This transitional period for automakers is getting interesting. Not only do car companies have to start completely overhauling their manufacturing processes but they have to worry about raw materials in a completely new way. Regulatory and ethical obstacles interfere with the sourcing of raw battery materials like never before and BMW, like all automakers, has to figure out how to handle it. Its solution seems to be with recycling battery bits, rather than mining for them.
“We don’t think it is right to invest in mines. We view it as more important to get back raw materials from cars and other products,” BMW finance boss Nicholas Peter told Reuters.
BMW is going against the grain a bit, as both Volkswagen and Mercedes have invested heavily in their own mines, to better control the supply chain. Not only is BMW not investing in mines, it’s not even investing too much into battery making itself. BMW has a battery recycling facility with its Chinese partners but it’s leaving battery but it’s leaving most of that to its partners, such as CATL.
“With our business development, we are creating the motivation to invest—but we do not need to develop big recycling facilities for battery cells ourselves,” said Peter.
Recycling does seem like the most environmentally sound means of sourcing raw battery materials. The biggest environmental hurdle for EV production to clear is the damage done by mining the precious metals used in batteries. So recycling materials from already existing batteries is the most environmentally conscious way of sourcing said materials.
Then there’s the issue with certain regulations, such as the U.S.’s new Inflation Reduction Act laws, which limit tax rebates to companies that source most of their battery materials from countries of conflict. So sourcing as few battery materials from such countries is financially helpful for BMW.
BMW’s next big step for electrification is its Neue Klasse architecture. The Bavarians hope that their battery material sourcing and new production techniques can eventually make its Neue Klasse cars as profitable as its internal combustion ones. We should start seeing a heavy influx of Neue Klasse vehicles during the second half of this decade, starting with cars like the upcoming electric 3 Series and X3. It’s going to be an exciting new time for BMW, as new cars will bring fresh designs and innovative technologies. Hopefully, BMW’s battery production gets cleaner and more profitable as well.