We went to the BMW factory to see if BMW’s first pure electric SUV would work

After Mercedes-Benz and Audi successively deployed pure electric vehicles in China, BMW in the luxury car company team finally pulled the engine.

BMW's first pure electric SUV, the BMW iX3 , recently officially completed its debut in China. It is also the first global model of BMW Brilliance. It is produced in China and exported globally.

However, the BMW iX3 does not seem to be as amazing as expected. After all, its exterior and interior basically continue the X3 design, but the highlight of this car is its fifth-generation power battery technology.

Speaking of this, I have to mention the factory behind it.

The battery for the BMW iX3 is produced by the second phase of the BMW Brilliance Power Battery Center, which is the first BMW plant in the world to produce the fifth-generation power battery.

The second day of the new car launch event, the second phase of the BMW Brilliance Power Battery Center opened, opening a new door to BMW's electrification development in Shenyang, China.

We also walked into this place to see how the first domestically-made BMW electric car was "created in China".

BMW’s new electric road starts with these laboratories

For BMW's first pure electric SUV, the battery is its soul.

As early as 2013, the BMW Brilliance R&D Center was established and became BMW's innovation center for the development of new energy in China. In 2017, the BMW Brilliance Power Battery Center opened and became the BMW Group's first base outside of Germany with complete battery equipment capabilities.

The battery center was officially opened on Monday, and it also began to serve as the first production base for BMW's fifth-generation battery.

The fifth-generation BMW eDrive electric drive technology, from technology to key components, is independently developed by the BMW Group. It is characterized by lightweight, miniaturization, integration and scalability.

This allows the BMW iX3 to reach a range of 500 kilometers with a vehicle weight of 2.2 tons, an energy consumption of 16.7 kWh per 100 kilometers, and an acceleration time of 6.8 seconds per 100 kilometers.

But self-producing batteries is not an easy task.

For automobile manufacturers, self-produced batteries can completely control product quality and safety, but they also face the challenges of complex production processes and technologies.

BMW Brilliance started this exploration in the battery center.

The entire battery center is mainly composed of seven parts: R&D Phase I laboratories and offices, R&D Phase II laboratories and offices, and test track, test workshop, and analysis center.

The first thing I went to was the powertrain test bed of the second phase of the R&D center. In the room full of intricate wiring and mechanical equipment, the staff introduced us to the entire new energy powertrain system.

There are dynamometers used to imitate complex roads and spaces in this place; auxiliary systems composed of silver exhaust system, oil cooling system, temperature control system, etc., to ensure the normal operation of the equipment during the test; and pure electric powertrain One of the special equipment-battery simulator, which can avoid the safety hazards caused by real batteries, and can fully simulate all the characteristics of healthy real batteries.

▲ High-voltage power battery pack test

In addition to technology, safety is the top priority of the battery center and the foundation of pure electric vehicles.

After all, according to the statistics of the Advanced Industrial Research Institute , there have been about 20 spontaneous combustion incidents in domestic new energy vehicles in the first half of this year, and the safety hazards of pure electric vehicles should not be underestimated.

In another independent space, there is a control system that can simulate automatic pedals and steering signals, various digital signals, and simulate various behaviors of the driver, all in order to comply with international standards while avoiding system hazards.

BMW Brilliance has many domestic models, but we only saw a powertrain test bench. In fact, this is because the test bench inside is flexible. The fourth-generation hybrid and fifth-generation pure electric vehicles can be used. Switching freely on this platform and choosing a co-line production method instead of a pure electric platform allows BMW to avoid the situation of large investment and small demand.

Of course, BMW said that after the expansion of the second phase of the R&D center in the future, the number of test workshops and test benches will also double, and all test benches will be able to carry out related tests of new energy products.

After the power system, we saw the high-voltage battery laboratory launched in 2012 in the first phase of the R&D center.

This is where BMW Brilliance develops battery technology, and it is also the first laboratory that BMW Brilliance put into use. It has three characteristics of high integration, high automation, and high safety level.

▲ High-voltage battery module test

Among them, charging and discharging equipment, battery water cooling equipment, and low-voltage communication equipment are all jointly controlled by a software, which greatly reduces the workload of the project and improves the work efficiency of employees; all electrical performance tests, including environmental performance The data of similar tests and software functions related tests will be repeatedly verified; the carbon monoxide, oxygen, nitrogen, and sensors scattered in the pipeline can protect the battery and will alarm when there is an abnormality.

