ANAHEIM, Calif. — U.S. car buyers love the edge cases.
They buy seven-seat SUVs for a family of four. They get pickups in case they want to tow something. They purchase tricked-out Jeep Wranglers and Ford Broncos but never leave the pavement.
Mujeeb Ijaz, CEO of Our Next Energy EV battery company in Novi, Mich., has considered the EV edge case conundrum. Buyers want huge ranges but rarely drive those distances between battery charging sessions.
The riddle Ijaz wants to solve is how to provide giant range without massively increasing the expense and weight of an electric vehicle. He thinks the solution is two separate batteries — one that is small and reliable for everyday driving and a second with an energy-dense chemistry to power the car on extra-long trips.
"Our ambition is to have a 600-mile on a single charge range so that we can offer customers the capability to adopt electric vehicles for any use case that comes their way — temperature, speed, towing, hill climbing, etc.," Ijaz told Automotive News, while attending the ACT Expo clean transportation conference last week.
The approach is unique, said Conrad Layson, senior alternative propulsion analyst at AutoForecast Solutions. "No one else currently on the market is carrying two different batteries with different chemistries at the same time," he said.
But the concept of dual chemistries is viable, Layson said.
Some automakers are experimenting with using different chemistries in the same battery package.
"It's not here yet, but it is certainly under development," he said.
For now, Our Next Energy, also known as ONE, has the funding to pursue the dual-battery strategy even as it starts to sell conventional batteries to electric commercial vehicle manufacturers, including Shyft Group and Motiv. This year, ONE raised $300 million in its series B funding round. The investments valued the company at $1.2 billion.
Automakers typically rely on what's known as NMC battery chemistry, which uses lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt to get the highest ranges. It is an energy-dense cocktail that, while still heavy, beats other combinations on range and weight. But there are problems, Ijaz said.