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Tesla, BMW in talks over batteries, light-weight parts, Musk says

Tesla, BMW in talks over batteries, light-weight parts, Musk says

Tesla, BMW in talks over batteries, light-weight parts, Musk says

November 23, 2014 - 11:32 am ET

FRANKFURT (Reuters) -- Tesla Motors is in talks with BMW over a possible alliance in batteries and light-weight components, Tesla CEO Elon Musk told German weekly Der Spiegel.

In an interview published on Sunday, Musk described BMW's production of carbon fiber reinforced car body parts as "interesting" and "relatively cost efficient."

BMW uses carbon fibers from its joint venture with materials supplier SGL to make reinforced passenger cell parts for its i3 electric hatchback and i8 plug-in hybrid sports car.

Officials at BMW were not immediately available to comment.

"We are talking about whether we can collaborate in battery technology or charging stations," Musk said in the interview.

There were no further details on the specific nature of the alliance, however BMW and Tesla executives already met in June to discuss the creation of charging stations usable for different types of electric cars.

Daimler AG, a BMW rival and the parent of Mercedes, said last month it would continue to collaborate with Tesla even after selling its remaining four percent stake in the U.S. company. Tesla has also worked with Toyota Motor Corp. on electric SUVs.

Tesla's billionaire co-founder Musk also told Der Spiegel that he expects Tesla to have a battery production plant in Germany in five to six years.

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model 3 with carbon-fibre body?

Benz | 23. November 2014

I am a bit sceptical about it. Tesla Motors and BMW have different ideas and views. I think that it will be difficult for them to find a sollution for their strategic differences. It just might be better for both if they would not come to an agreement, and that both would just continue to follow each ones own path.

Benz | 23. November 2014

SGL says in talks with many carmakers to supply carbon fiber parts.

Link: http://europe.autonews.com/article/20141123/ANE/141129936/sgl-says-in-ta...

EternalChampion | 23. November 2014

I wonder what the weight reduction would be if model s transitioned from aluminum to carbon fiber. For that matter, how much additional range could be gained?

Red Sage ca us | 23. November 2014

A carbon fiber Model S would end up weighing perhaps 500 lbs less, and costing $500,000 more.

JeffreyR | 23. November 2014

@Red Sage
I cannot comment on the weight difference part, but I know you were using a "bit" of hyperbole on the cost. The Carbon Fibre tech that BMW invested in for the i3 & i8 is the one clear advantage BMW has over Tesla. Maybe just replacing the hood and trunk is enough to start a "partnership" then see where things go. It's obvious that Tesla has a huge advantage on battery tech and charging infrastructure. Maybe that lead is enough for BMW to license the CF tech for frames too.

Maybe Elon would rather see better batteries in BMW built cars just to prove that BEV is the way to go. Then BMW can help build out the SC Network in Europe.

If Aluminum is a bit hard to work on, as well as a bit "exotic" too, how much more difficult is CF? We know it's very rare.

I think about a next-gen lighter, denser battery pack, a CF frame, and AWD dual-motor Model R super car. And, I get pretty excited. I imagine that it would be significantly quicker than the P85D. I wonder how quick it would be. Can a two-seater do 0-60 in 2.5 seconds? Even at three flat the Model R would be exceptional.

PXChanel | 23. November 2014

I'm going to cry! Some of us purposefully avoid BMW, DON't wanna follow the crowd. We had a new technology MADE IN USA, with zero emissions, reservation for Model X, expected to be the best car ever, and now news that we're selling out to Big Oil? I can't believe it! BMW is a huge company with a humongous market base. If Tesla Motors gives away its technology, how could it ever comoete again? It would be done for, finished. Everyone would buy the BMW collaboration model because of brand recognition. I might consider selling my Tesla stock now.

PXChanel | 23. November 2014

I don't care about any collaboration. If I wanted a BMW I could go buy an i3 or i8 now, but I don't want a BMW. I want a Tesla Motors Model X MADE IN USA w Falcon wings. Period. I have been waiting over a year for it since I made my reservation. I don't want to see my car on the road next to me with a BMW decal instead a BIG, NICE, SILVER T.

