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BMW has started producing electric cars at its new 15 billion yuan ($2.24 billion) plant in China.

Based in the northeastern city of Shenyang, Liaoning Province, some 400 miles north east from Beijing, the plant will increase BMW’s output to 830,000 vehicles — up 130,000 since last year. Production of the BMW i3 — the company’s first all-electric mid-size sports saloon for the Chinese market started at the plant last month.

known as Plant Lydia, the new site is the single biggest investment project BMW has undertaken in China and houses all four major production processes (press and body shop, paint shop, and assembly). The plant is also capable of dedicating all its output to EVs. 

“The BMW iFACTORY makes us a role model for the automotive industry. Plant Lydia is born digitally and geared towards e-mobility,” said BMW AG Board Member for Production Milan Nedeljković.

“Responding to our customer’s demands, the flexibility of our production sets the benchmark in competition. Plant Lydia is a great example of this. It is fully capable of producing up to 100% electric vehicles. Together with its neighbouring plants in Tiexi and Dadong, Lydia will play an important role in accelerating production of BMW electrified vehicles in China.”

BMW also says that it planned and simulated the entirety of Plant Lydia virtually, using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 3D creation platform. Apparently, this shortened planning time, enabled cross-regional and cross-time zone collaboration, and effectively overcame the adverse effects of the pandemic. As a result, BMW saved six months of construction time on the plant. 

The German automaker says that Plant Lydia uses cloud-based digital platforms and the Industrial Internet of Things connects every product, process and person through transparent, always-available and integrated data. The use of data science improves quality control, boosts efficiency, and enables predictive management.

Around 100 artificial intelligence applications are currently used at the BMW Shenyang production base while 1,600 multi-functional cameras are used in quality assurance alone and are set to generate more than 10 petabytes of data per year. 

Plant Lydia is also sustainable, according to BMW, despite the massive amount of power required by its high-tech quality control. High-quality insulation reduces energy consumption while electric welding guns and ovens in the body shop use renewable energy to reduce emissions. 

Plant Lydia also has a dedicated Intelligent Operation Center with an intelligent energy management system that monitors energy and resource consumption in real-time and uses artificial intelligence to deeply analyze how to optimize energy use.

Currently, the entire BMW Shenyang production base uses 100% renewable electricity. It has 290,000 square meters of solar panels. These solar panels can generate 44,000 MWh of electricity per year – enough to power 9,000 houses for an entire year. The solar panel expansion will continue in the coming years, with an area of 120,000sqm under construction at Plant Lydia.

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