I’ve had a few e-mails from readers wondering what the heck is going on at ZENN Motor Co., which apparently didn’t — contrary to its own expectations — receive its first commercial EESU demonstration unit from EEStor before the end of 2009. The company has yet to put out a press release on this (as a publicly traded company, some say it should), so here’s the response I got directly from the company’s media-relations department:
The last remaining contractual milestone between ZMC and EEStor is the third party verification of delivery of a full production quality EESU that meets certain specifications outlined in the Technology Agreement between the companies. Achievement of this milestone will be announced by ZENN Motor Company via news release to all stakeholders.
Any interim sharing of information or technology between ZMC and EEStor is confidential in nature and will not be publicly disclosed. Any announcements related to EEStor’s technology that fall outside of the contractual milestone described above are strictly within EEStor’s purview to release to the public. ZMC will only comment on EEStor’s progress once the information is made available in the public domain by EEStor.
ZMC remains focused on the development of its ZENNergy drivetrain solutions in anticipation of the successful commercialization of EEStor’s technology. ZMC continues to work with EEStor on a regular basis.
So, that’s where things stand… As Chaucer wrote more than 600 years ago, “Patience is a high virtue.” Or not. I doubt you’ll hear ZENN making any more predictions of when it will receive its first EESU. Still, given the expectations it has built up over the last two years and given that ZENN’s future rests almost entirely on the success of EEStor, the company should probably be more communicative with shareholders. At the same, shareholders need to realize that with those updates ZENN isn’t making hard promises, but merely shedding light on a schedule that — as we’ve certainly learned — is difficult to nail down.
UPDATE: StephenB makes a good point in COMMENTS by parsing ZENN’s statement. It may have received an EESU, but hasn’t announced anything yet until “third party verification of delivery of a full production quality EESU that meets certain specifications.” So, technically, ZENN may — or may not — be on track. We just don’t know.
Just figured I’d stamp out a rumour circulating the blogosphere that Lockheed has some kind of investment in EEStor. A reliable source close to the company told me that Lockheed has not invested a single dime in EEStor and that the agreement between the two announced last January strictly relates to Lockheed’s role after EEStor has developed its product. In other words, Lockheed will be more than happy to market, sell, and integrate EEStor’s EESUs into military applications if it is handed a working product.
This isn’t to say EEStor’s relationship with Lockheed is no big deal. The fact that Lockheed would lend its brand to a press release that includes EEStor, and has even named EEStor in a patent, is significant. Also, because we’re dealing with military applications, who knows what kind of collaboration is going on behind the scenes? However, contrary to what’s floating around out there, Lockheed is not an investor. (ed. note: for clarification my source says Lockheed has “not given EEStor a dime,” which would indicate there is no investor or fee paid).
If you want a full story on EEStor’s latest “permittivity” milestone (updated version) and its impact on ZENN shares, check out my Toronto Star article here.
Over at the GM-Volt blog there’s a report that General Motors, according to the headline, “Admits to a Working Relationship with EEStor.”
Well, not exactly if you go on to read the post. Unless, of course, having EEStor send information in the mail counts as “working relationship.” That said, the admission by Denise Gray, GM’s director of advanced batteries, that the auto giant has been in touch with EEStor is interesting enough.
Asked whether she’s seen an EESU prototype, Gray backed off a bit. “I probably shouldn’t say if I’ve received parts or not, that’s kind of confidential. But we are in touch with them and we are continuing to encourage them to develop the technology. Because we need as much help as we can possibly get to get the costs down of our battery solution and get the reliability up.”
Man, I can only imagine the kind of non-disclosure agreements these people have to sign. Obviously, EEStor is in discussions with a number of potential partners and customers, yet information about the company still dangles in the territory of rumour and speculation.
My personal prediction: a major announcement from EEStor in March.
A new Lockheed Martin patent published last week by the World Intellectual Property Organization gives us a glimpse of the miltary contractor’s relationship with Cedar Park, Tex.-based EEStor. It could also explain why EEStor has been reluctant so far to reveal its progress.
Lockheed’s patent details plans for “body armor having an electrical energy storage unit formed as a layer that substantially conforms to an armor plate.” According to the document, the electrical energy storage layer has “a plurality of sections.” The idea being that if one section is damaged in combat the other sections would remain operable. Two or more sections can be electrically coupled, either in parallel or series. Electrical connectors would “provide access to electrical power stored in the electrical energy storage layer.”
The armor would be a form-fitting utility garment worn like a vest. The patent goes on to say the electrical energy storage would be composed of lithium ion polymer batteries, or alternatively “one or more solid state, capacitive, electrical energy storage devices, such as those provided by EEStor Inc. of Cedar Park, Texas… Such solid state electrical energy storage devices comprise calcined composition-modified barium titanate coated with aluminum oxide and calcium magnesium aluminosilicate glass. Continue reading Lockheed names EEStor in “body armor” patent
Ian Clifford, chief executive of ZENN Motor Co., wrote in an e-mail Tuesday to investors and other friends of ZENN that, with respect to EEStor, “it appears less likely that we will have third-party verification of permittivity or the prototype EESU this year as we had hoped.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. EEStor CEO Dick Weir said as much back in late October. Barring some last-minute help from Santa, ZENN and everyone else will have to wait until 2009. But Clifford is staying positive. “I firmly believe that 2009 will be the year that the automotive industry changes forever — and not just because of the current economic turmoil we are all familiar with, but led by the commercialization of disruptive zero-emission automotive solutions by ZMC.”
Clifford also says he’s encouraged by the latest U.S. patent issued to EEStor dated Dec. 16. It gives EEStor another layer of intellectual property protection, and after a quick scan of this patent it appears Mr. Weir and team have made some important refinements on the road to commercialization. He also goes into much greater detail describing the manufacturing process. Continue reading EEStor fails to deliver on ZENN hopes, but new patent shows improvement