▲ R&D center test

The last entry is the electromagnetic compatibility laboratory that BMW Brilliance employees call "high-end atmosphere and high-end".

Entering the laboratory is like entering a large avant-garde art installation space. The five walls on the front, back, left, and ceiling are all filled with white barbed cones.

▲ BMW iX3 EMC test

This is a material made of special fibers, called a absorbing material, which absorbs electromagnetic waves. When the door of this laboratory is closed, the electromagnetic environment inside becomes pure and flawless.

But what is electromagnetic compatibility? Electromagnetic compatibility can be divided into electromagnetic interference and electromagnetic immunity. The former is like the noise interference caused by the decoration of your neighbor next door. When the intelligent network connection of the vehicle becomes higher and higher, the electromagnetic noise will affect the normal of the vehicle. Work or vehicles can also cause interference to the outside; the latter is like you have built a soundproof wall, and your neighbor’s decoration will not affect you.

The staff introduced that if the electromagnetic immunity of the vehicle is well done, even in such a complex electromagnetic environment with high-voltage wires all over, it will not cause engine stalls or radio noise due to electromagnetic interference.

Their work in this laboratory is to reduce the interference of vehicles and improve the immunity of vehicles.

It can be seen that BMW Brilliance has invested a lot in pure electric models. No matter now or in the future, pure electric models will be a core business of BMW Brilliance.

Said the laboratory's operations manager.

Although it was impossible to get a complete picture of the R&D process during the visits to the various laboratories, the dictation and presentation by the staff also partially outlined the rigor of R&D technology and the importance BMW Brilliance attaches to them.

It’s not easy for the fifth-generation battery to enter BMW cars

Although BMW currently does not produce battery cells, it has not fully handed over the battery cell design to the supplier. It is said that BMW’s "battery core requirements" obtained for the first time in the CATL era are more than 800 pages of power battery production standards. .

▲ BMW iX3 battery diagram

Since 2018, BMW has established a battery technology center in Germany to study battery technology, analyze battery design, and adjust battery properties. In the future, BMW may also develop and produce battery cells by itself.

The current high-voltage battery pack for BMW iX3 uses 811-type nickel-cobalt-manganese ternary lithium-ion batteries with a net capacity of 74 kWh and a weight energy density of up to 154 watt-hours/kg. According to the research and development staff, it is a "special supply" from the Ningde era. For BMW, it is a modified battery solution that meets BMW's requirements.

In the production area of ​​BMW Brilliance, we saw how these batteries were assembled into a BMW iX3 car through strict procedures.

The module production line here is fully automated. Workers and automatic equipment cooperate in an orderly manner. Everything is done in an orderly manner.

The power battery production process currently adopted by the BMW Group consists of two stages: one is to assemble the batteries into battery modules, and the other is to further assemble them into battery packs.

▲ Battery pack production line

When people choose a pure electric vehicle, they are concerned about battery life and safety.

Battery life depends on the battery, and safety depends on the module. The batteries of the BMW iX3 are the basic units in 10 modules, of which 188 batteries can "live in harmony" to ensure the safety of the car.

Therefore, at the beginning, the batteries must be sprayed with insulating paint in the spraying workshop, and then the quality of the spraying should be tested, and then insulating diaphragms should be installed to ensure absolute safety between the batteries.

▲ Insulating film

Then, through "Industry 4.0" technologies such as plasma cleaning and smart optical inspection, the consistency and reliability of the production of these cells can be guaranteed.

▲ Plasma cleaning

Then, pressure plates and tension plates are welded on both sides of the battery cell, and assembled into modules. There is a liquid cooling temperature control system and thermal conductive glue between the modules, which can speed up the heat exchange between the battery module and the cooling system.

▲ The central control unit is fixed to the module

These batteries also use an expandable module system, which means that they can support different numbers of batteries to meet the needs of different models and different cruising ranges.

After the module production line was off the assembly line, they entered the highly flexible battery pack production line.

The professional high-voltage battery technicians here will integrate the battery module with the connectors, the control unit, and the cooling unit into an aluminum casing to assemble a complete power battery pack.

