2021 ALL STAR | ENGINEERING INNOVATION
Our Next Energy
Mujeeb Ijaz knows how far battery technology has come over the past three decades, and he knows how much further it can go.
A veteran of Ford Motor Co., Apple and A123 Systems, Ijaz founded battery startup Our Next Energy Inc. in 2020 under the premise he can take the tech along that journey. That includes roughly doubling the range reached by today's batteries to soothe consumer anxiety — and using new battery chemistries to achieve that goal.
Today's mainstream ranges of around 300 miles per charge have been sufficient to kick-start the EV market, "but I don't think that's where the long-term consumer value is going to be satisfied," Ijaz said. "I think we're going to have to go higher. … So let's go after solving that problem."
Solving that essentially includes formulating a hybrid battery — one tailored to serve as a daily workhorse capable of withstanding frequent charging and a second that extends range for the occasional long trip. Both must be sourced, he says, from places where necessary raw materials are easily available.
In October, some important backers bought into that vision. Our Next Energy raised $25 million in its series A funding round, led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the green- minded venture capital fund started by Bill Gates and supported by Jeff Bezos and others.
That funding helps Our Next Energy prepare for its first customer, a delivery-truck operator that has submitted 6.3 gigawatt-hours worth of battery orders over the first five years of production.
In testing, Ijaz, 54, says the base battery alone has offered 88 percent more range than the conventional battery pack the trucking operator had been using.
"We're delivering something unique," Ijaz said. "Next year is all about execution and making sure we put that into production successfully."