Could Retrofit Batteries Be a Future Solution?
Anybody that once played with radio-controlled cars knows that a battery upgrade can make a huge difference in how a car performs. Removing the stock battery and plugging in a high-power aftermarket unit can result in a lot more power, speed, or range – could the same be true of a full-size electric car?
Our Next Energy, a clean energy startup based in Michigan, thinks so. Founded in 2020 by Mujeeb Ijaz, a battery systems engineer with over three decades of experience, is focused on developing new battery chemistries. And in early 2022, the company recently demonstrated a retrofit battery on a Tesla Model S that more than doubled the vehicle’s range to over 750 miles.
The prototype battery is called Gemini, and One Next Energy promises a production-ready version in 2023. The company is understandably tight-lipped about the specifics of the materials used, but Gemini uses sustainable raw materials – as devices, batteries are intensive in their use of raw materials and are thus subject to fluctuations in the supply chain; sustainable sources make it easier to keep the chain moving.
Leapfrogging Range Anxiety
Even today, “range anxiety” is a concern for electric car buyers. While EV ranges have grown significantly over the last few years, the speed of charging the larger batteries fitted to modern cars means convenience on longer drives still lags behind gasoline vehicles. Relying on fast charge stations presents other obstacles, such as waiting in long lines, not recharging as fast as advertised, and being limited to a partial charge, which results in the need to stop more frequently.
High-speed driving, extreme weather, mountainous terrain, or towing trailers in real-world conditions can reduce the range of an EV by over 30%, causing inconvenience and anxiety on road trips. The Gemini battery, the company says, aims to eliminate range as a barrier by doubling the available energy on-board an EV – in the same amount of space.
With 750 miles in a Tesla Model S – whose longest-range battery offers just over 400 miles of range according to the EPA – the Gemini battery not only massively eclipses the stock unit’s performance, but also provides much more range than a typical tank of gas would in a similarly-sized car. As such, it should give buyers reassurance to make an electric vehicle their only vehicle.
Still Under Development
You won’t be able to purchase a Gemini battery from Our Next Energy for your Tesla, or any other car, just yet. The company still has a lot of work to do to put its prototype into production – and it remains to be seen whether it will offer the product to the public directly, or whether it will target vehicle manufacturers with its battery technology. But the fact that a retrofit battery with improved chemistry and performance can be produced is a great sign of exciting things to come in the electric vehicle space – and that in the future, there will be ways to enhance and extend the life of the EVs being sold now.