Novi battery maker sends Tesla S to the U.P. and back on one chargeJanuary 5, 2022
Jan. 5, 2022
The race to alleviate range anxiety among electric vehicle owners got a potential boost thanks to a Michigan battery maker that used its cutting edge technology to power a 2021 Tesla Model S 752 miles across the Great Lakes state on a single charge.
That real world test drive of Our Next Energy’s (ONE) Gemini battery took place Dec. 17, said Mujeeb Ijaz, founder and CEO of the Novi-based company.
The Tesla drove an average of 55 mph on the trek from ONE’s Novi headquarters to the Upper Peninsula and back. The results were validated by a third party using a vehicle dynamometer. Ijaz said he could not name the firm that validated the results due to ONE’s agreement with it but said it was a global company in metro Detroit that does EPA certification for automakers.
The retrofitted Tesla is currently parked in Las Vegas, where the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is being held. Ijaz plans to meet with investors there.
A 30-year veteran of auto companies (having worked at Ford and Apple), he left 18 months ago to join the ranks of entrepreneurs when he launched ONE.
He moved his headquarters from Silicon Valley to metro Detroit last year and already gained investments to the tune of millions from Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and BMW to name a few.
Finding a way to allow a vehicle to go 752 miles on a single charge represents the Holy Grail of EV’s future. Right now, the range for a single charge for most EVs on the road is roughly half that.
The global race now among battery makers is to create technology that will resolve the range anxiety issue drivers have and make EVs a practical vehicle for more consumers.
“This is very impressive,” said John McElroy, longtime host of Autoline and auto analyst at WWJ Newsradio 950, when asked about ONE’s test drive results. “It’s pretty good for a battery still under development. But, unless they do the EPA driving test, going 55 mph like others under same conditions, it’s hard to stack them up.”
I asked Ijaz why ONE didn’t do the EPA test and he explained, “When reviewing what Tesla did to originally certify range of the Model S, it took six days of testing in a special procedure. We did not have time to run that test and decided a 55 mph run would suffice as a proof that we did not game the real world road test.”
Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHAuto, who has been involved with the industry for decades, said of ONE’s test drive results: “This is great news. We are seeing a revolution right now in EV battery technology and it’s great to see it taking place in Michigan.”
Stevens, who hails from Marquette, test drove a Ford Mach-E across Michigan last summer and said he opted against going to the U.P. as there were scant charging stations.
“As this revolution unfolds, it will be great to see who leads in this battery space as that really is the Holy Grail of convincing people to buy electric,” Stevens added.
I’ve talked to many in recent months — folks like actor William Shatner, auto icon Bob Lutz and students at Oakland University — about what it will take to encourage people to own EVs as part of a recent TV special for CBS 62 called “Our Electric Future.” It talked about EVs and highlighted concerns over range anxiety.
“To reach the full market potential for electric cars, we need to eliminate the barriers holding back the market,” Ijaz said. “We want an electric car to become an obvious choice as your only car needed. This demonstration marks the beginning of a new era making that possible.”
The solution to range issues currently focuses on adding more charging stations —something municipalities and companies in Michigan and elsewhere have been doing.
Ijaz said relying on charging stations, even fast charging ones, still presents challenges like waiting in lines and not recharging as fast as advertised. The solution is a battery with more firepower that will take a vehicle longer distances on a single charge.
ONE has created two EV batteries. The first, called Aries, uses a material called Lithium Iron Phosphate. Ten years ago, this technology could offer 150 miles of range for an electric vehicle. What Aries has done is improve upon that and offers 350 miles in the same vehicle without additional costs or safety, Ijaz said. The company has a contract with a commercial truck maker to provide it the Aries battery later this year.
His second battery, Gemini, uses a dual battery technology that works together as one chemistry, as one is designed to use everyday for 150 miles, then the other extends the range another 600 miles in extender architecture that uses no cobalt or nickel and can power an EV 750 miles on a single charge. Lithium Iron Phosphate is always powering the vehicle.
ONE plans to begin production of Aries later this year, with a goal of producing the Gemini prototype batteries in 2023, as it is still in the research phase.
Ijaz chose a Tesla for his test drive because, “it was easy to convert by having a large battery volume (over 400 liters of space), was readily available on the market, and a had a well engineered efficient electric drive and aerodynamic platform.”
He also explained why ONE decided to do its test drive in Michigan versus warmer states.
“We studied going south where the climate was not freezing but decided that ONE is proud to be a Michigan battery company and what better way to celebrate innovations born in Detroit than to make the destination for our range run the Upper Peninsula,” he said. “Also it’s a tribute to the clean air and water we seek to protect as we transition away from fossil fuels.”