Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ed Beardsworth: The Original EEStor Blogger

Much has been made of EEStor's development time lines. Skeptics say ongoing delays are proof they have nothing. Industry veterans say development cycles do not happen quickly and cite examples: Tesla, Valence & Bloom Energy, etc ad nauseum.


So, what do you build your case on? For anyone trying to establish credibility for their view on EEStor, it's important to cite actual facts. That's why the initial Internet revelation of EEStor's existence is an interesting one to examine.


Ed Beardsworth is the owner and publisher of UFTO.com which is short for Utility Federal Technology Opportunities, a program he started to give Utility companies..in the words of a client, "early warning about things out there that will change our world." Please note Beardsworth makes it very easy to contact him if you need to talk about something of potential utility to him. I've taken the liberty on more than one occasion to check out facts surrounding EEStor with Beardsworth. Although he has nothing to hide, he also has obligations for secrecy due to his business relationships. Still, Beardsworth has been able to provide background on already publicly released information. Beardsworth helped introduce EEStor to Kleiner and a few other VC firms in Silicon Valley. He has interesting observations about the whole phenomena some of which he will share and some of which he will not share due to the discretion required by his line of work.




In May 2004, he wrote what is probably the first ever Internet reference to EEStor and posted it to his website, making him the original EEStor Blogger. In it, we get the first claims of several important points related to EEStor. I'm going to list a few of the key facts and then post the entire entry.

1) The funding sought was $3.5Mil which matches roughly what we know Kleiner invested (based on SEC records).

2) This is the first public claim that EEStor samples have been tested "rapid-cycled over 1 million times" including measuring for leakage and temperature. It specifically indicates EEStor was aware of the traditional obstacles to using BT in energy storage applications: "leakage, voltage breakdown & temperature sensitivity." Weak minded skeptics have tried to accuse EEStor of being unaware of fundamental obstacles but this initial disclosure shows they were aware. (even if there's not an exhaustive list, it's certainly a sufficient one when combined with the fact that Carl Nelson worked for 8 years with Arthur Von Hippel something compelling enough to make two Penn State veteran researchers state unequivocally he would absolutely know what saturation is. )

3) This is the earliest known artifact which makes clear EEStor offered prototype measurements to support their claims. This may or may not be the exact data that Mort Topfer referred to when he said he was shown a demonstration and data validating the energy density of their technology.

4) EEStor calls their technology "electrostatic" in nature and not "electrochemical or electrolytic." Their achievement is summarized specifically as "eliminating the inherent weaknesses of electrostatic technology."

5) EEStor's business plan is described as completing their first assembly line "to prove out the technology and seed the market." This is the first reference to EEStor's plans to license technology rather than sell equity. People wonder what they've been doing these days. I take this statement to be a literal description of exactly what they have been doing keeping in mind that in 2007, they made major upgrades to improve their specs.

6) The post indicates EEStor claimed not just a device but a manufacturing plan involving "integrated-circuit techniques." This is important because it indicates they are inviting scrutiny not just on their lab success but their manufacturing plan. Kleiner would have hired someone to vet this in addition to what they got from Penn State on the material science front. People who say Kleiner is a bunch of fallible mortals who can't be relied upon to evaluate complex science breakthroughs forget they have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to do exactly that.

7) Who are the major companies Beardsworth is referring to in one of the final statements? On one hand, it doesn't matter. On the other, it's obviously Lockheed and likely GE and Ford. But of course, that's my idle speculation, right? Believe whatever you like.

8) The EESU is referred to as an ultracapacitor and an ultrabattery. Keep in mind EEStor stealth was not in effect when this article went up. Everything in it was geared around gaining funding. I believe it's best to read this particular point literally meaning EEStor never claimed to have built a simple dipole system capacitor despite the strawman skeptics would have you believe they can so simply knock down.

