You’ve heard of Fisker, Tesla, Chevy Volt, and Better Place, but ZENN Motor Company is the quiet upstart lurking in the shadows that may have the Excalibur that propels electric vehicles into the mainstream. ZENN’s secret weapon goes by the name of EEstor, a company that has developed a type of capacitor for electricity storage called the ‘Electrical Energy Storage Unit’ (EESU). According to its patent application, these units will use high-purity barium titanate coated with aluminum oxide and glass to achieve a level of capacitance claimed to be much higher than what is currently available in the market. The claimed energy density of the prototype is 1 MJ/kg; existing commercial supercapacitors typically have an energy density around 0.02 MJ/kg, while lithium ion batteries are around 0.54–0.72 MJ/kg.1
ZENN has exclusive rights to EEstor technology for four-wheeled, light vehicles. In April 2008 ZENN Motor Company announced that a future highway speed electric vehicle using EEStor’s capacitors will achieve 80 mph (130 km/h) speeds, 250 mile (400 km) range and charge in 5 minutes (not from standard plug). ZENN is hoping these models will be ready by Fall of 2009 with a price range of $25,000-$30,000. This vehicle will be called the cityZENN.
With that said, there has been a lot of excitement surrounding EEstor, but very little information on its progress. So when Ian Clifford, founder of ZENN, took questions from concerned stockholders to casual electric car aficionados, he did his best to calm some jitters while not revealing too much. Supposedly, he has a non-disclosure agreement with EEStor so he cannot state whether or not he has actually seen and held their wonderful technology.
Highlights include Ian stating that they are still confident the EESU powered cityZENN will be lauched in late 2009, ZENN Motors will retrofit fleets of commercial vehicles with the ZENNergy drivetrain, and somebody asked about using EEstor technology in green sailboats.
There seems to be a lot of confusion recently concerning who owns the rights to EEstor’s breakthrough (hopefully) battery technology. Let me simplify it to the best of my knowledge:
ZENN- as of April 2007 ZENN has exclusive rights to EEStor’s capacitors (EESU) for use in small 4-wheeled vehicles.
Lockheed Martin- as of January 9, 2008 Lockheed Martin has exclusive rights to integrate and market EESU units in military and homeland security applications.
LightEV- as of September 24, 2008, LightEV has exclusive rights to EESU units for two and three wheeled vehicles.
So basically, none of these overlap. ZENN still has exclusive rights to use EEstor’s game changing technology in their four wheeled vehicles. LightEV, who nobody has ever heard of, seems to have really pulled a fast one, and gained exclusive rights to make three and two wheeled vehicles with it. I mean, look at the LightEV site. A lot of three wheeled and two wheeled electric vehicle producing companies are probably kicking themselves right now. I’m looking at you, Aptera, Zap!, VentureOne.
In April 2008 ZENN Motor Company announced that a future highway speed electric vehicle using EEStor’s capacitors will achieve 80 mph (130 km/h) speeds, 250 mile (400 km) range and charge in 5 minutes. EEStor also claimed it would weigh 90% less than conventional batteries. That is how powerful this technology could potentially be. But ZENN stated later in May, “[The Batteries] are still under development and there can be no assurance that it will be successfully commercialized at all or on a timely basis.” This was in the latest press release on the ZENN homepage. Anyways, the hype surrounding the EEStor technology seems to be tapering off, with rumors that it might not be much of a breakthrough after all. Some say the government got hold of it when EEStor signed with Lockheed Martin, hiding it with Bigfoot and the Area 51 aliens. You never know.
[Edit] The official name of the company is LightEVs, not LightEV.
ZENN stands for Zero Emission No-Noise and is known for its Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV). I wasn’t expecting to find much intrigue about a Canadian based company best known for a car that, on the surface, looks and performs like a over hyped golf cart. The lead-acid battery powered NEV has a top speed of 25 mph and a range of 30-50 miles on a charge.
But you know what? Zenn is fixing to to make a run in the EV industry. First of all, the 25 mph top speed is restricted by the Canadian government because they did not feel the vehicle met safety standards of higher speed operation. Then Canada wouldn’t allow the ZENN cars to operate on roads unless they were outfitted with warning lights and signs. It was not until June 17, 2008 that residents of Quebec were allowed to drive ZENN in Canada without warning signals.
The real kicker is that ZENN gained exclusive rights from EEStor over the past few years to make electric vehicles up to 3,100 lbs. EEstor is developing a solid-state electric battery that is being considered game changing in the electric vehicle industry. The Ceramic EESU should be less than half the weight of lithium-ion batteries, fully chargeable in minutes rather than hours, and have an unbelievably long charge life.
Using this technology, Zenn is hoping to release the cityZENN, a vehicle with a top speed of 78 mph and a 250 mile ev range. The 5 minute recharge time will not be available from household outlets, but special charging stations. Home charges will still take you a few hours, more or less, depending on your outlet. ZENN is hoping these models will be ready by Fall of 2009 with a price range of $25,000-$30,000. The company also hopes to retrofit our current gas guzzlers with its EEstor equipped, “ZENNergy drivetrain”.
Sounds like ZENN has a lot in store for us, here’s hoping they succeed in bringing us their fancy new technology.