According to the BusinessWeek article, the company was founded in 2001 by former senior managers at Xerox PARC and IBM. Little information is known about EEStor, which prefers to operate in stealth. In fact, to this day it still doesn’t have a corporate Web site.
However, BusinessWeek did learn that EEStor has developed a “parallel plate capacitor with barium titanate as the dielectric,” and that it claims to make a battery at “half the cost per kilowatt-hour and one-tenth the weight of lead-acid batteries.” It also learned that EEStor planned to build its own assembly line to prove the technology works, and following that, would license the technology to manufacturers for volume production.
Last week BusinessWeek reported an interesting comment from Kleiner’s John Doerr, who recently spoke at a California event where tech VCs gather to make their predictions for the year. Doerr reportedly referred to an investment in an energy storage company he declined to name, calling it Kleiner’s “Highest-risk, highest-reward” investment.
This is a big deal given Kleiner’s history. Keep in mind that this is the venture capital company that struck it rich with early investments in Google, Amazon.com, Netscape and AOL — all household names of the online world. The company is now going after similar success in the energy market.
Given all this, I’m super curious about this EEStor company and what it’s working on. And here’s what I’ve manage to dig up myself, beyond the useful tidbits from BusinessWeek:
* A simple Google search reveals that EEStor has a relationship with a Canadian maker of low-speed electric vehicles called Feel Good Cars, which I’ve written about on this blog several times. According to a press release from Feel Good Cars released on Nov. 15:
“On September, 30, 2005, FGC entered into a Technology Agreement with EEStor Inc. located in Austin, Texas, to acquire the exclusive worldwide right to purchase high-power-density ceramic ultra capacitors called Electrical Storage Units (ESU) that are under development by that company. An ESU can store over 10 times the energy of lead-acid batteries and are expected to be available for use in the ZENN and regular electrically powered small cars. FGC’s exclusive worldwide right is for all personal transportation uses under 15 KW drive systems (equivalent to 100 peak horse power) and for vehicles with a curb weight of under 1200 kilograms not including batteries.”
On top of this release, a reliable source familar with EEStor had this to say about the company’s technology:
* The batteries fully charge in minutes as opposed to hours.
* Whereas with lead acid batteries you might get lucky to have 500 to 700 recharge cycles, the EEStor technology has been tested up to a million cycles with no material degradation.
* EEStor’s technology could be used in more than low-speed electric vehicles. The company envisions using it for full-speed pure electric vehicles, hybrid-electrics (including plug-ins), military applications, backup power and even large-scale utility storage for intermittent renewable power sources such as wind and solar.
* Because it’s a solid state battery rather than a chemical battery, such being the case for lithium ion technology, there would be no overheating and thus safety concerns with using it in a vehicle.
* Finally, with volume manufacturing it’s expected to be cost-competitive with lead-acid technology.
“It’s the holy grail of battery technology,” said my source. “It means you could do a highway capable electric city car that would recharge in three or four minutes and drive you from Toronto to Montreal. Consumers wouldn’t notice the difference from driving an electric car versus a gas-powered car.”
These, of course, are bold claims. But given Kleiner’s involvement in this Texas company, you can bet the promise is there. Without a doubt, this will be a company to watch, and if the above claims prove true, this could have a profound impact on transportation and large-scale renewable energy production/management.
EEStor could, indeed, become the Google of the cleantech world that VCs have been looking for.