WITH BMW’s agreement, battery start-up Our Next Energy (ONE) is integrating its range-extending Gemini battery pack into a BMW iX SUV to determine if the technology can deliver a real-world driving range of up to 965km – or around 325km more than model’s factory claim.
ONE will integrate a long-range battery pack into an iX for testing. The pack marries a base lithium iron phosphate battery with separate nickel and cobalt modules.
ONE says the chemistry combination is designed for long range applications. It has already proven the technology in a Tesla Model S which travelled 1210km on a single charge in December last year.
The BMW iX will give further proof of the concept and is backed by BMW’s i Ventures venture capital arm which led ONE’s $US65 million ($A94.3m) funding round last October.
ONE founder and CEO Mujeeb Ijaz told Automotive News the agreement with BMW is only the first step in the collaboration, and that similar works are already in their planning stages.
“We are on a path where every piece of the puzzle that is required in understanding a production program is part of what we are doing and discussing with them (BMW),” said Mr Ijaz.
“The focus is how to channel this concept to market. What we’re seeing from BMW’s input is: what bridges we have to cross, how production works in relation to energy, power and cost and can it be put into production from a manufacturing perspective with known technologies.”
ONE’s collaboration with BMW comes at a time when more new-car buyers are considering electric vehicles but are often deterred by a lack of range.
Although lithium iron phosphate batteries traditionally offer less range than their some newer alternatives, they have regained popularity in recent times as the cost of raw materials in competing battery chemistries has increased.
The Gemini battery is more energy dense than many of its rivals and requires fewer rare minerals like nickel and cobalt while reducing its graphite and lithium content.
Mr Ijaz said the threats of battery fires and thermal runaway events in batteries containing nickel and cobalt have also served to deter manufacturers from the use of such chemistries but says his company’s Gemini battery pack can provide a safer alternative.
“We were saying two years ago that nickel and cobalt were both not good bets in the long term,” Mr Ijaz told Automotive News.
“We founded the company on the assumption that we needed a raw material supply chain review because you can’t mine some of them successfully and globally at the right cost.
“If you are going to scale at the level EVs are going now, you need a robust material set that is not going to constrain you. We thought ‘we are onto something here’”.
In exploring its battery technology with a major automotive partner, ONE is now seeking to build a new site in the United States that will produce both its entry-grade Aries battery and the forthcoming Gemini.
That endeavour, linked with Piston Automotive, will initially see ONE’s Aries battery produced at Piston Automotive’s manufacturing facility in Van Buren, Michigan. The Aries battery packs – which come to market with 30+ years of know-how – are used in the commercial trucking sector where they have already proven a success.
The Aries battery pack yields higher system-level energy density than its contemporaries and uses safe and sustainable cathode chemistry (LFP) to avoid thermal runaway. The scalable battery pack can be configured in series and parallel.
“Indeed, we are moving in parallel to put cells into production with LFP chemistry as well as the Gemini range-extender chemistry. It’s the best way we can approach building our market,” said Mr Ijaz.