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At BMW's Spartanburg plant, more than 80 production units and robots have smart meters (Photo: BMW)

BMW is on track with efforts to lower the amount of energy it needs to build cars, with energy consumption per vehicle dropping 31 percent between 2006 and 2013. By 2020, the Munich-based premium carmaker wants energy expended per vehicle to be down 45 percent from 2006 levels.

One significant pillar of the strategy is the deployment of what BMW calls its intelligent energy management data system (EMDS). The system uses intelligent electricity meters that measure the energy consumption of plants and robots and align them with a big data network. The meters allow BMW to identify anomalies in energy consumption and take action. Data analysis even helps the carmaker prevent imminent production disruptions or breakdowns in the manufacturing process.

BMW already applies IEMDS in its plants in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and in Regensburg, Munich and Landshut in Germany. The system will be rolled out globally at all of the company's 40 production facilities.

IEDMS can yield reductions in global energy consumption of 7 percent a year at the plants, BMW estimates.