Monday, June 23, 2008

From Pacemaker to Powerplant: Part 1 Interview of Ian Clifford

What do you get when you combine gadget lust with an energy crisis?  For Ian Clifford, CEO of Zenn Motor Company, the answer is quite simple: an opportunity to save the planet.  
Not save
 Toronto or Texas or any other part of the world but the whole shebang; everything and everybody.  You'll forgive Mr. Clifford if he occasionally uses that two word phrase--the planet---a bit too often.  It's just that, when you are about to enter phase 1 of a revolution that could end the use of fossil fuel powered cars, that phrase keeps popping up unexpectedly.  Then again, that's the sort of phrase we heard often back in the early Internet boom, of which, Mr. Clifford was  a successful participant, having sold an Internet marketing company at precisely the right time to stay optimistic about almost anything he touches for the rest of his life.  It's going to take nothing less than heroic optimism to pull off what Mr. Clifford is aiming to pull off.  What is he trying to pull off?

For starters, he wants to save each of the 13000 taxi cab drivers in New York City around $17,000 per year in fuel costs which amounts to over $1Bil over 5yrs which does not include the savings associated with no longer needing to change oil, filters or tune up internal combusion engines or even the lion share of savings gained via vehicle life expansion.  He wants to do this with a zero emission alternative based on technology gained from EEstor, the mysterious producers of a technology which may or may not receive 3rd party validation any day now.   For those who have followed news on Zenn Motor Company, you may be scratching your head now as you thought Zenn was focused on producing a tiny but fully electric  car. But how could Zenn get this car to every taxi cab driver in NYC?  Clifford and Zenn Motors is working on a set of ultracap conversion kits which will be available to retrofit the typical NYC cab platform of choice: the Crown Victoria and/or similar large vehicles.  The kit would eliminate the internal combusion engine and replace it with a ZENNergy drive system, a fully electric system based on ultracapacitor technology. 

With a little success under his belt, Clifford could spend a bit of effort on 100 or so other similarly sized fleets out there before moving on to something of more interest to the average consumer.  While Zenn's cityZenn car is targeted to possibly begin chipping away at the 40mil new  car market beginning in late 2009, you may find a bigger dent sooner among the 900 mil existing vehicles around "the planet" today.  Let's elaborate on this a bit.

Perhaps lately your decision to buy the largest SUV available with the worst gas mileage is seeming less funny to you. Picture this. One day you drive to a Jiffy lube or even your local dealer and instead of an oil change, you ask for engine removal. A few hours later, you pull away from the shop and notice your SUV is now quicker out of the gate than your wife's SAAB while reducing your vehicle power costs by what we'll call a motivating amount of money.  What happens next?  If all goes well, over 1Mil others follow your lead each year for the next few years producing what Ian Clifford would have investors believe is a motivating amount of money. 

What else would Ian Clifford have us believe? In the next installment, Clifford will test our faith with thoughts on who will be the new gas station, other applications of ultracap technology as well as where entrepreneurs should focus their attention for the most gain. 

Amazing Fuel Cost Savings

I tried out the Zenn Motor savings calculator on their website today. The calculator points out that my fuel costs for driving an SUV 70 miles per day is $5600/yr. If i were to switch to a fully electric Zenn and recharge via my local Virigina Power at $0.085 per KWH, my fuel costs would reduce by $5321. That is, with a Zenn my fuel costs would be $278/yr. I am paying 20 times more per year to drive an SUV than a Zenn. This is a staggering figure which could have such an enormous benefit in today's environment. It's not difficult to see what kind of demand this is going to generate if all goes well.