Our Next Energy’s Gemini Battery Could Bring 600-Mile EVs by 2026
ONE’s Aries batteries are being tested today, but it’s the next evolution of the lithium iron phosphate (LFP) chemistry that’s showing the real potential here.
There’s a mild irony in a battery company called ONE that believes the way to increase electric vehicle adoption actually relies on two. Two battery chemistries in one pack, that is, according to ONE founder and CEO Mujeeb Ijaz. We spoke with Ijaz about ONE’s dual-chemistry pack in early 2022, but the company recently shared more details on how it plans to make EVs with a 600-mile range feasible in the coming years.
Our Next Energy is working on two new battery types (the Aries and Gemini series), both of which start with a lithium iron phosphate (LFP) chemistry. The whiz-bang, 600-mile (966-km), dual-chemistry Gemini pack isn’t due to go into production until 2025 or 2026, but ONE is currently testing its Aries II pack. The Aries II is a structural cell-to-pack single-chemistry battery based on the Aries I battery now available for class 3-6 commercial trucks, buses and utilities or in the Aries Grid energy storage system. ONE is working with partners Bollinger Motors, Motiv and the Shyft Group on the Aries I battery for commercial trucks. ONE also claims that the Aries II can offer up to 350 miles (563 km) of range in a passenger car without needing pricey nickel or cobalt.
The earth’s crust has abundant iron and manganes, Ijaz said, which makes it easier and safer to acquire these raw materials than those used in nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) batteries. The fact that there is more iron and manganese available than nickel and cobalt should mean more stable prices in the future, too. In fact, Ijaz said he spent time during the pandemic thinking about our electric future and realized that if he could make LFP batteries work, he’d solve multiple problems simultaneously. A more stable supply of raw materials is the first. The second is the inherent anti-thermal runaway properties of LFP chemistry because there’s no oxygen bound up in the phosphate to get released when a fire starts.
“[If] we take the top-tier nickel cobalt batteries that are in the market, we’ve closed the gap using LFP,” Ijaz said. “[It] doesn’t combust, [it’s] lower-cost because iron is more abundant for the supply chain. It’s more durable, with about twice the cycle life capability of a nickel-cobalt battery. [By] matching the energy density of nickel cobalt, we believe this is an important way for the industry to progress.”
Despite these benefits, the auto industry has mostly stayed away from LFP batteries because they have lower energy density than today’s EV packs and, consequently, offer less range. Chinese companies have provided some exceptions, but LFP packs remain uncommon compared to nickel cobalt manganese chemistries. The International Energy Agency (IEA) found that lithium NCM batteries made up 60% of the global market in 2022, while LFP batteries made up just under 30%. The number of LFP batteries in EVs has been growing in recent years thanks to the preferences of Chinese automakers, IEA said, with around 95% of the LFP batteries for electric vehicles going into EVs built in China. Only about 3% of EVs with LFP batteries were manufactured in the United States in 2022. ONE claims that the energy density of the Aries II LFP pack is 263 Wh/L and 162 Wh/kg, which represents improvements of 34% and 23%, respectively, compared to the competition’s leading LFP packs and is good enough to “[close] the gap in range and mass to within six percent of the leading benchmark NCM pack used in electric passenger vehicles,” the company said.
Gemini still on the horizon
ONE’s upcoming Gemini pack uses LFP, just like Aries, for its main battery, but the pack also includes a smaller lithium-rich manganese nickel oxide (LRMNO) battery that functions as a high-energy density range extender in the same housing. The LRMNO chemistry evolved from the work ONE has done to delete cobalt and minimize nickel in the cells. The manganese has been over-lithiated to get to more lithium in the system, Ijaz said, which helps ONE improve both energy density and cycle life. ONE’s current predictions say the Gemini battery, which uses prismatic anode-free cells, will have a pack volumetric energy density of around 385 Wh/L. In June 2022, BMW signed up to become ONE’s joint development partner to test Gemini batteries in an all-electric BMW iX, something Ijaz characterized as a “very substantial program.”
“Gemini is projected to be not only the highest-energy battery but also the lowest cost-per-kilowatt hour combination of cells because we are driving more energy for less mass,” he said.
Ijaz’s confidence won’t protect the engineers from encountering unforeseen problems. When Ijaz spoke with SAE in early 2022, he said the Gemini would provide up to 750 miles of range. To reach that level, ONE would have had to hit an energy density level of 450 watt-hours per liter. In September 2022, ONE said its first-generation Gemini test cell provided 1007 Wh/L.
ONE currently has 350 full-time employees in Michigan and California, with the Fremont, CA, location working on cell research and materials development. Ijaz said ONE plans to reach an EBITDA-positive financial situation by 2026. ONE has said it anticipates its production facility for the Aries II batteries will be in full IRA compliance when production begins in late 2024 in Van Buren Township, Michigan. The factory will be a 20-gigawatt hour factory when at full capacity and Ijaz aid it will be running at 10-megawatt hour level by the end of 2023.