Tesla Model S runs 752 miles on prototype starter battery

Imagine an electric car that travels 752 miles on a single charge. You can’t buy it today, but a modified Tesla Model S traveled that distance across Michigan last month. It was the work of a Michigan start-up, Our Next Energy (ONE), which aims to make batteries that are safer and more durable. ONE fitted the car with a battery that contained twice as much energy as Tesla’s original one, while fitting completely into the same space. This is a proof of concept for the company’s future battery design.

Faster charge or bigger batteries?

There are two ways to ease range anxiety among electric vehicle buyers. The first is ubiquitous, reliable, nationwide DC fast charging, like Tesla’s Supercharger Network. Unfortunately, only Tesla offers this today. All other electric vehicles rely on a mishmash of private networks of varying reliability.

The second is to improve the range of EVs by a combination of large capacity batteries and improve their efficiency. This is the approach used by the Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX, an ultra-efficient EV concept which was just unveiled on Monday. Its goal is to provide 620 miles of range in a luxury sedan.

ONE’s project did not change anything to alter the efficiency of the Model S, but used a much higher capacity battery. “We want to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles by eliminating the range anxiety that holds consumers back today,” said Mujeeb Ijaz, founder and CEO of ONE. He is a battery engineer with over 30 years of experience, including at Apple, A123 Systems, Ford and others.

ONE put its larger-capacity prototype pack in a Tesla Model S Long Range Plus, offering nearly 90 percent more range than its original EPA figure of 402 miles. The demo car is actually the same vehicle (before ONE modified it) that won our EV 1000 long distance trip last spring. In our own highway range test last May, this car drove 320 miles at a constant speed of 75 mph, the furthest distance we’ve recorded. (This model has since been replaced by the S Long Range model, rated at 405 miles.)

The original Tesla battery had a capacity of 103.9 kilowatt hours, while the ONE prototype battery that replaced it in the same space has 207.3 kWh. CEO Ijaz confirmed CD this ONE used “a single refitted pack in the same space as the original battery”. It is therefore much more energy-dense, but a consumption delivered (in miles per kWh) roughly equal to that of the original battery.

ONE’s ride took place in mid-December in Michigan, with cold winter temperatures that precluded maximizing range, where the company roamed Mittens State for nearly 14 hours, at an average of 55 mph, before returning to its headquarters in Novi. in Southeast Michigan with the trip odometer showing 752.2 miles. Later, in a much less grueling test, the company put the Model S on a dynamometer at a constant speed of 55 mph, where it traveled 882 miles on a charge.

The company calls its prototype a proof of concept. The goal is to show that real autonomy much longer than the endurance of an average driver (pit stops, um) can be achieved in the near future. The next step is for it to evolve into a new battery called Gemini, which is slated to go into production after 2023.

ONE says it is focusing on battery chemistries that are “safer” and “sustainable”, using a “conflict-free supply chain”. In practice, this means lithium iron phosphate (LFP) chemistry, which historically has a 30% lower energy density than cobalt or nickel based chemistries (and, unfortunately, would have problems in cold weather) . Its first product, Aries, will go into production at the end of this year. This is a battery using prismatic LFP cells in a cell-to-pack structural architecture without separate modules, packing more cells in the pack to reduce the energy disadvantage over cobalt cells.

One battery, two types of cells

For Gemini, the company plans to supplement the LFP cells at a lower cost with a part of the extendable battery pack for extreme power needs, in order to reduce stress and deterioration of most of the pack. The array extender cells will use a modified anode to remove graphite, which the company says “makes more volume available for the cathode” to increase the energy density of the array expander cells.

The cathode will be made of a proprietary material rich in manganese which, according to ONE, can be obtained sustainably at low cost. (The company has filed 14 patents related to the Gemini pack so far.) LFP cells cover 99% of the vehicle’s service cycle, Ijaz said. CD, and the range extender is only used for 1%.

However, as a proof of concept, the prototype pack used in the demonstration was powered by different cells. The capacity of over 200 kilowatt hours has been supplied by high-energy cobalt-nickel cells, while those for the Gemini line are still under development.

The point of this test, then, was not on ONE’s future plans for new cells. Instead, it was to show that it is possible to pack a lot more power into a battery of the same size as it is today, without, for example, doubling a pair of packs, like the GM does in its 2022 GMC Hummer EV.

Headlines about electric vehicles with 752 miles of range, or the EQXX’s 620 mile target, or the 520 miles of the 2022 Lucid Air version currently delivered, should give nervous buyers plenty of comfort. People will begin to believe that electric vehicles capable of very long ranges are possible, even if they end up going with a more affordable 300 mile alternative in the end.

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