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.


A Jordan startup delivers eco-friendly alternative to dry cleaning

Updated 05 December 2019

A Jordan startup delivers eco-friendly alternative to dry cleaning

  • Products used by WashyWash are non-carcinogenic and environmentally neutral
  • Amman-based laundry service aims to relocate to a larger facility in mid-2020

AMMAN: A persistent sinus problem prompted a Jordanian entrepreneur to launch an eco-friendly dry-cleaning service that could help end the widespread use of a dangerous chemical.

“Dry cleaning” is somewhat of a misnomer because it is not really dry. It is true that no water is involved in the process, but the main cleaning agent is perchloroethylene (PERC), a chemical that experts consider likely to cause cancer, as well as brain and nervous system damage.

Kamel Almani, 33, knew little of these dangers when he began suffering from sinus irritation while working as regional sales director at Eon Aligner, a medical equipment startup he co-founded.

The problem would disappear when he went on vacation, so he assumed it was stress related.

However, when Mazen Darwish, a chemical engineer, revealed he wanted to start an eco-laundry and warned about toxic chemicals used in conventional dry cleaning, Almani had an epiphany.

“He began to tell me how PERC affects the respiratory system, and I suddenly realized that it was the suits I wore for work — and which I would get dry cleaned — that were the cause of my sinus problems,” said Almani, co-founder of Amman-based WashyWash.

“That was the eureka moment. We immediately wanted to launch the business.”

WashyWash began operations in early 2018 with five staff, including the three co-founders: Almani, Darwish and Kayed Qunibi. The business now has 19 employees and became cash flow-positive in July this year.

“We’re very happy to achieve that in under two years,” Almani said.

The service uses EcoClean products that are certified as toxin-free, are biodegradable and cause no air, water or soil pollution.

Customers place orders through an app built in-house by the company’s technology team.

WashyWash collects customers’ dirty clothes, and cleans, irons and returns them. Services range from the standard wash-and-fold to specialized dry cleaning for garments and cleaning of carpets, curtains, duvets and leather goods.

“For wet cleaning, we use environmentally friendly detergents that are biodegradable, so the wastewater doesn’t contain any toxic chemicals,” Almani said.

For dry cleaning, WashyWash uses a modified hydrocarbon manufactured by Germany’s Seitz, whose product is non-carcinogenic and environmentally neutral.

A specialized company collects the waste and disposes of it safely.

The company has big ambitions, planning to expand its domestic operations and go international. Its Amman site can process about 1,000 items daily, but WashyWash will relocate to larger premises in mid-2020, which should treble its capacity.

“We’ve built a front-end app, a back-end system and a driver app along with a full facility management system. We plan to franchise that and have received interest from many countries,” Almani said.

“People visiting Amman used our service, loved it, and wanted an opportunity to launch in their countries.”

WashyWash has received financial backing from angel investors and is targeting major European cities initially.

“An eco-friendly, on-demand dry-cleaning app isn’t available worldwide, so good markets might be London, Paris or Frankfurt,” Almani said.

 

• The Middle East Exchange is one of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives that was launched to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai in the field of humanitarian
and global development, to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. The initiative offers the press a series of articles on issues affecting Arab societies.