Saturday, February 5, 2022

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. 

Silicon Valley is at the forefront of this clean energy revolution led by Tesla. Tesla is more than an electric car company; the company also supplies solar panels and batteries. Other automakers are also taking their cues from Tesla.  China's BYD Auto has only recently been surpassed by Tesla in production volumes. Auto giants General Motors and BMW are both building electric cars and planning to build "gigafactories" like Tesla's to manufacture battery packs for vehicles and homes. Pakistan is building up renewable power generation capacity. The country has also recently announced its National Electric Vehicle Policy that offers incentives to transition to clean energy.

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.

1 comment:

Riaz Haq said...

A team led by Pakistani scientist has developed a promising solar cell technology that sets two new world records of efficiency in the lab. The approach could help foster clean energy initiatives to combat the global warming issue.

Yasir Siddique – a PhD scholar at the Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER) and the University of Science and Technology (UST), Daejeon, South Korea – has designed and fabricated solution-processed Copper Indium Sulphu Selenide (CISSe) solar cells.

The stable solution-processed, low bandgap CISSe device perfectly works as a single cell, but could also be sandwiched with other thin-film solar cell materials having suitable bandgap as top cell-like recently emerging solar cell technology of Perovskite in tandem solar cell configuration.

The bandgap is the amount of energy needed to free the electron from any semiconductor; the lower the bandgap the more it produces electricity.

Our sun is an average 150 million kilometres away but a primary source of light and heat for our planet. Theoretically, the sun throws 1,360 watts per square metre of mixed energy on a surface directly facing it.

However, the sunlight on any solar cell largely reflected or passed through the structure and a few per cent of energy converts directly from sunlight into electricity. So, the power conversion rate, roughly called the efficiency is the degree to which a solar cell converts energy from sunrays.

There are many types of solar cells with varied efficiencies. The first, second and third generation of solar cells is another way to describe them. Different types of solar cell have different efficiencies for instance traditional silicon cell has efficiency from 15 to 20 per cent while concentrated solar cells could be 41 per cent efficient but need focused beams at one place.

However, Siddique’s cell falls in the emerging trend of Tandem solar technology and is now most efficient in its category.