Friday, May 30, 2008

How Fast Can You Partner?: Part 2 Interview with EEstor's Richard Weir

To understand the mindset of Richard Weir, CEO of EEStor Inc, you have to reflect on how intent he is on not allowing his intellectual property to fall into the chaos of a hype machine prior to it's delivery to the market. Keeping a low profile, as the story goes, will allow his team to complete its scientific work of proving, quite simply, that what they have can do what they say it can. It's very likely that we wouldn't know anything about EEStor if it weren't for Zenn Motor Company, who introduced us to the concept of an electric vehicle that could charge in 5 minutes and drive 400 miles. So, Weir is focused and doing his best to avoid the chaos of hype. Perfectly rational, right?


But what if that aversion to chaos were really stemming from that most unscientific outlook known as greedy fear? You're not familiar with greedy fear? Let me explain it to you. Let's say you're out scuba diving, maybe visiting an old wreck that's been explored countless times before by many other divers, but this time you see something no else has seen. So, you move in for a closer look and a little bit of dusting off here and there and you find yourself staring at $500 billion in gold and diamonds. After you almost drown due to improper breathing brought on by hysteria, you might feel a different form of fear. After all, you've just become one of the richest people in history. That is, if you can actually get the goods from where they are now to where they need to be so they can be liquidated and entered in to your checking account. I imagine most of us would not walk up on the beach and make a public announcement about what we found, where we found it and how we're going to begin carting it out of the water....much less build a corporate website laying everything out for remote users.


A more likely outcome is greedy fear and involves having a series of paranoid thoughts ranging from the frustration you might feel if a monied organization dropped anchor right over your find and began rapidly sucking out every last dime of your treasure with a giant vacuum. On the other side of things, you might wonder if anyone out there has surreptitiously learned of your find and are finishing up final walkthroughs of your pending accidental death--perhaps scheduled for next Tuesday when you're out walking your dog at 5:30am.

When Mr. Weir walks his dog, what or who might he be thinking about? "Here's what I'll tell you, this is pretty well known. We fit everything from iPods, cellphones all the way up to batteries for Bradley Tanks." So goes Weir's answer to my innocuous question as to what applications we might gain besides car batteries. Did you hear that Steve Jobs? Weir has a new battery for your iPod. Only, when you connect it to your car, it would also power the car not just the iPod. Finally, something truly insanely great! Along with the gadgets he lists, throw in toys and flashlights, etc. In other words, look for a head-on collision with any of these 330 companies. And let's not even mention the automobile or oil industry here to create real spookiness. It's easy to see how there might be alot of unhappy wealthy and organized groups of people who may not see Mr. Weir's work as a great boon.


And if you have all these potential enemies out there, who are you going to turn to for a little coverage in case anyone gets trigger happy? Why not team with the world's largest weapons contractor, Lockheed Martin, a company currently supplying the US Dept of Defense and Homeland Security with technology, people, and know-how. Get in real tight so that anyone who takes you on is really taking on a massive organization with connections all over government and beyond. That sounds pretty good. What does security like that cost anyway? In EEStor's case, Lockheed only asked for exclusive rights to the entire defense and homeland security industry. Done!

So, I wasn't surprised when I asked Mr. Weir to please give me something new and interesting that no one has written about, something exciting if possible. His reply? "Go back and read what Lockheed Martin said about this. I think that's very exciting. They said two things. They said it works. And they didn't say it works with this or that caveat.... they just said it works. And second, they said it could ramp up into a high volume production environment. I think that's very exciting. So go read what they said about it." In other words, go ask my big brawny, highly trained, well-armed partners what they say about it. So, I took him at his words and did reread the press release and then called the Lockheed press point of contact. That interview will be posted next week.

In summary, a pattern is emerging which may be becoming clearer to you if you want, for example, to invest in the outcome of EEStor's work. Just my opinion but, I would bet that other business deals are forthcoming that involve inking deals with large players in well established markets. EEStor seems fond of exclusive rights deals, so if you want to do business, better have the means.

So you might wonder how EEstor stacks up with Maxwell Technologies, certainly their most advanced competitor. In my next posting, Weir will comment on just that. Also, without asking, Weir provides an update on production schedule and a few personal observations.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

To Hype or Not to Hype: Part 1 Interview with EEStor's Richard Weir

By every conservative measure if all goes well, 5yrs from now, you will be living in Richard Weir's world. Just don't tell him that because that's hype and Mr. Weir is not in the business of producing hype. Today, Mr. Weir, the CEO of EEStor Inc. and his team are narrowly focused on things that feed the scientific soul: certification testing, validation testing, proving the efficacy of capabilities, proving the scalability of manufacturing processes, the purity of chemicals and a host of other things that ordinary people don't worry about when they are driving down the road in their gas guzzling vehicles. But it's the new worries of vehicle owners pinched by the high price of gasoline that is ripening the conditions Weir finds intolerable to carrying out his self set tasks which include the small goal of producing a new type of "battery" with 10 times the capacity at 1/10th of the footprint.

Hype. Giving something more attention that it deserves. Memories of the Segway hysteria come to mind: the idea that a new invention could radically change the metropolitan landscape by eliminating the need for combustion engine vehicles (little did we know that things like doors, windows and seat belts would go too. ) Hype. A condition where news travels virally as the concept or idea of something so drastically captures the imagination of individuals that they are compelled to share what they've heard. They can't help it and it can't be stopped once it's put into motion. Today, what's on everyone's mind who doesn't shop at Neiman Marcus is the cost of gasoline.

