Monday, August 31, 2009

The Thomas Edison EEStor-like Battery Mystery

Previously, I wrote about a curious quote attributed to the inventor Thomas Edison and recorded in a June 11, 1911
New York Times article in which Edison claims to have "perfected a battery which can be recharged in three or four minutes and which will run fifty or sixty miles without being recharged. "

What happened to this battery? Were the claims ever confirmed? With the GM-Volt having an initial target range of 40 miles and requiring relatively much longer charge times, one has to wonder where did this Edison technology go off the track?

To find out, an EEStory reader contacted the Director and General Editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers, Dr. Paul Israel. Dr. Israel is a leading scholar in Thomas Edison studies and he was kind enough to respond to our query concerning specifically, Edison's claims to have a quick charge battery capability.

According to Dr. Israel there has not yet been any "detailed research on Edison's storage battery." Israel pointed out that the records for Edison's efforts in this endevour "have been microfilmed but not yet digitized. There is limited secondary literature on the battery and as far as I know none has tested this claim." He recommended this 1913 article in the Transactions of the American Electrochemical Society. Via a phone interview, Dr. Israel pointed out that two researchers have referenced Edison's battery in their modern day narratives. The first is Edwin Black's Internal Combusion, a pulitzer nominated conspiracy theorist's dream come true about Oil dependency. (BTW, although I say that in an amusing way, you'll quickly notice Black as someone with enormous credibility. ) It's not unimportant to speculate about the significance of the fire that destroyed Edison's battery labs in 1914 as Black does in his I have not read yet. The second reference Israel provided is Rich Schallenberg's 1982 book, Bottled Energy: Electrical Engineering and The Evolution of Chemical Energy Storage. I have read neither book but both look interesting. Israel was also asked whether or not Edison was ever prone to exaggeration of claims. He pointed out that in disputed matters, if one can establish that he was correctly quoted, typically his claims were bore out with scientific proof, ie, he was not a boaster.

Photo link: Edwin Black.

Major Nanosolar News scheduled for Sept 9, 2009 or The September 9, 2009 Announcement Page

Followers of the EEStory know I'm not entirely one dimensional. I do track other technologies and one of them is solar printing mystery company Nanosolar. As I do periodically, I shot a note to Martin Roscheisen this morning requesting an interview. Within 4 minutes, I had a reply saying he would allow the interview in the 2nd half of September and that there is

"some significant news upcoming on 9/9."

Indeed, the Nanosolar website has been updated to reflect an upcoming announcement.

So, let me summarize the announcements on September 9, 2009 or 2009 September 9 if you are in Australia or other places. Apple is announcing something on 9/9. Nanosolar is announcing something on 9/9. The Beatles are announcing something on 9/9 Anyone else? EEStor? 9/9? :-) (relax, it's not a tease. just a question)

Note: Dick Weir and Martin Roscheisen both once worked at Xerox PARC. I queried PARC media relations about this and was told, "we reached out to several of our veteran scientists in our hardware research organizations, but none of them remembers either Richard Weir or Martin Roscheisen." It's interesting to me that both now seem poised to produce important technological breakthroughs using printing technology.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Significance of Polarity to the EEStor Equation

I've had some time to digest the recent discovery that Polarity has publicly announced it's supplier relationship with EEStor and ZMC. My potentially shocking conclusion is that unlike any other partner that has been discovered and at least in one major way, Polarity adds the most credibility to EEStor. More than Mort Topfer. More than Kleiner Perkins. And yes, more than Lockheed Martin. Why? Quite simply because the stakes are much higher for a smaller firm like Polarity for whom a significant portion of their revenue is based on Military contracts. I believe Polarity is gambling much more than any of these other entities who can easily take risks to reputation on projects like EEStor's. Not so with Polarity for whom, at this stage in their development, reputation is everything. To take a credibility hit by associating with a fringe science entity just does not wash with maintaining much less growing a business performing services for the Military. Note the Secret Clearance they maintain on their facility. Familiarize yourself with the process to obtain such a designation (you'll probably get an untrusted certificate). I'm not saying every government action is rational. I'm simply saying it's highly unlikely that anyone wishing to grow a business in that environment would take unnecessary risks to reputation. Have a look at this excerpt from the facility clearance FAQ:


