Friday, September 29, 2006

EEStor's Ultracapacitor

EEStor, a stealth company in Cedar Park, Texas is developing a ceramic ultracapacitor with a barium titanate dielectric. If they can match their hype, this is going to be a game changer.

From TreeHugger:

Among EEStor's claims is that its "electrical energy storage unit" could pack nearly 10 times the energy punch of a lead-acid battery of similar weight and, under mass production, would cost half as much.

It also says its technology more than doubles the energy density of lithium-ion batteries in most portable computer and mobile gadgets today, but could be produced at one-eighth the cost.

If that's not impressive enough, EEStor says its energy storage technology is "not explosive, corrosive, or hazardous" like lead-acid and most lithium-ion systems, and will outlast the life of any commercial product it powers. It can also absorb energy quickly, meaning a small electric car containing a 17-kilowatt-hour system could be fully charged in four to six minutes versus hours for other battery technologies, the company claims.

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.
From Business 2.0:
EEStor's device is not technically a battery because no chemicals are involved. In fact, it contains no hazardous materials whatsoever. Yet it acts like a battery in that it stores electricity. If it works as it's supposed to, it will charge up in five minutes and provide enough energy to drive 500 miles on about $9 worth of electricity.

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.

According to a patent issued in April, the device is made of a ceramic powder coated with aluminum oxide and glass.
Digital Crusader takes a look at their numbers and compares it with Tesla Motors.
It's the system cost, however, which is such a jaw-dropper. The Tesla Roadster uses 6831 lithium-ion battery cells about the size of a AA. In quantity 1, these batteries are about $2.75, which could mean the cost is $18,000. Assuming a 50% quantity discount (entirely possible), the Telsa batteries alone are about $9000. Further more, this is only about *half* the power storage that EEstor claims, because the Telsa Roadster has only a 250 mile range. And this cost also doesn't count the elaborate power management and and cooling systems necessary, nor the motors, all of which is supposed to be included in the $5200 price tag of the EEstor system. Realistically, EEstor is claiming at least a 3x lower cost than Tesla will be facing for their storage and propulsion system.
More on EEStor can be found over at Clean Break.

Numbers like that seem too good to be true. I would dismiss this out of hand except for one thing. They have gotten $3 million in funding from Kleiner Perkins. That is the VC firm that funded Google, Sun Microsystems,, and Netscape. I would bet that they did some serious due diligence and came away thinking that this is possible. While I am skeptical of their claims just because they are so impressive, if they are able to back them up this is a game changer for the automotive industry.

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