Benz | 24. November 2014

@ PXChanel

No need to cry. Nothing has happened yet.

Red Sage ca us | 24. November 2014

I'm pretty sure that the 'low cost solution' for BMW i3 was for the passenger compartment. Not exterior body panels. It isn't the race car prepped lightening so much as it is used for an interior cabin safety cocoon. That is what made it so special.

Brian H | 24. November 2014

First, again, it's CFRP, reinforced plastic, BMW is using.

Second, no matter how competitive you feel, PX, getting other mfrs on board making the best possible BEVs trumps all. "My work here is done", and off Elon goes to SpaceX.

drax7 | 24. November 2014

Carbon fiber frame or body panels seems problematic. Safety rating would suffer.
Tesla should not give away its competitive advantage for plasticated stuff. Bmw
Would have a great deal to gain in exchange for some weight saving material .

Benz | 24. November 2014

@ Brian H

"My work here is done", and off Elon goes to SpaceX.

Not in the current decade, and hopefully not in the second decade either.

Model ☰ | 24. November 2014

@Benz
I am a bit sceptical about it. Tesla Motors and BMW have different ideas and views. I think that it will be difficult for them to find a sollution for their strategic differences. It just might be better for both if they would not come to an agreement, and that both would just continue to follow each ones own path.

You'r probably right about the different ideas and views, but why should that stop any cooperation? I see clearly 3 areas where they both can get an benefit from this, no matter ideas and views. Surprisingly enough so it's just the three areas that have been mentioned. ;) And exactly the differenses between Tesla and BMW is a reason that this cooperation is no threat to any of them.

1. Tesla may get some benefits from using the CFRP technology BMW has developed. Lower weight, lower consumption, longer range.
2. Charging. If BMW ever want to go fully electric they need a good charging infrastructure. If the buy the right to use the supercharger network, they get a more or less "ready" infrastructure for charging on long trips. And Tesla get more money to build out the network, and pay for the electricity.
3. Batteries. No mater what BMW has of ideas and view, if they ever want to produce an all electric car, they need a steady, high volume, low cost supply of batteries with a high energy density. And Tesla get income from sales of batteries in the GF, and can start building it's second/third GF sooner. This might be the incentive they need to build a GF in Europe.

This cooperation does not, as some here seams to think, that Tesla Model 3 and BMW i360 will be the same car with a different badge.

Model ☰ | 24. November 2014

So, all this talk about cooperation tells me is that BMW finally is seriously thinking about producing a long rang pure electric car. And that is a big fat "+" in my book - even if I have no plan on buying it... I will prefer Model 3 :)

Red Sage ca us | 24. November 2014

Model ☰ wrote, "This cooperation does not, as some here [seem] to think, that Tesla Model 3 and BMW i360 will be the same car with a different badge."

Correct.

It is just that I have chosen to, for the sake of discussion, wear my 'pessimistic skeptic' hat when it comes to the likelihood of there being a sincere effort by any of the traditional automobile manufacturers to create the best electric vehicle their resources can provide for the market. Just as people offer big huge heaping handfuls of ire and criticism at Tesla Motors for being a small, young, inexperienced company... I will always argue that traditional automobile manufacturers are too large, old, and shortsighted to fully understand the true extent of where the automotive industry should be headed, or why.

That should allow threads of posted messages on the subject matter here to be fairly unbalanced in their presentation.

Benz | 24. November 2014

Your car made of CFRP or Aluminium?
I would prefer Aluminium.

Sin_Gas | 24. November 2014

While a Carbon Fiber Model S might be in the future, I would think that Tesla would want to explore the possibility of using it for the Model ☰.

This vehicle would have the volume, and benefit from the advantages of CFRP, the question would be the cost. If it works for i3 volume, it seems it would work for Model ☰ volume, which is projected to be much higher.

I know Elon has stated that the Model ☰ will be steel, but now that they have a better idea of how much weight that costs, it may time to reconsider.

Sin_Gas

Model ☰ | 24. November 2014

@Benz
Your car made of CFRP or Aluminium?
I would prefer Aluminium.

Does it have to be one or the other? I would prefer that they choose the right material for the job and not looking up blind on the benefits of a particular material.

