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Wednesday / 17 April 2024
HomeFeaturesElectric-car battery replacements in South Africa – BMW’s track record

Electric-car battery replacements in South Africa – BMW’s track record

Out of the hundreds of electric vehicles (EV) BMW has sold in South Africa since the debut of the trailblazing i3 in 2015, the German automaker’s domestic subsidiary has only had to replace two battery modules.

These weren’t entire battery packs that were swapped out, but rather, one of the many individual modules that make up the complete power source.

Proving the reliability of this technology, these components weren’t changed due to being overworked or faulty.

“In both cases, the modules were replaced to address a sensor, rather than because the battery module itself had a problem,” a spokesperson for the brand confirmed to TopAuto.

The work was completed under the standard BMW 8-year/160,000km battery warranty and therefore didn’t cost the owners a cent.

While BMW avoided divulging on which EVs the replacements took place and at what mileage, it hinted that it may have been the i3 – the oldest and least advanced EV in the manufacturer’s stable – that was discontinued globally in July 2022.

It also reminded TopAuto that South Africa currently has one of the highest-mileage i3s in the world driving around on its roads, having done well over 300,000km by July 2022 without any major issues.

How an EV battery works

The battery packs inside EVs comprise dozens of singular cells with small capacities that are packaged together to form the entire power unit.

These cells can consist of a nickel-metal hydride, lead-acid, lithium-iron phosphate, or lithium-ion composition – the latter of which is the most widely used in EVs.

BMW’s newest, fifth-generation batteries are produced in two stages; first, the cells are sourced from manufacturing suppliers that meet BMW’s strict standards and then undergo a plasma cleaning before a specially-developed system coats each separate component to ensure optimal insulation and durability.

BMW battery cell being coated

Next, the battery cells are assembled into a larger unit called the battery module.

Several of these modules are then installed into an aluminium housing, together with the connections to the vehicle and the control and cooling units.

The size and shape of the aluminium housing and the number of battery modules used differ according to the vehicle variant, with larger and more powerful EVs generally needing more modules.

BMW battery cells in aluminium housing

Once packaged and topped up, the battery discharges current to a controller that runs the e-motors that propel the wheels.

The benefit of this modular construction method is that instead of replacing the entire battery completely if one cell fails, the manufacturer can simply swap the faulty part for a new one at a far lower cost, ensuring continued battery health throughout the entire course of ownership.

BMW iX1 5th-generation e-Drive powertrain


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