BMW still hammering out details of promised fossil-fuel free plant

FILE PHOTO: The BMW logo is seen during the 2016 New York International Auto Show in Manhattan, New York

By Victoria Waldersee

BERLIN (Reuters) – BMW is still hammering out how to make good on a promise to build the world’s first fossil-free plant in Hungary, from how much energy can be generated on-site to how much storage will be needed, the carmaker’s production chief said.

The plant under construction, which BMW has said will open in 2025 and source all its electricity from renewables, will still be connected to Hungary’s grid, Milan Nedeljkovic said at a media roundtable on Wednesday.

About half of Hungary’s electricity generation comes from nuclear energy, according to data from the International Energy Agency, with around a quarter from natural gas.

BMW will attempt to source a “significant” proportion of the energy required for the Hungary plant on-site, such as through solar panels, Nedeljkovic said, declining to comment on whether he expected the exact figure to be over 50%.

Like other carmakers, BMW has committed to purchasing 100% green energy, but much of this is bought in the form of so-called energy certificates, which signal demand for renewables on the open market but do not mean renewable energy is flowing into its plants.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and spiking gas prices have pushed carmakers to look more closely at direct renewable sources, in an attempt to lower dependence on Russia and reduce exposure to a sudden halt in gas supplies.

BMW was exploring various ideas for on-site storage of renewable energy, Nedeljkovic said, with one option being high-voltage batteries recycled from BMW cars.

It was not yet known what capacity the battery storage system in the Debrecen plant — where the carmaker plans to produce around 150,000 units a year, compared to the 350,000 it produces in Leipzig — would have.

“We are setting up a plan to define capacity requirements,” Nedeljkovic said.

(Reporting by Victoria Waldersee; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)