EEStor Claims New Energy Storage Milestone, But Still No Product

Last Updated Apr 23, 2009 2:29 AM EDT

What if there were an energy storage device for vehicles that was cheaper, more compact and much faster to charge than a battery? EEStor's ultracapacitors promise all of those things. Unfortunately, the startup doesn't talk very much about itself.

But, perhaps in honor of Earth Day, EEStor just decided to put out a brief press release boasting a huge achievement, a relative permattivity of over 22,500 for the barium-titanate powders used in its ultracapacitors. For the non-technical, a capacitor's permittivity helps determine how much charge the device can hold. The baseline permittivity, using vacuum, is one. The number EEStor is claiming (backed by an external scientist) are up to 1,000 times those of industrial capacitors used today.

And that's about it for EEStor's news. It is interesting to note, however, that Zenn Motor Company, a small electric car manufacturer, felt the need to issue its own press release boasting the news, throwing in a vague promise to "review the results". Of course, EEStor had supposedly reached high permittivity levels several years ago (although none approaching the current number), after its agreement with Zenn had already been reached.

Whether Zenn has been allowed to closely review anything done by EEStor during this time is an open question. Other investors, including famed venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, almost certainly haven't been allowed deep access to EEStor's science.

Today, EEStor's ultracapacitors are almost two years late to market. It's normal for a healthy startup to hit delays of a few months up to a year, but the time lag suggests that there's a heck of a lot more to putting together an ultracapacitor that can replace a car battery (or power military systems, per an investment in the company from Lockheed Martin) than just achieving high permittivity.

Still, there could be some deeper reason behind EEStor's sudden release than Earth Day -- could they actually be ready to start manufacturing? Hope springs eternal.