Eg. there have been some roamers that Tesla is looking for CFRP for the falcon-wing doors on Model X, to save weight there.

Model ☰ | 24. November 2014

@Sin_Gas:
I know Elon has stated that the Model ☰ will be steel, ...

As far as I know, he have not said anything like that. Whats been said is that Model 3 will not be "all aluminum" like the Model S/X. The most likely alternative is steel, and everybody seems to think that is what was meant.

And, btw, if I remember correct, it was not Elon that said this?

rlwrw | 24. November 2014

Over the years, the aerospace industry has perfected, and put into use various techniques for carbon fiber winding and tape layups to the point where these techniques are very commonplace, now.
It would be fairly easy for automated layup machines to make consistent quality parts for the auto industry.
True, it does take longer to make a CF part than it does to stamp out a ready-to-go metal part, but more than one layup machine turning out the same part can keep up with the demand.
Yes. It does appear that CF will be more expensive than metal for the near future, but CF can be just as strong, if not stronger while being the same or lighter in weight.
What about repairs? Anybody who does fiberglass repairs will be capable of repairing minor CF damage.
If the CF part is structurally damaged, it still can be repaired at the expense of a little more weight. Otherwise the part would be replaced.
More thought, though, needs to go into repairing a structurally damaged part.

Brian H | 24. November 2014

Model ☰;
Are those roamers spreading rumors?

Model ☰ | 24. November 2014

Brian H
Are those roamers spreading rumors?

I guess they are :p

DTsea | 24. November 2014

Tape laying machines use materials that take hours to cure.... no good for a car. BMW uses resin infusion with a cycle time of minutes. If you read about the I3, the body (which they call the life cell, the safety critical part) is all CFRP. The skateboard is metal.

JeffreyR | 24. November 2014

@DTsea

Cool, any links?

sbeggs | 24. November 2014

@rlwrw,
Yes, one aerospace company we worked for used filament winding of fuselage/nacelle/cowl structures, which demand hoop strength. Hand or tape layup and cure in autoclave was used for compound contoured parts (not round or oval in shape). However, the environment that the aircraft parts see is much more severe (pressurized cabin, cycles, severe temperature gradients) than it is for automobiles.

Thus, while there is some application of aerospace processes to automotive, the key will be speed, reproducibility and cost, unlike in aerospace, where weight is key. Using the aerospace tooling approach for carbon fiber automotive applications would likely be cost prohibitive.

If the structural integrity of the aerospace component is not compromised, small repairs are feasible without curing, with cut-out and re-insertion/mechanical fastening of a metallic/composite honeycomb plug. And thus, a weight penalty.

Depending on which manufacturing process is used by the automotive manufacturer, likewise, repairs could be authorized if structure remained intact.

Since the automotive body/frame design need not meet the same properties as aerospace applications, there are many ways in which companies can solve the problem.

@DTsea,
Resin infusion process sounds intriguing, I would like to know more...

TeoTeslaFan | 24. November 2014

This seems to be a good video to watch:

BMW i3 Factory Production Tour
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa5_tudyAF8

TeoTeslaFan | 24. November 2014

@PXChanel,

Quote: "If Tesla Motors gives away its technology, how could it ever compete again?"

Maybe you are not following Tesla close enough.

Elon Musk: 17 June 2014, 10m 48s: "We developed the supercharger technology and we are more than happy to have other manufacturers use it and we offered it to BMW, Daimler, Toyota and others."
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSF4tdzcIqs#t=10m45s

Considering that Elon said this on CNBC, that information should be well known among investors. Btw, here is a full list of Tesla related videos you might enjoy watching. The CNBC video was included in this list.

vgarbutt | 27. November 2014

wow thanks for that factory tour link it is totally fascinating.

I wonder how many they are pumping out at that speed?

The carbon fibre forming looks pretty fast. Maybe slower than plain stamping, but maybe fewer steps overall?

Anemometer | 27. November 2014

The thing in my mind with CF - it might cost more in the direct replacement cost of alminium or steel parts, but what does it add to whole vehicle cost as a percentage?

