Next year, after quite some time since we first heard about it, BMW will introduce its 5th generation of the electric drivetrain (BMW eDrive), which concerns all the components (high-voltage batteries, motors, transmissions, power electronics and more).
In short, the new eDrive will offer more of everything, more efficiency, more power, more range and should allow the introduction of a compelling range of next-generation long-range BEVs with "balance of weight and range".
At first, BMW eDrive 5th-gen will be utilized in the all-new BMW iX3 (described recently here), which is scheduled for production in China (for global market) by the end of 2020. Afterwards, similar components to be used also in BMW i4 and BMW iNEXT.
Let's summarize what we know about the new BMW eDrive toolkit.
The 5th-gen BMW eDrive has been completely redeveloped (100% in-house) and both the drive unit and the high-voltage battery unit are flexibly scalable (power, energy, vehicle architecture).
"The fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology is the key to future-oriented sustainability for vehicles with electrified drive systems. It is the result of consistent development work within the framework of BMW EfficientDynamics and the experience gained by the BMW Group in the field of electric mobility spanning more than 10 years. All powertrain components used for BMW eDrive technology were developed solely by the BMW Group. Moreover, the electric motor and the high-voltage batteries are produced in corporately owned manufacturing facilities. In this way, the BMW Group ensures it has a decisive influence on the product properties and the quality of each component. Furthermore, the drive unit and the high-voltage battery unit are flexibly scalable in terms of power and energy content and can thus be used in various different vehicle concepts and segments."
As we can see above, all of the major components are scalable to cover a wide range of applications, from entry-level through true performance models.
- On-board chargers: The new Combined Charging Unit (CCU) varies from 3.7 kW (single-phase), through 11 kW (three-phase / 3.7 kW per phase) up to 22 kW (three-phase / 7.3 kW per phase).
- Electric drive units: from 90 kW (entry-level BEVs) up to more than 300 kW (performance BEVs)
- Battery packs: scalable battery capacity and few cell/module types for various type of cars (SUVs, sedans)
- Architecture: all-wheel drive BEVs, rear-wheel-drive BEVs, and plug-in hybrids with electric motor on the rear axle.
The BMW eDrive drive unit will integrate electric motor, system electronics and transmission into a central housing. This one change makes the drive unit smaller and lighter. The power to weight ratio increased by around 30%.
Moreover, the electric motor itself does not need rare earth materials.
"In the BMW iX3, EfficientDynamics reaches a new level. The vehicle’s fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology comprises a drive unit in which electric motor, system electronics and transmission are brought together into a central housing. As a result, the required installation space of the drive technology and its weight are considerably reduced. The ratio between motor output and weight of the drive system improves around 30 percent compared to the previous generation.
The electric motor featured in the BMW iX3 delivers a maximum power output of 210 kW/286 hp*. The torque of 400 Nm* allows for high initial acceleration and keeps a high level even at the upper motor speeds because of exclusive BMW design measures.
A further special feature of the electric motor being deployed in the BMW iX3 for the first time is a construction method that eliminates the need for rare earth materials."
In the case of batteries, BMW will use Samsung SDI and CATL prismatic cells of various sizes (few options for cars/SUVs to keep the floor flat and not intrude on passenger or luggage compartment, optimized for BEVs or PHEVs).
The press release about the iX3 says that the 5th-gen packs use NMC 811 lithium-ion cells (with about 10% cobalt content).
The gravimetric energy density (on a cell level) is roughly 20% higher in the iX3 than in previous models (BMW i3 we assume).
The biggest battery options should be able to provide a range of 600 km (373 miles) or even 700 km (435 miles) in the case of BEVs or 100 km (62 miles) in the case of PHEVs.
DC fast charging is expected at least up to 150 kW.
"The high-voltage battery unit of the BMW iX3 is integral part of BMW’s fifth eDrive generation and is based on the latest evolution in NMC-811 technology in BMW typical prismatic design. The BMW Group has outstanding development capabilities in this field. This know-how flows into precise specifications with regard to the use of materials and battery design, according to which the battery cells are produced. Consistent research and development work not only raises energy density but also constantly improves all battery cell characteristics, in particular also durability and safety. In total, the BMW high-voltage battery shows the optimum of what is possible nowadays.
At the same time the BMW engineers were able to reduce the share of cobalt contained in the battery by another two thirds. Compared to former technology used by BMW Group, the gravimetric energy density on cell level in the BMW iX3 is around 20 percent higher.
In addition, scalability and the compact design of the high-voltage battery unit have been further optimised. The battery cells are grouped into modules at specialised BMW production locations and finally assembled as high-voltage battery packs aligned to each model. The high-voltage battery unit in the BMW iX3 is installed in an extremely flat position in the vehicle floor. Thanks to this arrangement, there is no loss of space for passengers and the luggage compartment compared to the conventionally powered versions of the BMW X3."
BMW 5th generation drivetrain (video from about a year ago)
BMW concepts (from left:iNEXT, iX3, BMW i Vision Dynamics) alonge BMW i3 (right):