EVs with a single battery pack might seem like the norm, but Michigan-based Our Next Energy (ONE), a battery technology company, champions the idea that the key to longer range is having not one, but two battery packs.
As we reported previously, the start-up is working with BMW to incorporate its dual-chemistry battery into the German carmaker’s iX electric SUV. New details reveal how ONE’s patented technology might be potentially beneficial.
The company’s dual-chemistry battery, called Gemini, has a capacity of 185 kilowatt hours and delivers a claimed range of 600 miles. The battery has an energy density of 450 Watt-hours per litre. Gemini uses a smaller lithium iron phosphate (LFP) unit with a larger range-extending battery. The former provides 150 miles of range, ideal for daily driving, while the latter is capable of 450 miles, and activates only during longer distances.
Although we don’t know the exact chemistry of the larger battery, ONE said it's anode-free and uses a high proportion of materials abundant in North America, like manganese, to reduce the percentage of nickel and graphite, while eliminating cobalt. By reducing the proportion of these materials, the risk of thermal runaway is lower, costs are reduced, and manufacturing is less complex, according to the company.
There’s also an ethical argument for the elimination of cobalt from EV batteries. Cobalt is expensive, and 70 percent of it is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where illegal child labour is a concern, according to Institutional Shareholder Services, a corporate governance firm.
An estimate by McKinsey suggests that 90 percent of cobalt supply comes as a by-product of nickel and copper – which can complicate expansion projects. Moreover, China is the leader in the refined output of cobalt, which contradicts the Inflation Reduction Act’s critical minerals clause wherein EVs can qualify for tax credits if a percentage of the minerals used in their batteries are sourced locally.
Hence, ONE plans to focus on materials more easily available in North America. Its anode-free cells have an energy density of 1,007 Wh/l, which is nearly twice the industry average, according to the company.
Anode, a battery component on its negative terminal responsible for charging times, might contain graphite or silicon – getting rid of anode can enable improved energy density, and also potentially prevent overheating, which has been the cause of multiple recalls in the past.
ONE’s CEO Mujeeb Ijaz told Automotive News that he expects the new battery technology to be less expensive than comparative chemistries at about $50/kWh of storage. The cost for LFP and NMC is roughly $75 and $115, respectively, he said.
In June 2022, the company garnered $65 million in funding from BMW i Ventures, the German automaker’s venture capital arm. In its series B funding round in February 2023, the start-up raised another $300m – its total valuation is now over $1 billion.
The BMW iX with its dual-chemistry battery has not been tested yet, but we’re curious to see how it fares in the real world, and if it can reach the claimed 600-mile range. Currently, the longest-range EV is the Lucid Air Grand Touring with an EPA-estimated range of 516 miles.