A: The same process used in the case of an unclassified procurement is involved. The facility must qualify as a bidder to a Government procurement activity or to a prime contractor or subcontractor performing on a Government contract. If the bid or potential subcontract involves access to classified information, the procuring activity or cleared prime contractor submits a request to clear the prospective bidder. Personnel from the Facility Clearance Branch at Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office (DISCO) evaluate the request and assure that the request is valid. Part of this validation includes confirmation that the facility has a reputation for integrity and lawful conduct in its business dealings. Further, the contractor and its key managers must not be in a “barred” status from participating in Government contracts."

Additionally, they seem pretty capable of keeping secrets as I've attempted on two occasions to obtain an interview. On both occasions I was referred to EEStor. I also asked ZMC for comment and was pointed back to Polarity and/or EEStor. EEStor had no comment.

On an unrelated note: a Washington Post poll reveals most people support President Obama's handling of Energy policy...even the idea of cap n trade! Not so sure about that myself.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A New Storage Battery

Mr. Weir Believes He Has Solved a Great Problem

He Has Found, He Says, Long Sought Qualities of Lightness and Durability

It's not difficult to imagine the above article title and subtitles announcing yet another introductory article on the topic of EEStor Inc. But what if I told you, you could replace the name Weir with Edison and have the beginnings of a New York times article written 108 years ago on a new battery Thomas Edison had invented? Mildly interesting? What if I told you that at the time of the writing the properties of the new battery were already "long sought after" and considered as revolutionary as the "incandescent light." Not bad, you say? Sit down, there's more....much much more.

On May 23, 1901, a New York Times article was published covering the reading of a paper at an annual meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.
The reader, A.J. Kennelly announced the invention of a new battery by Thomas Edison and described all of it's advantages in comparison to the existing batteries of the day (which were lead acid believe it or not): not only would Edison's battery be two to three times lighter and more durable, it would charge in 3.5hrs instead of the standard 7.5 to 8 hrs of it's competitors. They would also work better in cold weather. Yes, but what about capacity you ask? Remarkably, an example given over a century ago was that of the range of an automobile (No, I'm not making this up). At the time, the longest known distance a battery powered vehicle had traveled was 50 miles. It was claimed that Edison's new battery would double that range to 100 miles. (Hello, GM Volt crazies).

Not surprisingly, the other applications for Edison's new battery were transportation related. The New York Times report read:

"The advantages of the new invention as set forth by an engineer are so comprehensive that it was predicted that a new art of electrical propulsion and navigation would result. Among the possibilities is a new electric street car, the doing away with the present trolley system, and the substitution of a car supplied with power by storage battery. Likewise, owing to durability and to the cheapening of the batteries and the facility of their mechanism, it is predicted that electric light will be cheapened and that electric power in time may supersede that of steam in many factories now dependent upon the steam boiler. "

If you're a regular at and you are experiencing a strange little feeling you can't put your finger on, consider this. The century old article states that Edison's battery was "passed the experimental stage and has been tested and proved in actual practice to such an extend that a factory is about to be built to manufacture the batteries for commercial purposes." According to the article, Edison made the claim that his battery was "theoretically indestructible" because in tests they had charged it in reverse and restored it to full capacity with a regular charge. This should sound similar to Richard Weir's claims about the indestructibility of the EESU -- and how it will outlast the equipment to which it is attached -- with component parts of the EESU having been apparently tested (charged/discharged) to more than a million cycles. And if that is not similar enough to EEStor, the reporter also captured some stealth with Edison having "declined to discuss the commercial advantages of the new invention beyond saying that he had purchased the old Hayden Mill in Genridge, about two miles from West Orange, where he will take immediate possession and begin at once the manufacture of the new batteries."

