Energy storage, raw material prices, dependence on China, these were some of the issues addressed by Sven Bauer, CEO and Founder of BMZ during his keynote presentation during the Battery Experts Forum held in Frankfurt in July. However, supply chain shortages which have left a swathe of e-bikes in Europe without batteries was also high on the agenda.
BMZ’s e-bike business
Due to the long supply chain and seasonal nature of the e-bike business, Germany's BMZ who produces lithium-ion batteries for a range of industries, opts to manufacture its e-bike batteries in Poland to allow for a fast entrance to the European market. E-bike batteries account for a small amount of the company’s overall turnover because the battery pack is relatively small and is now considered a niche market for the company. The company is currently increasing its output in Europe, including the new 800Wh range, but the shortages conitnue. “Shortages will be ongoing and also for 2023, but the whole electronic component market is struggling, Bosch, Shimano, everybody,” Bauer explains.
A major problem regarding European production is competing with China on price, especially given the current energy crisis. “Right now, China can supply each cell 50% cheaper than those which are European-produced because the energy here is much more expensive. We are way too close to the gas from Russia to be competitive. The price increases we are seeing today are also based on raw materials and the biggest headache at the moment are NCA’s. Every battery today is around 30% more expensive but we expect this to stabilise by the end of year, and be roughly 10% cheaper again,” Bauer predicts.
European e-bike battery production
“We need to secure the market, to secure the future,” explains Bauer. “There is enough material available worldwide; we are not talking about not enough lithium, not enough nickel or aluminium, cobalt, etc, there is enough available of everything. The question is only how fast we can ramp up the output.”
“It’s not rocket science to build 18650 or 21700 cells, but it’s a complicated process that needs a lot of know-how,” Sven Bauer explained. “To build up a line of 100 million cells you need an investment of roughly €150 million”. The investments in European battery production are coming too late as Europe already lost the market in 90's when it was too slow to respond to the rise in consumer electronics. “Nobody was thinking about using this technology for bikes, cars, and energy storage in those days, it was all mobile phones and laptops, so we lost the technology and we lost this market and it’s very difficult to jump back in. There is a huge chemical industry in Germany and European cell production is under development, but first the focus is car, car, car. Maybe in 5 to 6 years we can think about having a successful European battery production.”
Delays within Bosch's e-bike battery supply
Despite major investments in production and logistics capacity in recent years, Bosch was was still affected by supply chain issues this year. According to the German supplier of drive systems they were well prepared for the rapidly increasing demand for e-bikes. “However, the corona pandemic forced many of our suppliers to reduce their production, but at the same time led to a sharp increase in demand for electronic parts. Failure to meet that demand created global shortages,” said a Bosch spokesperson. The corona pandemic forced electronics manufacturers in Malaysia to shut down production in early 2022, which led to even more shortages for Bosch. “We also received short-term delivery cancellations from manufacturers of microprocessors. The tense situation in the global supply chains, in connection with the availability of containers and ships, makes it an even bigger challenge. All of these have an impact on the delivery of our systems, with our battery production in particular. Not only for now, but also in the coming months, deliveries are affected by shortages of electronic components.” Bosch confirmed that the delays are not related to a specific market or bicycle model.