The idea that what today costs us $373/month in fuel to get us to/from work could tommorrow cost us $16/month. (see savings calculator). Ordinary humans cannot help but let the imagination run wild with "What If!?" Hello 50 inch plasma, hello stainless steel grill. Or better, hello not going into foreclosure on my house, hello feeding my kids, hello end to global economic malaise. Hype hype hype.

Does it keep Mr. Weir up at night that the success of his technology could have such a profound effect on hundreds of millions of people? "We're focused on certification and will continue to do so until we have proven first something we can talk about later" Mr. Weir says in a succinct and matter of fact tone not willing to engage in any hyperbole.

In my 10 minutes with Mr. Weir on the phone, I couldn't tell if his barage of polite "no comments" was a page out of Dean Kamen's playbook or Denny Klein's. Kamen used his organization's silence to create one of the greatest free marketing phenomenon's in history for a product that in the end is really just an interesting 2 wheeled electric skateboard. In the end, Kamen now says "hype is the enemy of innovation" but I'm sure his marketing team is still trying to wipe that strange little smile from their faces several years after the events in question. Or is it Denny Klein's playbook? The guy who received organization
crippling media coverage after he demonstrated a car that runs on water utilising hho gas. In Klein's case, it was a matter of being completely unable to continue producing on his vision due to the nonstop calling, emailing, faxing of his small staff. Some of this lead to Klein releasing a website to handle the frequent similar queries.

But what about EEStor, why don't they have a website to navigate around those issues?
"When we're producing batteries and everybody is happy, then we'll get a website. " A strange choice of words for the CEO of a company whose capabilities are geared towards eliminating what we today refer to as a battery with what tommorrow we will refer to as an ultracapacitor or supercapacitor or better, "does that ipod have a battery or an ultracap?" The latter being newer technology designed in large part to function similarly to the former but differing mainly in magnitude. "We just don't want to get into the hype business."

But planning and intentions do not always hold up when you're working on something so incredibly great, even your best efforts cannot prevent you from responding to one or two questions delivered rapid fire. In the next installation, we will examine Mr. Weir's weaknesses in this area which revealed in part his take on the scope of his technology, his competitors (hint: he can't find one) , EEStor's distribution strategy (expect the word proprietary) and finally, his advice on where to find the best current information on his company. Oh, and for good measure, where EEStor stands with regard to production timetables.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Interview with Richard Weir, EEStor President and CEO

I was able to get a few minutes on the phone just now with Dick Weir, CEO of EEstor Inc.  I was able to ask him about EEStor, Zenn Motor and a few interesting things like why they don't have a corporate website and what he thinks of Maxwell Technologies.  He has some interesting things to say about Lockheed Martin as well.    I will be posting excerpts of my conversation with Mr. Weir in the coming days. 

Proving EEStor's Claims

Good article elaborating upon one of EEStor's immediate challenges which is to certify and prove the claims surrounding their intellectual property.  Here's an excerpt from the article on EEStor's 3rd party validation:

An EEStor press release said the company has third-party certification by Southwest Research Institute of San Antonio that “the initial milestone of certifying purification, concentration and stability of its key production chemicals” has been completed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Christian Science Monitor Article

This is one of the better articles I've read about EEStor. It covers all the traditional angles while underscoring that EEStor's technology isn't just about electric cars but involves practically thousands of uses in thousands of types of devices. Here's an excerpt:

An electric vehicle needs a source of electricity that’s as light and powerful as possible. A lithium-ion battery, the emerging state-of-the-art battery for electrics and hybrids, has a “specific energy” (electricity per unit of mass) of 120 watt-hours per kilogram. EEStor says its light ceramic ultracapacitors have a specific energy more than twice that: 280 watt-hours per kg. By contrast, a lead-acid gel battery used in golf carts is rated at 32 watt-hours.

The article goes on to point out that BMW is evaluating ultracapactitors

Friday, May 2, 2008

Think Ultracapacitors are pie in the sky?

...then have a look at one of the first consumer products based on an ultracapacitor....a flashcell screwdriver! Thanks There may be an EEStor product in our future after all.

Here's the link to the overview on the Coleman Flashcell Screwdriver. It charges in 90 seconds. It can withstand 500,000 charge cycles. Amazing!!!

This is a great resource for folks trying to learn more about Ultracapacitors. And they got an email today from Ian Clifford who is the CEO of Zenn Motors. The email announced that an EEStor enabled electric vehicle would ship in Fall 2009 as stated previously at the annual shareholder meeting. ZENN has global rights to sell kits to convert gas vehicles to electric. Wow, that's quite a catch if the technology is as disruptive as it's billed to be.

Really, check out the site: of good info.
Ian Clifford's mug on right. Hey Ian, why not send me an email??? Or give me 10 minutes for an interview!

Kleiner Perkins and EEStor

Here's a good article to summarize where Kleiner Perkins has invested it's money when it comes to electric vehicles. It makes plain how intent they are on being part of whatever electric innovation emerges with the various projects out there. EEstor is mentioned as one of Kleiner Perkins' first investments in the area.

EEStor mention in this CNET Article

CNET's article on the Electric Aircraft Symposium held Saturday in San Francisco, mentioned that EEStor actually presented at this conference last year. Lots of good info for those interested in the future of personal air travel future and of course, electric aircraft.

Great Graphic on Zenn vs Traditional Car

Check out this graphic comparing Zenn's electric car operating expenses to that of a traditional car. Is it too good to be true? Thanks PESN.COM.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Fantastic Barium Titanate Article

Suppose I read this article which mentions barium titanate, the theme of this blog, and I didnt understand a bit of it. Should my sense of being an authority on barium titanate be diminished? Nah. Authority right here, ok?

Wired Article from Sep '07

Worthy of inclusion on this blog is this Wired article from back in Sept 07.