The reporter added, "He said he would organize the Edison Storage Battery Company and would retain absolute control of the business. "

Unlike the reception EEStor has received from their electric industry peers, Edison received immediate praise from the the Electrical Review:

"Mr Edison has produced no invention of broader utility in the electrical field since incandescent lighting was evolved from the busy brain of the same pioneer of industry. It is hard to foresee all the meaning of this improvement. But we may look a little way and see the noiseless city, the suppression of the horse, and the automobile a factor of economic importance in general transportation. The perfected battery means the solution of many difficult traction problems, the betterment of electric lighting, and the foundation of the new art of electric navigation. Electric tugboats will give new life to our canals, and with electric ferryboats will revolutionize our harbors. Electric torpedo-boats of swiftness and secrecy will make present naval armaments of doubtful protection."

Military silent applications? Check. Noiseless cities? Check. Renewable energy. Check. A difficult to predict but certain revolutionary impact? Check, check, check. Edison's battery advance was the EEStory of his day. But he had the credibility of the light bulb under his belt, an invention so much less complicated than the data storage disk technologies invented by Nelson and Weir a decade ago when they created a hard disk able to spin at 50,000 RPM's which could survive a disk crash of the arm into the platter, a capability still not commercially available (after all, if disks didn't fail, how would Seagate or Western Digital sell more of them?)
Thomas Edison c. 1912.

As for Edison, at the time of the New York Times article, he was only willing to say the following:

"I have concerned myself almost solely with the improvement of the new battery for at least a year. I began the experiments that have led up to the invention a number of years ago. Ever since last August I have confined myself exclusively to the new battery, trying it out in practice under all sorts of conditions of temperature and road traffic--for the batteries have been tried on heavy work. I have always been more interested in the solution of the problem of furnishing a power to do the useful and heavy work rather than to provide means for pleasure vehicles, and it is in the direction of heavy trucking especially that I expect the new battery will work a revolution."

Over the next several years, Edison went on to slowly introduce his battery into various applications as he predicted. According to The Edison Papers, a Rutgers Univ project, the battery became Edison's most successful project in later life.
Edison demonstrating an electric lawn mower.

But in 1911, 10yrs after making his initial statements about the battery, Edison was finally prepared to make a real EEStor-caliber claim. At a national convention of electric power companies, Edison was asked about his battery business. Quoting again from a New York Times article (this one dated June 11, 1911):

"I have done far better than that now, and nothing has come out about it. I have perfected a battery which can be recharged in three or four minutes and which will run fifty or sixty miles without being recharged. The trouble with the first battery was that the recharging took a long time. When charged a car would run all day, but then it took the better part of the night to recharge it and get it ready for the next day. But I have done away with all that. I have now a battery which can be put into a suit case, it is so small and light, and it can run a car, truck automobile, or vehicle of any kind until the power is used up and then recharged in less than 3 minutes, ready for service as before."

Apparently, this script has played out once before a hundred years ago. So what happened to all of this great Edison battery technology? First, some of Edison's batteries did in fact display a certain measure of indestructibility having remained functional over 70 years! This lead to the battery being known as "too good" since it could outlast some of the equipment it was intended to power, which from a manufacturing point of view is economically unattractive. In 1960, the Edison Battery Storage business division was sold to the company now known as Exide Technologies, a company which claims to be nothing less than the largest and most global maker of....cover your ears.......lead acid batteries. Perform a keyword search for 'Edison' on their website and you will get no hits. The nickel-iron chemistry Edison based his battery on is actually still in use in China among other places, perhaps because they are far less toxic than their lead acid counterparts. Incidently, Exide Technologies was awarded $34Mil to advance lead acid batteries in the recent DOE advanced battery stimulus funding. (They spent $60K on lobbying in 2009 and some of their execs have made several donations to the Republican National Committee. )

So if the batteries did in fact perform as Edison described, how come we have never heard of the quick charge claim attributed to him by the New York Times article? To find out, I contacted leading scholars familiar with the history of electric vehicles and Thomas Edison. I pointed out the article where the claim was documented and hoped for a quick solution. The answer is that it is unknown but worthy of further investigation. HHhhmm. That sounds familiar. :-)

Note: I will not be starting a website devoted to the quest to uncover the truth about the Edison quick charge battery. :-) But I challenge you to solve it!

Many Images Courtesy of National Park Service.