And more importantly - does it make a significant weight improvement hence adding range and/or reduce the number of battery cells needed to get the same range effectively making it cost neutral on the whole vehicle? I don't know, but considering the i3 price isn't 100's of thousands its not much more than a 1 series diesel which considering the battery pack and new drive train components is quite a feat. So it's certainly possible Telsa might be interested in finding what price BMW would offer per tonne. Likewise BMW could be looking at the P85D motors thinking damn, we could do with some of those in the upcoming i9 supercar we have planned.

More importantly it turns what would have been a lardy leaf-like blancmange with poor handling, into a nippy little city car with responsive steering. The only weird thing I felt on a test drive was a floaty feeling when cresting larger bumps in the road. The effect of the weight of the batteries down under.

What with all this brand anguish? If BMW released a pure EV car that was better than the Model 3 you wouldn't buy it? LOL. I'd like to own a Telsa but am also a realist. Eventually they'll have some competitors. Hopefully! Though probably not till 2020s at the current rate of progress.

Actually - in a strange way they do have competitors... in the sense I ended up ordering an i3. I had the choice of waiting till late 2015 before ordering a model S and still having a lot of it on finance, or getting an i3 now with less on finance. And putting back the Model S purchase till a) the model X final production is out to compare against b) the model 3 prototype has been released. c) AN Other has release their eventual response to Telsas EV world domination d) I need less finance.

The i3 will do me for now and can be handed over to the Mrs later.

For all I know - Jaguar might release a XE Plug in Hybrid next year with 50kWH pack and a 1.0L lotus omnivore REX. It will really depend on what is around in mid to late 2016 which way I go. Mrs like the Model X - so a candidate.

There's already a lot of co-operating goes on in the industry. Telsa supply motors to quite a few companies already, ICE engines made by consorita and sold to what are effectively direct competitors. Co-operation on models. There's no reason for Telsa to snub selling to manufacturers if they don't have their own tech. Isn't that what Elon wanted to do in the first place? No one wanted components though so he's had to build the business to prove people do want EVs.

Brian H | 27. November 2014

Tesla supplies drive trains to just 2 companies, Toyota and MB. The rest are scared to death of it.

Sin_Gas | 28. November 2014

Hello
Just watched the BMW i3 production video, posted by Teo@UK which is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa5_tudyAF8. It was fabulous. Thank you Teo.

Got me thinking that "all" BMW and Tesla would have to do is repackage the Tesla Battery Technology into the current i3 space--and it looked like from the video that a back of the envelope calculation might show that the volumes are similar (i3 looked deeper to me) and the Model ☰ would be well on its way. I saw many millions of dollars already invested in car design and factory design, that Tesla will have to duplicate. With Carbon Fiber body panels, a Tesla nose could be added and the result would be quite compelling. It of course, would need batteries from the giga factory, but that is coming along. I am guessing that a 60Kwh to 85Kwh battery would fit the volume, and that would tripple the storage and the range. This gives 240 miles. Add an AWD motor and it hits it out of the park. Of course, I am sure that Tesla would want to "roll their own", but if true to the mission, the collaborative car would benefit both companies. The cost targets are already a reality with the i3. Think big picture!!

That would give a $40K car, AWD, 240 mile range, SC network, with vastly lower R&D costs. Pretty close to the Holy Grail.

Can someone photoshop up a Tesla looking i3?

Model ☰ | 28. November 2014

NO! Please, do not try to create a Tesla-swan out of "the ugly duckling" :p

I do like neat cars, but do not care very much about the appearance, and is coping well with "less attractive" cars. But one place must there be a limit! ;)

Sin_Gas | 28. November 2014

I would be willing to bet that with a complete set of new body panels, it could be fabulous--using the same basic platform and same structure. The designers of the Tesla body shape could rally get their juices challenged by this one.

Sin_Gas

johnwladd | 28. November 2014

Tesla will crush BMW through Silicon Valley innovation.

Grinnin'.VA | 29. November 2014

@ johnwladd | November 28, 2014

Tesla will crush BMW through Silicon Valley innovation.

Probably.
But since BMW has many fans, it will take several years.

Go Tesla!