Peter Lamp (l.) und Kurt Vandeputte (r.). Foto: BMW Group

BMW battery experts in conversation: Kurt Vandeputte and Peter Lamp

Kurt Vandeputte has been Head of Battery Cell Technology at the BMW Group since November 1. Peter Lamp will remain on board until the introduction of Gen6 technology. The two battery experts met for an interview at the BMW Group’s Battery Cell Competence Center (BCCC). Both talk about battery trends – and how they see the future of batteries for individual mobility.

Mr. Lamp, we are here at the BCCC – near the Research and Innovation Center (FIZ). Everything here looks very much like a high-tech research facility. Where does the BMW Group currently stand when it comes to battery technology?

Peter Lamp: I think we are very well positioned. As you said, we are located here in our BCCC – close to the FIZ – and have just opened our Cell Manufacturing Competence Center (CMCC) in Parsdorf. Thanks to the combination of the BCCC, which deals with the research and development of cell technology, and the CMCC, which is responsible for understanding and establishing the industrialization of cell production, and our experts from all over the world who work there, we are on a par with the best battery cell manufacturers in the world. When I think back to our beginnings in 2008 with our first prototype of the battery-electric MINI Cooper, we have come a long way.

…and why do you think you have managed to achieve this level of expertise?

Lamp: I firmly believe that we found the right strategy for BMW very early on. And this strategy is relatively simple: we expanded our own expertise in the two critical areas of battery cell technology and large-scale production as quickly and consistently as possible. This enables BMW to bring the best batteries to its electrified vehicles.

Mr. Vandeputte, you have just joined the BMW Group after more than 25 years at Umicore. How do you see BMW’s battery strategy?

Kurt Vandeputte: In my time at Umicore, we really appreciated the cooperation with BMW in the field of battery technology because of the clear strategy that focuses on a deep understanding and mastery of cell technology and cell production. This is really the core of the automotive battery business.

Considering the challenges that manufacturers are facing today due to the change in the industry – and taking into account the BMW promise to deliver the ultimate driving machine to its customers – I believe that BMW’s approach is very convincing and clear.

And how does the change from a “material tech company” to a German premium car manufacturer feel?

Vandeputte: It feels really good and energizes me. It’s an honor to be part of this legendary BMW family, and the very friendly atmosphere here certainly contributes to that. In terms of the upcoming projects, the goals are both exciting and challenging. Whether our focus is on battery performance, cost, lowest environmental impact or a combination of these factors, we need to find an optimal interaction of all materials in the cell, which brings us back to active materials, which I know well. At Umicore, I worked in a very international, technology-oriented environment – and that also applies to my new role here at BMW.

Mr. Lamp, when we talk about projects and challenges: What next big step can customers expect from BMW’s electrified drive systems?

Lamp: A very important step will be taken in 2025 with our first NEW CLASS models. This will be the starting point for our so-called Gen6 eDrive technology. At the center of this technology will be our new round cell: 20 percent more volumetric energy density, 30 percent faster charging, 30 percent more range compared to the corresponding model with Gen5 technology.

But the switch from a prismatic cell in the fifth generation to a round cell in the sixth generation is a significant step: how did this decision come about?

Lamp: At the beginning of the process, we really started with a blank sheet of paper and were open to all cell formats and sizes. But given the ambitious goals in terms of performance and safety, we soon came to the conclusion that the round cell was the best format for our next generation. It also fits best with our integration approach for the NEW CLASS: “cell-to-pack” and “pack-to-open-body”.

Mr. Vandeputte, ASSB is often seen as “The Next Big Thing”. Where does BMW stand? What potential does the technology have?

Vandeputte: I think we are on the right track. Together with our partner Solid Power, we are currently setting up a new process development line at our CMCC in Parsdorf. On this line, we will work – in parallel with our partner in the USA – on the next steps to bring this advanced battery technology into the vehicle. The line will go into operation in the 2nd quarter of 2024. And the technology has potential: higher energy densities with at least as high a level of safety as today.

Realistically, however, we will still need a few more years before the technology is mature and ready for industrialization – this is not likely to be the case until the end of the decade.

Looking at the current landscape of battery technologies, there are very frequent reports in the media about new trends or even innovations. How do you keep up to date with all these developments?

Vandeputte: That is indeed a very good point – and at the same time something I have been observing at BMW for years: the close relationship of the BMW battery team to the start-up scene as well as to the universities – in my opinion this is a very big advantage and an absolute basic requirement if you want to be and remain a technology leader.

Lamp: I agree with that, and I would like to add something else: I think this is a very big advantage in two ways. Firstly, it ensures that BMW is up to date with all new trends, findings and developments. And secondly, it helps us to find the best talent in the industry – this is one of many reasons why we are very optimistic about BMW battery cell technology in the coming years.

Read more interviews and articles on electromobility & autonomous driving in the current issue of eMove360° magazine in german language. Print edition – also available as an annual subscription – can be ordered in the eMove360° Shop.

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22.03.2024   |  

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