Beware the ides of March.
In the past year, Members of Congress from Texas have contacted Department of Energy personnel to raise EEStor's profile in the race for DOE funding of advanced battery initiatives. This revelation originates from personnel at a national security laboratory who spoke on the condition of not naming the lab in question. The lab is one of the most prominent in the United States and its sponsors include the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy. A program within this lab is sponsored by the DOE to organize demonstration projects for alternative energy projects including storage.
According to the lab official, "EEStor has a lot of political connections. They made a lot of waves. That's how we got involved. Xtreme Power is another one. They're both Texas companies. They went to congress & have the ear of a number of congressmen. It's a big state and the President was from Texas, so they got their voice heard. " The official went on to say that efforts like this which originate in Congress are always related to positioning a company for possible funding. When asked how the official learned of this EEStor effort, he said, "Well, by the number of waves that are made in Congress and the DOE. I get a phone call from our DOE manager and I'm told I need to support these folks." That phone call occurred in Sept/Oct 2008. The official went on to marvel that such a small company could garner that much attention given that many large companies with established lobbying efforts often fail to push the right buttons.
Independently of this Congress-lead constituency effort on behalf of EEStor, other officials in the lab were already aware of EEStor and had actually independently reached out to Zenn Motor Company approximately a year ago to inquire about the possibility of being a third party tester of EESU's. Michael Bergeron, Vice President of Engineering at Zenn Motor Company was the recipient of that inquiry from the lab. According to lab personnel, an initial conversation was held to establish the lab's suitability to provide a 3rd party opinion on the technology. Zenn was not ready to proceed. Six months elapsed and somewhere in the Sept/October 2008 time frame, Bergeron contacted the lab to investigate moving forward with the plan. As a result of those discussions, the lab identified experts in batteries and ceramic capacitors to be involved with what was to be described as "an inspection." The lab forwarded to Bergeron a NDA but after that conversations ceased. The lab official said he left two voice messages that were never returned and he never learned what happened to the project. To be clear, in this instance, the lab made the first contact with Zenn Motor Company because they had heard of the "super battery made by EEStor" and were interested in getting involved. Around the same time that Bergeron restarted those discussions, the Department of Energy sponsors were also calling this lab to get them ready to respond.
Zenn Motor Company declined to comment on this story.
So who were the Senators or Representatives acting on behalf of EEStor? It's not known yet despite efforts late Friday to contact officials from both groups. Depending on what exactly transpired, it could represent the first trackable actions of members of the US government with regard to EEStor Inc., and those responsible could later be rewarded politically for what may be either regarded as courageous effort or a complete no-brainer depending on the level of awareness of those involved. (The EEStor blogger always assumes esteemed Members of Congress from Texas are very very educated and able to provide excellent leadership in such matters .) Although representatives from Texas often receive campaign funding from large oil companies, there is a solid record of supporting alternative energy efforts. And if you've followed the EEStor rumor mill, you know that it's been said that Colin Powell has been briefed twice at EEStor's facilities and that he delivered some of that information directly to President Bush. In addition to not being reliably validated, it's not know what, if any actions followed on the part of Powell or Bush. All of these rumors have the potential of being further discovered via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filings. That is, unless key aspects of EEStor's development are currently classified by the Department of Defense or some other agency. What reasons are there to put stock in that possibility?
One reason to believe certain aspects of EEStor's technology may be under wraps is based on an analysis of EEStor's patent filings. In January of 2007, EEStor announced that 12 patents were in process. A year later, it announced that 17 patents were in process. To date, EEStor's USPTO filings include 2 patents, 3 filings that have been published and 2 filings that have not published (but are observable via patent continuity data) for a total of 7 filings. What's unusual across the board about EEStor's filings is the gap between Filing dates and Publishing dates. A statutory mandate from 1999, forced the Patent & Trademark Office to begin, as a rule, to publish patents 18 months after filing date or earlier if the examiner could learn of a mention or use of the invention in public before that time. Only three of EEStor's filings have published in the 18 month time frame. Three others were published between 2.5 and 3 years later. If you go by the 12 patents EEStor claimed in Jan 07, then 5 additional patents are completely missing and passed the 18month cutoff. If you go by the 17 patents mentioned in 2008, we are still 3 months away from the 18 month rule on those.
Inventors can request that patents not be published for an extended period but only if they do not file a foreign patent. EEStor did apply for this provision on their first patent but 2 wks later rescinded it because of foreign patent filings. So, what else prevents a patent from publishing? A government secrecy order.
All patents go through a review process after filing that enables government agencies such as the Department of Defense or Department of Energy to review whether or not the invention has national security implications. (Examples include things like jet propulsion advancements, submarine detection capabilities, or cryptographic advances. ) In 1971, a comprehensive list of the types of inventions various agencies wanted to review in particular was published. Within it, you will notice that batteries are specifically of interest to the DoD.
If these Members of Congress from Texas are still advancing EEStor's cause, here is their prime target: a Department of Energy Grant which is to be announced this month. To be eligible, a company has to be listed in this database. If you search by EEStor or Zenn Motor you will find that both are listed and thus eligible. Furthermore, EEStor is listed as an "A5 - Veteran Owned Business" which will help being awarded certain grants. EEStor also has a Small Business Profile (SBA) which will also help in the awarding and winning of contracts (and is interesting in itself since the section on exporting is left blank). Finally, from