Special thanks to a few anonymous editors! (sorry my formatting is so unprofessional!)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Supplier Announces EEStor Contract in support of Zenn Motor Company

At some point recently, EEStor supplier Polarity Inc., announced via it's website a contract with EEStor Inc. In its entirety, the terse release says:

2009 Awarded contract from EESTOR to integrate Polarity’s high power HV to LV converter into EESTOR's EESU that will be used in Zenn Motor Company’s small to medium size electric car

The converter in question is further described on Polarity's Products page:

Polarity designed this HVLV600 DC to DC converter with the following specifications:

  • Input Voltage - 3700VDC to 700VDC
  • Output voltage and current - 600VDC, 17A
  • Maximum Output Power - 10KW
  • Short circuit proof
  • Effeciency > 90%
  • Cooling - Maximum base plate temp 60C

Monitoring and control

  • Battery charge complete
  • Battery voltage
  • Buss voltage
  • Inhibit
  • Up conversion enable
  • Down conversion enable
  • Overload
  • External 12VDC power supply

Polarity has also had a patent publish in Aug 2008 at WIPO.

Story Source. Thx Paulnessss

Charity Water

Monday, August 24, 2009


Let's not let this Ford announcement disappear too quickly.

Image Source.

Boston Power Article in Boston Globe: No DOE Funds

Erin Ailworth has written a noteworthy article tracking how Boston Power was unable to obtain their sought after $100Mil in DOE stimulus funds. It's a great piece of journalism, allowing us to peer into this unprecedented release of USA public funds...a process we are learning isn't so transparent.

However, the article could have been a blockbuster if Ailworth had followed through on a couple things. First, she should have utilized to provide a comparison of lobbying/campaign donations among applications for the DOE battery funds. If she had done that for Boston Power, she would have noted how PAULTRY a sum they invested ($50K) compared to the grand winners A123 Systems (close to $1Mil. )

Secondly, I think it is remarkable that US Rep James McGovern said there was a "buzz that the [Boston Power] application was very, very strong. People within the industry and at the DOE intimated that this was a really good company with good technology." What amazes me is that anyone at DOE would speak to McGovern after the applications were submitted because I knew of several attempts by others to simply learn WHO THE APPLICANTS WERE...a request that was denied by DOE. So, if Ailworth had stirred the pot a little on the selection process, the story may have been even more interesting.

My working theory is one I don't enjoy holding and I really hope that I am wrong. The theory is that if you didn't rack up enough points (lobbying/campaign donations), you didn't get any DOE funds. So there you go, Erin, you're next article idea. Happy hunting!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Titanium X Memory Lane

I caught up with Dr. Wilbur C. Krussell today on the phone and had a chance to talk with him about his 2&1/2yrs working with Dick Weir and Carl Nelson at Titanium X. What does he remember about them?

"They're smart. They know a hell of a lot about materials. They're really good at the formulation, IP, & Pilot line stuff. "

Krussell ruminated on Weir, Nelson and their tenacity & genius but he's not too familiar with EEStor. Krussell attended the same alma mater as Nelson, ie, MIT.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Regarding EEStor & DOE Funding

There's been a bit of head scratching concerning whether or not EEStor ever applied for federal funding and if not, why not. Without attempting to resolve all those questions at once, it was pointed out to me that EEStor has what can fairly be described as pretty good counsel on the matter. Observe. I'm referring to Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati's Clean tech practice which maintains a competency with important regulatory developments in the space. Their clients include Tesla, Smith Electric Vehicles, Proterra (the electric bus people), Bloom Energy, and energy storage firms Imara & ActaCell.

Here's an excerpt from WSGR's 2009 Cleantech Report:

Government Initiatives. We recognize that

successful navigation of government policy

and funding programs can be critical to the

success of many of our clean technology and

renewable energy clients. With this in mind,

our government initiatives team focuses on

providing clients with critical information

regarding legislative and regulatory

developments, as well as an understanding of

the processes that companies must follow to

obtain government funding for their clean

technology ventures and renewable energy

projects. Our attorneys work closely with

clients on submissions for loan guarantees,

grants, and other federal funding programs

and give strategic advice on best practices in

managing these complex processes.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kleiner Partner Bill Joy Heads EEStor Relationship

According to a very well connected anonymous source, Bill Joy is the Kleiner Perkins partner who initiated the EEStor Inc. investment. Additionally, he is responsible for having recruited Mort Topfer to serve on the EEStor Board of Directors.

