Bill Gates and BMW Back Pakistani-American Mujeeb Ijaz's Battery Startup
Our Next Energy (ONE), a two-year-old Michigan startup founded by Pakistani-American Mujeeb Ijaz, has received $25 million in initial investment from Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Ventures and German automaker BMW. Storage battery technology is a key area of innovation to bring about clean energy revolution. Mujeeb Ijaz has engineered a way to achieve longer ranges for electric vehicles from lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries, a more stable but less powerful chemistry than the nickel-based batteries currently used by most automakers. Mujeeb's brother Mansoor Ijaz made headlines in 2011 when he wrote a Financial Times Op Ed regarding his conversations with Husain Haqqani who was serving as Pakistan's ambassador in Washington. Mujeeb's father Mujaddid Ahmed Ijaz was a Pakistani experimental physicist and a professor of physics at Virginia Tech.
|Mujeeb Ijaz, Founder CEO of Our Next Energy (ONE)|
Mujeeb Ijaz, Pakistani-American founder and CEO of ONE, is a 30 year veteran of battery systems technologies. He has worked at Ford Motor Company and Apple. Mujeeb holds 31 U.S. patents in the field of battery technology and energy management systems. He is a graduate of Virginia Tech. Mujeeb recently demonstrated a prototype of its new battery in a Tesla Model S, driving 752 miles (1,210 kilometers) on a single charge.
ONE’s key innovation is the way it designs battery packs. Ijaz, a veteran of Apple’s secretive car project, said he’s landed his first customer, an EV startup that makes medium-duty delivery trucks, according to Seattle Times. He declined to name the customer but said production will start in November 2022. The growth of the electric-vehicle market has brought challenges for the industry, including a shortage of batteries and soaring prices for raw materials such as nickel and cobalt, the latter of which is fraught with ethical issues. Nickel, the metal the auto industry largely relies on today to provide power and range, is prone to fire, a risk the industry is spending billions to control.
Another notable leader revolutionizing the auto industry is Sajjad Khan, Pakistani-German, who is leading German luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz's entry into the electric vehicle market with six new all-electric “EQ” models, according to media reports. Sajjad Khan was born in Karachi and graduated from NED Engineering University with a degree in computer science.
Bloomberg estimates that Batteries and electric transmission account for about 40% of passenger cars’ costs. European demand is met by mainly Japanese and South Korean battery makers like Panasonic, LG Chem Ltd. and Samsung SDI Co. In the U.S., Tesla has built its own battery cells at its Gigafactory to manage costs and satisfy demand for the cars it produces. Chinese demand for battery packs is met by BYD.
High-capacity battery pack costs have dropped nearly 40% since 2015, according to Wood Mackenzie data as reported by Wall Street Journal. The prices of lithium and vanadium—two of several key raw materials that are used in such batteries—also have declined over the past year or so.
Battery storage costs have fallen nearly 90% in the past decade, according to NextEra Energy. Cost reductions are expected to continue to only $8 to $14 per MW-hour by 2022, or about a penny per kW-hour. For perspective, the average kW-hour of electricity costs about 13 cents for retail users.
NextEra Energy forecasts that post-2023, wind plus energy storage costs will be $20 to $30 per MW-hour, and solar plus energy storage will be $30 to $40 per MW-hour. Natural gas is expected to match the solar-plus-storage costs.
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Our Next Energy, a Michigan-based energy storage company, is investing $1.6B to build a battery manufacturing plant in Wayne County.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer says the company will build its first-ever battery manufacturing campus in Van Buren Township and become one of the few US-owned manufacturers of LFP and anode-free cells.
The battery cell manufacturing campus, named ONE Circle, is expected to create more than 2,000 jobs. Production is expected to begin at the newly constructed 659,589 square foot building in 2024.
“Our Next Energy’s $1.6 billion investment creating 2,112 jobs in Van Buren Township will build on our economic momentum and secure the future of mobility and electrification right here in Michigan,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer in a press release. “This innovative, Michigan-made company is on the cutting-edge of battery technology, and the work they’re doing will increase the range of electric vehicles to over 600 miles on a single charge. With this new gigafactory, we will continue bringing the supply chain of electric vehicles, chips, and batteries home to Michigan and the USA while creating a sustainable, clean energy economy. I am proud that Democrats and Republicans in Michigan came together to build up our economic development toolkit and empowered our state to compete for every project and every job. We will work with anyone and compete with everyone to keep putting Michiganders first, creating good-paying jobs with great benefits, and building the future of the auto industry right here in Michigan.”
Our Next Energy was founded in 2020 and is currently headquartered in Novi.
“ONE is thrilled to select Michigan for our first cell factory, due to the state’s unique combination of battery talent, proximity to material supply and access to low-cost energy,” said Mujeeb Ijaz, founder and CEO of ONE in a press release. “We applaud the leadership of Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the MEDC team, led by Quentin Messer. In addition, our collaboration and new strategic partnerships with DTE Energy, Van Buren Township, and Wayne County have helped ONE build a strong foundation for clean tech manufacturing in Michigan.”