In Munich stands a tower made to mimic a four-cylinder engine, a monument to BMW’s passion for performance. It’s even in the name: Bavarian Motor Works.
So what is an automaker that’s thrived on the internal combustion engine for nearly a century to do in an electrified future? It’ll keep on building its own powertrains, making hybrids and electric vehicles on the same assembly lines as its gasoline-powered cars and SUVs.
Though current demand is low, BMW is preparing for up to a quarter of its group sales, which includes MINI and Rolls-Royce, to come from fully electric or hybrid-electric vehicles by 2025.
“It’s like shaking a ketchup bottle,” said Dr. Andreas Wendt, the director for the company’s Dingolfing plant, where most of the electrified models will be built. “You don’t know how much will come out and when, exactly.”
The plant already produces the battery, e-transmission, and drive structure for the i3 electric vehicle, as well as the hybrid versions of the 5-Series and 7-Series. But to prepare for a spike in consumer appetite, BMW is working to scale its battery operations for mass production by 2020, gearing up to build electrified powertrains on the same lines as its other vehicles.
“Our bet is 20% to 25% in ’25,” said Dirk Hilgenberg, head of production systems at BMW.
BMW plans to add 25 new electrified models - including a dozen fully electric variants - to its lineup by 2025. The company will begin making a fully electric MINI in 2019. The iX3 EV, which debuted at Auto China in April, will launch in 2020 with the automaker’s fifth-generation battery technology.
But some analysts say the ramp up may be premature. A recent survey from research firm AlixPartners forecast an oversupply “of epic proportions,” with 207 new electric models scheduled to hit the market by 2022. The industry is forecast to spend $255 billion on researching, developing, and building electric vehicles over the next five years, which could lead to massive markdowns and incentives due to weak consumer demand.