In the past, this has been a question relegated to rumor....(still will be for some. )But for me, I am highly confident it is the case based on a highly credible source who simply preferred not to be quoted. Joy co-founded Sun with recent EEStor commentator Vinod Khosla and a gaggle of other legendary nerds.

One of the challenges in seeking a comment from Kleiner Perkins on EEStor is trying to target the correct partner to talk about it. Knowing that Joy handled the EEStor investment at least makes that part of the puzzle easier to handle. To date, I've requested comments from Kleiner on most of EEStor's announcements and news items. But they have said that if an investment is not listed on their website, they do not comment on it. On another occasion, a spokesperson for Kleiner told me that they do not comment on investment companies if the company receiving the investment asks them to do so.

image source:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mort Topfer Continues to Retire

Former EEStor Board of Director member, Mort Topfer has stepped down from the AMD BoD on July 30, 2009. He is expected to now once again rejoin the EEStor Board of Directors for a 3rd time at which time, he will promptly resign and rejoin again and again. Just kidding. :-)

I found this tidbit searching the SEC website. Topfer as a search term....

Saturday, August 8, 2009

NY Times Article on Batteries

Saqib Rahim and Jessica Lebers of ClimateWire made one mistake in their recent NY Times article: there's no mention of any skepticism regarding these DOE funds for batteries. It seems odd that all of this money is circulating and no one is asking any difficult questions about it. For example, I don't think I've read a single article on this battery funding that questioned the underlying supply of lithium ion or the fact that instead of obtaining oil from the middle east we will be gathering our lithium from Bolivia or China. Also, no reporter has examined the relationship between winners/losers of stimulus funding with basic lobbying/campaign donation funds at

I'm not saying anything is amiss for certain. But, it seems good journalism practices would at least lead one to inquire into some of these issues. It just feels like ever since the Obama administration began, all the tough questions have been set aside.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another EEStor Skeptic Takes a Swipe

SeekingAlpha author John Peterson lays out the reasoning behind his EEStor skepticism in a blog post he emailed me about today. I think his points have been well covered at It should come as no surprise to anyone just starting to learn about EEStor that there are many skeptics of EEStor. They have credibility. They understand material science and they don't think EEStor can deliver. Some will go to the next step and say what EEStor is attempting is impossible. If you believe in EEStor, you can't run and hide from that. It's not going to go away until EEStor does exactly what Peterson hopes they do, which is deliver some 3rd party confirmation.

In the meantime, in the absense of this confirmation, I'll simply restate my position: I believe EEStor has exactly what they claim and will deliver it as they promise. Everyone wants a time frame but I don't think that is quite as important. And skeptics have a point here regarding timeframes that, again, can't be ignored. But for me, based on all the information I have had the opportunity examine, I think EEStor has done it.

One final thing about John Peterson. I reached out to him via email a few weeks back because I learned he sat on a panel at Storageweek with a Kleiner partner. Did the Kleiner partner mention EEStor? No. Did Peterson ask? No. This brings me to rule #1 of anyone who would attempt to get to the truth about EEStor: when you get the opportunity to ask someone who owns 20% of EEStor a question about their prospects, you ask the question. :-)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Why would DARPA fund EEStor? Businessweek Article Provides Insights

Steve LeVine has written about some of new cleantech priorities of DARPA in this July 23, 2009 article as well as points about past achievements. A few months back, I tried unsuccessfully to speak with Robert J. Nowak, who is mentioned in this article. He has been involved with multiple energy storage initiatives for the DoD and someone who served on a National Academies committee with him recommended I seek him out. Alas, LeVine had better luck. Steve, if you read this blog post, shoot my email address over to Mr. Nowak:

From the article:

"Typically, DARPA requires contractors to come up with solutions that are orders of magnitude superior to current technology. It pays companies—from startups to IBM—as well as top universities to meet a goal. Then, other than imposing strict reporting requirements, the agency gets out of the way of the researchers' work."