Sunday, September 24, 2006

Will the EEStor Revolutionize the Electric Car?

Thanks to celebrity activist Tod Brilliant for passing along this news: Texas "stealth company" EEStor has patented a new ceramic electrical storage device (which we can't call a battery because it has no chemicals) that can power a car for 500 miles on a $9 charge of electricity. Even more exciting is their claim that fully charging the system will take all of five minutes. And even more exciting: we're not talking about cars that drive like golf carts. According to Business 2.0:
"A four-passenger sedan will drive like a Ferrari," [Toronto-based Feel Good Cars CEO] Clifford predicts. In contrast, first electric car, the Zenn, which debuted in August and is powered by a more conventional battery, can't go much faster than a moped and takes hours to charge. (note: Feel Good Cars plans to incorporate the EEStor into cars by 2008)

The cost of the engine itself depends on how much energy it can store; an EEStor-powered engine with a range roughly equivalent to that of a gasoline-powered car would cost about $5,200. That's a slight premium over the cost of the gas engine and the other parts the device would replace -- the gas tank, exhaust system, and drivetrain. But getting rid of the need to buy gas should more than make up for the extra cost of an EEStor-powered car.

EEStor is tight-lipped about its device and how it manages to pack such a punch. According to a patent issued in April, the device is made of a ceramic powder coated with aluminum oxide and glass. A bank of these ceramic batteries could be used at "electrical energy stations" where people on the road could charge up.

EEStor is backed by VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and the company's founders are engineers Richard Weir and Carl Nelson. CEO Weir, a former IBM-er, won't comment, but his son, Tom, an EEStor VP, acknowledges, "That is pretty much why we are here today, to compete with the internal combustion engine." He also hints that his engine technology is not just for the small passenger vehicles that Clifford is aiming at, but could easily replace the 300-horsepower brutes in today's SUVs.
Not being an engineer, I have no idea how this might work. But I'm very impressed to see Kleiner Perkins on board, and, obviously, very intrigued by the concept. If this turns out to be the real deal, it's hard to imagine how the internal combustion engine, or even gas-electric hybrids, could survive the competition, as the EEStor claims to have all of the qualities potential buyers would want: price, power and efficiency. At the same time, I remember the old saying about "If it seems too good to be true...." Others that are much more knowledgeable about such things, such as J.C. Winnie, Mike Milliken, and TH compadre John Laumer, seem cautiously optimistic...

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