▲ Automatic stacking

In addition, the battery pack must "acquire the truth" and pass 128 rigorous mechanical verification tests and 994 software verification tests, such as fire, sea water immersion, and acupuncture.

After a series of processes, the battery will be transported to the Dadong factory and finally assembled on the body of the pure electric BMW iX3.

▲ Automatic transportation module

It is worth mentioning that these production lines all use automated guided vehicles (AGV). The staff said that they can adjust the driving path at any time according to production needs, and 100% online leak detection, while performing high and low voltage testing to ensure battery quality.

The entire battery pack is also arranged in the central area of ​​the vehicle chassis, which not only increases the overall rigidity of the vehicle, but also reduces the risk of direct impact on the battery pack caused by a front and rear collision in an accident.

▲Automatic navigation vehicle transport battery pack

This time, BMW’s fifth-generation battery, battery cells and battery technology are all first launched, from the battery glue and paint, to the combination mode and production line, it is also customized and developed according to the fifth generation.

In general, their advantages are better battery life, higher safety, and modular assembly is more suitable for future customization.

The mass production of the fifth-generation power battery means that preparations for the launch of the pure electric BMW iX3 are steadily proceeding.

It is reported that this battery technology will also be applied to the new BMW i4 and BMW iNEXT production models.

Dr. Nordkovoch, the director of the BMW Group in charge of production, said: "The completion of the expansion of the power battery center will more than double BMW's power battery production capacity in China."

▲ Module production line

With the completion of the new plant in Tiexi and the upgrading and transformation of the Dadong plant, China will occupy an increasingly important strategic position in the BMW Group, which is not only the largest single market, but also a production and innovation base.

Is BMW's new energy road easy?

In fact, BMW is not a newcomer in the field of new energy vehicles, they have been at the forefront from the beginning.

At the 1972 Olympic Games, BMW's first pure electric car, the BMW 1602e, took the first step of BMW's electric mobility as the leading car for marathon and race walking events.

▲BMW 1602e. Picture from: Motor1

After that, BMW released the "i" brand focusing on new energy in 2011, and launched the small electric vehicles BMW i3 and i8, but at that time the market share of new energy was small, and BMW did not take much action.

▲ BMW i3 and i8

Now, BMW has begun to gradually promote the electrification of all products, and also announced at the press conference that it plans to launch 25 electric models in 2023, and there will be 7 million BMW Group new energy vehicles driving around the world.

However, the BMW iX3 launched this time is really not a surprise, not to mention that the appearance has not changed much. In terms of battery life, it is a lot better than the Mercedes-Benz EQC and Audi e-tron of the same level, but compared to the new car There is still a big gap in power.

▲ Mercedes-Benz EQC and Audi e-tron

It can only be said that the BMW iX3 is a move by BMW.

It cares more about the stability and peace of mind in the first step, pays more attention to commercial needs, and takes a pragmatic line.

As they themselves said, "Think like a new car company and deliver like a mature car company," while giving consumers "the right to choose."

The key points revealed behind this conference are that BMW has begun to enter and stir up the luxury electric vehicle market, and secondly, BMW has begun to attach importance to the Chinese market and hopes to help global development.

▲ BMW iX3

After all, last year, BMW sold 2.52 million vehicles globally, and China accounted for nearly 30%, with 720,000 vehicles sold, which is enough to see the potential of the Chinese market.

But it is not an easy task to stir up the situation in the new energy vehicle market.

In the first seven months of this year, Mercedes-Benz EQC sold only 953 units , and Audi e-tron, according to people familiar with the matter, should sell only 100 units in a single month. Both are far less than Tesla and Weilai. Tesla is still the largest-selling pure electric vehicle in China. In the Chinese market alone, Model 3 sold 11,811 units in August this year, and nearly 71,000 units have been sold in the first 8 months.

▲Tesla Model 3

This time, the pre-sale price of BMW's new car is 470-51 million yuan, which is one gear lower than the Mercedes-Benz EQC and Audi e-tron. It can be seen that BMW is also trying to summarize the road ahead and not repeat the same mistakes, but it will inevitably face the same challenges.

BMW's core competitiveness in the electric market is its previous research and development capabilities in the new energy industry and its accumulation of battery production experience over the years.

China, the world's largest new energy market, has started a new round of fierce battle.

In the future, car travel will also be born and prospered by electricity in the criss-cross roads.

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