BMW ups orders of battery cells for electric cars

The new Mini electric car is unveiled at the BMW group plant near Oxford, UK, in July. The first electric Mini will go into full production at the end of 2019. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2019

BMW ups orders of battery cells for electric cars

  • By 2023, the group plans to offer 25 “electrified” models including hybrids and full battery-electric vehicles

German high-end carmaker has BMW said that it was massively increasing orders of battery cells for electric cars for the coming decade, as it plans dozens of new electrified models.

The total increase of €6.2 billion ($6.9 billion) will come from a new €2.9-billion contract with Samsung-SDI and an increase from €4 billion to €7.3 billion in orders from China’s CATL, BMW said in a statement.

German carmakers have been squeezed by years of emissions scandals and imminent tougher greenhouse gas rules in Europe into making big bets on electric mobility.

BMW said that Thursday’s announcement “secures long-term battery cell needs” for the company, adding that it was itself organizing supplies of raw materials cobalt and lithium to the cell makers.

“Compliance with environ- mental standards and respect for human rights have the highest priority” in sourcing the vital elements from Australia and Morocco, BMW said.

By 2023, the group plans to offer 25 “electrified” models including hybrids and full battery-electric vehicles.

The first all-electric Mini compact cars are to roll off its Oxford, UK line later this year.

And it expects to double electric sales by 2021, followed by a “steep growth curve” of 30 percent annual expansion until 2025.

Lithium-ion cells are the building blocks of the massive batteries built into electric and hybrid vehicles.

But few carmakers have taken the huge financial risk of building up in-house production, as volumes remain low compared with combustion engines and the technology is swiftly developing.

Rather, they prefer to farm out the battery work to specialist suppliers.

About two thirds of cell-making capacity is in China, with giant CATL alone accounting for one quarter of global supply.

Japan’s Panasonic, China’s BYD and Korea’s LG-Chem and Samsung-SDI round out the top five manufacturers.

Some of the companies are expanding into Europe, with CATL building a factory in Erfurt, capital of the German state of Thuringia, that will initially supply BMW.

But Paris and Berlin hope government backing can help found an “Airbus of batteries” to take on Asian competitors, with planned investments of between €5 billion and €6 billion — €4 billion to come from the private sector.


Analysts urge Canada to focus on boosting the economy

Updated 06 July 2020

Analysts urge Canada to focus on boosting the economy

  • Canada lost one of its coveted triple-A ratings in June when Fitch downgraded it for the first time

TORONTO: Canada should focus on boosting economic growth after getting pummeled by the COVID-19 crisis, analysts say, even as concerns about the sustainability of its debt are growing, with Fitch downgrading the nation’s rating just over a week ago.

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau will deliver a “fiscal snapshot” on Wednesday that will outline the current balance sheet and may give an idea of the money the government is setting aside for the future.

As the economy recovers, some fiscal support measures, which are expected to boost the budget deficit sharply, could be wound down and replaced by incentives meant to get people back to work and measures to boost economic growth, economists said.

“The only solution to these large deficits is growth, so we need a transition to a pro-growth agenda,” said Craig Wright, chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada. The IMF expects Canada’s economy to contract by 8.4 percent this year. Ottawa is already rolling out more than C$150 billion in direct economic aid, including payments to workers impacted by COVID-19.

Further stimulus measures could include a green growth strategy, as well as spending on infrastructure, including smart infrastructure, economists said. Smart infrastructure makes use of digital technology.

“We have to make sure that government spending is calibrated to the economy of the future rather than the economy of the past,” Wright said.

Canada lost one of its coveted triple-A ratings in June when Fitch downgraded it for the first time, citing the billions of dollars in emergency aid Ottawa has spent to help bridge the downturn caused by COVID-19 shutdowns.

Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and DBRS still give Canadian debt the highest rating. At DBRS, Michael Heydt, the lead sovereign analyst on Canada, says his concern is about potential structural damage to the economy if the slowdown lingers too long.

Fiscal policymakers “need to be confident that there is a recovery underway before they start talking about (debt) consolidation,” Heydt said.

Fitch expects Canada’s total government debt will rise to 115.1 percent of GDP in 2020 from 88.3 percent in 2019.

Royce Mendes, a senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said the economy still needs more support.

“Turning too quickly toward austerity would be a clear mistake,” he said.