BMW April 2022

Aerospace is used to operating very expensive equipment to ensure maximum return on investment so that, for example, the customer buys an aircraft minus key systems, and then purchases those systems. The whole aircraft is then delivered to the end user and is usually financed by a specialist leasing company. Because of the high cost of the complete aircraft, the customer is really buying a service package which happens to contain an aeroplane.

Operationally, an aero engine will include so many hours of use along with back-up in the event of unplanned mishaps. The engine reports via telematics around 60 different parameters in real time, broadcasting every few minutes to an engineering centre where performance is monitored closely. This activity is called condition monitoring, and the purpose is to anticipate issues rather than let the engine fail in flight, for example.

For aerospace the idea of leasing major assemblies extends beyond engines to include the landing gear, tyres, brake service, and control systems.

What has that got to do with earthbound vehicles?

The automotive world has embraced telematics – the ability of a vehicle to send and receive data via an external service – along with the start of system condition monitoring. The result is that a vehicle decides when a service intervention is due, and the support network then contacts customers directly. eCall has its own stripped back version of this principle to ensure commercial interests do not “steer” emergency service support in the event of an accident, but the system is carried via the very same telematics system which reports rather more routine information.

Any vehicle with a high voltage battery will be monitoring in real time the rate of charge/discharge, the temperature and the performance of each cell in the pack. This data is also sent via telematics, to give early warning of impending failure.

Putting it together

I suggest the cost, and thus the residual value of many vehicle parts is now on the rise. Thanks to the establishment of telematics, this creates the ‘perfect storm’ for a gradual introduction of the type of business model we see in commercial aviation. The bottom line? Parts will become more repairable, and the idea of getting a new component because an aspect of it has broken will be challenged. The drive will be the vital “value”. The first assemblies to be influenced by this will be high voltage battery packs, and the real business model will take some more time to emerge, however: 

Renault demonstrated that battery swaps for pure EVs via the “Better Place” company was fraught with difficulties, not least because one user could consistently damage a battery while many others wouldn’t. The commerce was a nightmare.

Renault also demonstrated purchasing a vehicle minus the battery, but then leasing the battery was not very attractive to fleet customers or the general public just yet.

Most high voltage battery manufacturers want to get into recycling the packs that they make, but logistics are likely to get in the way. Remember how some vehicle manufacturers tried to ensure large, relatively low value parts such as bumpers were returned to a central processing unit?

What is the solution?

Well, BMW Group has buried a suggestion in the heart of the Mini Cooper SE. As with most vehicle manufacturers, the information to remove and strip a high voltage battery assembly is available, and this does raise issues in terms of training/equipment/facilities. In the case of the Mini Cooper SE, the main pack contains 12 modules, each containing eight cell pouches.

In the event of a malfunction, the vehicle system will indicate where the issue is, and what parts are required. That means it is more efficient to take a 200-500 kg battery pack and repair it next to the vehicle rather than get into some sort of logistics event – sending a pack away (with all the packaging requirements to enable li-ion batteries to be transported) and so on.

In time this principle will extend to other major assemblies, leading to more repair with fewer “new” parts. A proper sustainable future.


by Andrew Marsh