BMW agrees $4.7 billion contract with China's CATL for battery cells

BMW all-electric iX3 will commence production in 2020

However, Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, professor of automotive economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Duisburg, said that the CATL battery-cell plant is a good thing for Germany and would help keep German carmakers competitive. Manufacturers in car-proud Germany have claimed technological leadership for decades, and are now fighting for their place in the emissions-free transport system of the future.

This news comes after BMW's earlier announcement that it will build 520,000 vehicles in China next year, and will make the world's biggest auto market the production site for its electric iX3 SUV from 2020 onwards. He called for a European initiative, an "Airbus for e-mobility". "If we could do it ourselves, then I would not be upset", Merkel said.

The real value, say industry insiders, is in battery packaging - or combining cells so that they operate efficiently - maximising the distance an electric vehicle can travel and the speed at which its batteries can be recharged.

German economy minister Peter Altmaier equally sees the need for a European initiative for the production of battery cells on the continent.

"It is important that Germany works closely with a big global manufacturer, because the Germans can't do it, they don't want to... and they are less willing to invest in this new field". The facility will be built in Erfurt, in the central German state of Thuringia, and is expected to employ 600 people. CATL's initial investment in the new factory will total 240 million euros.

The company plans to make the investment in two stages, with an initial 14 gigawatt-hours of capacity to come on stream in 2021. "CATL is a very open company, whether it is German or not does not matter".

For example, the $4.7 billion deal involves BMW buying a portion of CATL's batteries from its new factory in Erfurt, in the eastern part of Germany.

Duesmann said earlier BMW had invested in some of the costs for the CATL factory in Erfurt, but both he and Zeng declined to say how much.

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