fix an aging BEV with fading battery by replacing them with new guaranteed one that has twice more or less the energy content of the original, you adding a value in it.
You just make an 80 miles BEV an 140 ones.
That would certainly be more valuable than putting a working part to replace one that don’t.
That why blue, red or black book don’t appreciated well this type of vehicle(BEV)

I noticed the new Volt battery appears to be electrically compatible with the Gen 1 Volt.
See slide 2 in this video.

I wonder if GM will do something similar. It sure would be nice to take my 2011 Volt to the dealer someday and come out with a battery that gives me a lot more range than when it was new.

I would do something like that to a volt if I could trade in a 20 to 30 mile range battery for a battery that got 80 to 120 miles.

Well now, this is interesting! Given that Nissan has said no to putting the 30 kWh pack into my 2015 Leaf (one day, not today) and now BMW is saying outright that they BEVs will in fact be upgradable. I am now likely to turn in my Leaf when the lease is up and pick up an i3 or another BMW EV if one is available by then.

To me it is only a question of time when there will be offerings from third-party manufacturers.

A battery pack is no magical thing. Once there is a market for replacement packs there will be companies offering those, maybe it’s even better if some car companies (nissan?) leave this market open, so that there is more competition.

At the current number of possible upgrade customers, only DIY-kits would be economical useful.

AFAIK there is no final decision from Nissan yet.

If Nissan would just man up and commit to the people that are responsible for the success of the LEAF..early adopters..that there WILL BE battery upgrades we can all relax and stop worrying about the thought that we made a bad choice buying early. I love my leaf and would love to upgrade in the future. A press release saying this would resolve most LEAF owners worries. Come on Nissan.

I agree, Nissan needs to step forward and do this now! Most Leaf owners won’t upgrade the battery b/c most people don’t want to drive a car more than 8 – 10 years. But it’s a psychological thing, and by making an upgrade path they will get a brand benefit from nearly all Leaf owners. I have 2 years and 2 months left on my 3 year Leaf lease. So for me, they have that much time to do this. If they don’t, there is a very low probability I will buy the Leaf, will probably just turn it in. And imagine in late 2017 (when Bolt, Model 3, new Leaf, and others are all hitting the market) how many off lease gen 1 Leaf’s they are going to have on their hands.

Totally agree on the battery topic.
Nissan should support their first “trailblazer” and offer replacement of bigger battery pack.
It would also keep their valuable pioneer base with them and propel the company sales for even more new customer.
I, for one, would keep my car well beyond 8 or 10 years if I could replace the battery with one that goes much longer.
Because I like the car pretty much, but I find the range more and more the real value of any BEV.
So, to double this (hoping) would make me happy to put more money in it, but if Nissan doesn’t step up, It will be an open game for all to choose from.

The best way to leverage this in the future would be for BMW to have CPO used vehicles where they replace the batteries and resell the vehicles with a substantial CPO warranty.

Then we’ll know they are actually serious about making their vehicles last.

Companies which are serious about making their products reliable for a long time are quite prone to bancrupcy… All those Miele washing machines still working… a real problem 😉

The name Curtis Mathis comes to mind.

“Curtis Mathes. The most expensive television set in America and darned well worth it” was their advertising tagline from the late 70’s. But today everything is built as part of the throw away society. I continue my futile fight against that and keep soldiering on with my 17 year old Passat, bought new.

It’s way premature to celebrate upgradeable batteries… Lots of times companies trumpet their modular, upgradeable design for a product, except it later turns out to be so expensive as to be not worthwhile.

However, what’s MUCH more noteworthy about the quote is:
“Fröhlich says that in 10 years, 10% of the cars on the roads will be electric”
Whether or not he means EVs in general or just BEVs, that’s a very impressive estimate, given the car lifecycle. It means that in the 2020-2025 timeframe EV marketshare of cars sold then will be 20%+ . It’s very encouraging to hear from a traditional carmaker.

The longevity problem isn’t actually about the batteries. It’s about the electronics.

In 15 years, who will stock the i3’s various computers? And at what cost?
The battery is the easy part to replace. The outdated and no longer available CPUs are going to render the car unfixable (at reasonable cost).

(Anyone try to keep MacBook circa 2000 running today?)


And this is going to be a major problem for 3rd party battery pack makers, too. The operation of the pack’s BMS (Battery Management System) is almost certainly going to use proprietary software, and its interaction with the motor’s PEM (Power Electronics Module” is also going to require proprietary software.

Will a 3rd party be able to “hack the system” and make their pack work with the computers and software in the car?

Hacking a car’s electronics seems to be a rather iffy, trouble-prone activity. More like what a hobbyist would put up with, not what Joe Average is willing to put up with in his daily driver.

Dam you! I thought battery price is the only thing that’ll prevent 20 year old EV, now you throw in another monkey wrench! You are right, of course. Something should be done…

“…Fröhlich says that in 10 years, 10% of the cars on the roads will be electric. He adds that in 50 years’ time, the majority of cars will be plug-ins.”

If the percentage of cars on the road which are PEVs reaches 10% in only 10 years — and I hope he’s right — then we’ll be in the period of exponential growth of a disruptive tech revolution, and it will take far less than a further 40 years to reach 50%.

Seems as if this makes the idea of repair or replace for EVs in the same category as it is for ICE. It depends on your priorities and values.

Modular batteries in PHEVs would be useful. You could start out with a basic capacity and increase if you needed more local range.

The Canadian version is mostly “Fralick” although there at least half dozen other ways to spell it.

Glad to hear they are planning ahead. And this can be a way to sell parts to EVs that won’t as many replacement parts as ICE cars. Take a trade-in of the old battery for a new one. Sell the old one to a house that wants to use it for a back-up battery.