BMW i8 Protonic Red Special Edition, 2016 Geneva Motor Show
Anticipated increases in electric-car production in 2018 and later now have battery suppliers scrambling to add manufacturing capacity.
One of the major players is Korean firm Samsung SDI, which is reportedly planning to open a new battery plant in Hungary.
However, it is unclear which electric cars the new plant’s lithium-ion cells are intended for.
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Samsung plans to invest around 400 million won ($358 million) in the plant, with the intent of starting production in the second half of 2018, according to Reuters.
The plant will be located near Budapest, and will reportedly have the capacity to supply cells for 50,000 electric cars per year.
Samsung is turning its attention to the European market because of slow sales in China, Reuters reports.
It started cell production at a Chinese factory last year, but sales have been disappointing so far.
The company currently counts BMW among its customers, so a European factory makes sense in terms of geography.
Battery cells for the BMW i3 electric car are currently produced in South Korea, while the i3 itself is assembled in Germany.
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BMW is known to be developing a third “i” model, one that could help fill the gap between the i3 city car, and the i8 plug-in hybrid coupe.
Likely called i5, it is expected to be a compact crossover-utility vehicle, with an anticipated launch sometime in 2018 or 2019.
Recent reports have also indicated that BMW may launch all-electric versions of both the i8 and the next generation of its popular 3-Series sedan.
The German carmaker is also adding plug-in hybrid versions powertrain options to all of its mainstream models.
In other words, there are quite a few potential new BMW models for which Samsung’s Hungarian battery plant could supply cells.
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The new plant will also help Samsung maintain parity with rival Korean company LG Chem, which plans to open a new battery plant of its own in Poland.
Both companies, incidentally, have contracts to supply cells for an upcoming Audi electric SUV.
Based on the e-tron quattro concept that debuted at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, it will start production in 2018.
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