BMW's i division has been the automaker's key to electrified success ever since it matured from the test bed that is the Mini brand. Now, the German automaker has decided to lend its technology to a delivery courier which plans to electrify its own local fleets: DHL.
Freight handler DHL is actually the parent company of an automaker, Streetscooter. In 2014, DHL acquired the then-four-year-old electric car startup in an effort to go green and began developing electric vehicles suited more towards the parent company's needs. As part of its program, Streetscooter will outsource various parts of the manufacturing process, including that of its batteries, sourcing them from BMW rather than developing the technology itself. This isn't necessarily a new process, as DHL has historically purchased vehicles from a wide variety of manufacturers other than the one it owns.
What is more interesting regarding this news is the fact that there is already another hand in the pot regarding the development of a new electric delivery van. Earlier this year, Ford announced that it was teaming up with DHL to build an electric delivery truck based off of the Ford Transit platform. It seems that now, the BMW group will be supplying the battery modules that actually provide and store power for the vehicle.
"The choice of BMW i battery modules for the Streetscooter is further proof that robustness, innovation and sustainability in future-oriented drives are by no means mutually exclusive," said Dr. Alexander Kotouc, BMW's i division's Head of Product Management, in a press release. "The successful transfer of state-of-the-art automotive technology, even in the challenging field of postal and parcel delivery, testifies to the farsightedness and universality of the BMW i concept."
There isn't word of how many packs will be used in a single unit, though it's hard to imagine that DHL would only choose to use one. The i3, for example, weighing under 3,300 pounds, achieves 114 miles of range out of a single 33 kWh battery pack. It is a fair assumption that the van being build will consist of a larger dimensional footprint than the i3 in order to support transporting local freight for deliveries, and as a result, will weigh substantially more. This could potentially indicate a modular battery design being utilized by the new Streetscooter van, allowing it to be a sustainable "all-day" freight vehicle with a single charge.
It's an interesting choice to see DHL choosing BMW as its supplier of battery packs rather than a company such as Tesla, which has been pumping out batteries for quite some time in its Gigafactory. It is possible that the modular design that BMW uses with the i3 better fits the platform, are more cost efficient, or DHL simply sees a reason to use them above other manufacturers. Regardless, this is a win for a manufacturer that is boldly stepping foot into the EV game.