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.


Fear of food shortages after Beirut explosion hits grain reserves

Updated 06 August 2020

Fear of food shortages after Beirut explosion hits grain reserves

  • Beirut port silos had capacity for 120,000 tons

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s main grain silo at Beirut port was destroyed in a blast, leaving the nation with less than a month’s reserves of grain but enough flour to avoid a crisis, the economy minister said on Wednesday.

Raoul Nehme told Reuters a day after Tuesday’s devastating explosion that Lebanon needed reserves for at least three months to ensure food security and was looking at other storage areas.

The explosion was the most powerful ever to rip through Beirut, a city torn apart by civil war three decades ago. The economy was already in meltdown before the blast, slowing grain imports as the nation struggled to find hard currency for purchases.

“There is no bread or flour crisis,” the minister said. “We have enough inventory and boats on their way to cover the needs of Lebanon on the long term.”

He said grain reserves in Lebanon’s remaining silos stood at “a bit less than a month,” but said the destroyed silos had only held 15,000 tons of the grain at the time, much less than capacity which one official put at 120,000 tons.

Beirut’s port district was a mangled wreck, disabling the main entry point for imports to feed a nation of more than 6 million people.

Ahmed Tamer, the director of Tripoli port, Lebanon’s second biggest facility, said his port did not have grain storage but cargoes could be taken to warehouses 2 km (about one mile) away.

Alongside Tripoli, the ports of Saida, Selaata and Jiyeh were also equipped to handle grain, the economy minister said.

“We fear there will be a huge supply chain problem, unless there is an international consensus to save us,” said Hani Bohsali, head of the importers’ syndicate.

UN agencies are meeting on Wednesday to coordinate relief efforts for Beirut, Tamara Al-Rifai, a spokeswoman for the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, said from Amman. “People are extremely poor, it’s increasingly difficult for anyone to buy food, and the fact that Beirut is the largest port in Lebanon makes it a very bad situation,” she said.

“We are looking at Tripoli, but it is a much smaller port.”

Reserves of flour were sufficient to cover market needs for a month and a half and there were four ships carrying 28,000 tons of wheat heading to Lebanon, Ahmed Hattit, head of the wheat importers union, told Al-Akhbar newspaper.

Lebanon is trying to transfer immediately four vessels carrying 25,000 tons of flour to the port in Tripoli, one official told LBCI news channel.