9) Some have claimed Weir may have written this article for Beardsworth. No. Beardsworth wrote it. If you think this article would suggest he might be willing to relay a message from outer space or promote the tooth fairy, keep in mind Beardsworth is actually a bit of a genius himself. He has a PHD in Physics from Rutgers, a program which admittedly requires in-depth, hands on experience with massive kegs of beer. But he suffered no long term harm, as Brookhaven National Lab dusted him off and put him to work on basic research in physics. He ended up at EPRI, an organization notable for having hired EEStor skeptic, John Miller to vet EEStor. Miller's recommendation was never published by EPRI because it was deemed unbalanced. (check with them yourself--try and find Miller's report, I double dog dare you. ) Finally, please know that EEStor did not contact Beardsworth, he contacted them at the urging of some associates who alerted him to "an amazing story." Of course, all of this small world dot connecting means nothing, right? Keep drinking your kool-aid, and I'll keep drinking mine.

10) I can't really think of a 10th point here but no one ends a list with 9, right? Also, flyer is holding his breath so I have to wrap this up.

So in summary, it's not entirely useless to occasionally assemble the facts you think you know and plot them against a time-line to see if you can find any inconsistencies. So far, I have not been able to find any except related to various EEStor pronouncements about timing. Fortunately, I've had thousands of helpers like you keeping me on course.


Posted in it's entirety, here is the original article.

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Subject: UFTO Note - EEStor Ultracapacitor and Ultrabattery
Subject: UFTO Note - EEStor Ultracapacitor and Ultrabattery
Date: Wed, 05 May 2004

There have been so many breakthrough battery claims, but here's one that might deserve a careful look. The specs are impressive, and the entire manufacturing process has been thought through using processes and equipment already proven in a large-scale commercial operations. The founders bring a wealth of experience as senior technology managers in large companies and startups. The company has maintained a very low profile for several years, and I first talked to them in early 2003.

The claim is for systems at 1/2 the cost of lead-acid (per kwh), and 1/10 the weight. Specifically, they quote a product which at 400 pounds will deliver 52 kwh. Discharge (and charge) rates are at "electronic" speed, and would be limited only by the sizing of the drive circuits and external systems. Thus power ratings can be as high as needed. Selling price would be $3200 at modest production rates, and eventually down to $2100 in high volume.

Here are some specs the company is claiming:

present longterm
Energy density, Wh/L 606 1513
Specific energy, Wh/kg 273 682
Price, $/kWh 61 40

The company intends to pursue a licensing model, after building their own assembly line to prove out the technology and seed the market.

The technology is basically a parallel plate capacitor with barium titanate as the dielectric. With it's extremely high permittivity, barium titanate has a long history in capacitors, but one known for high leakage, voltage breakdown and temperature sensitivity. EEStor has confronted these drawbacks head on, and has measurements on prototypes to support their claims.

The product is a ceramic-based unit fabricated with integrated-circuit techniques. The design is based on proprietary technology and there is a patent pending for the production process. There are no corrosive, hazardous, or explosive materials used in manufacturing this product, making this a totally green technology. Also, since it is ceramic, it can be fully charged and discharged using ultrahigh currents and at electronic speeds repeatedly with no degradation to the original specifications. Samples have been rapid-cycled over 1 million times, with no change of any kind. Operating temperature is -40 to +85 deg C.

Until now, electrostatic capacitors have not been considered for energy storage applications because of their low energy density characteristics. Capacitors applied to storage are based upon electrochemical and electrolytic capacitor technologies, which possess higher energy densities. EEStor's development proposition changes that premise by eliminating the inherent weaknesses of electrostatic technology for storage applications.

A number of major companies have said they would issue a purchase order quickly if specs are met.

The company is currently seeking equity investment of $3.5 million. A business plan is available.

Contact Richard D. Weir, President and CEO
EEStor, Inc. Cedar Park, TX
512-258-5669 dick_weir@eestor.us


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9 comments:

Kerry Thurber said...

Meaning no disrespect, I ask you, Mr. B, at what point do you give up? If Mr. Weir says he's ahead of schedule to deliver by the end of the year 2009, after a long sequence of insinuations to deliver earlier than that, how long do you give him? Another year? Two more? Five years? Ten years? 50 years?

Separately from the issue of whether the technology is possible, what is the point in time where you say "oops, I was wrong. I wish I had not invested in this technology, or encouraged others to do so." Does any such point exist?

b said...

I never encouraged anyone to invest. People may be encouraged by what I've uncovered but others have said the story has been discouraging.

It's not a time limit that will trigger giving up, it's more things like if mike long left the board or lockheed dropped Eestor or zenn insiders tried to sell before news or ... Etc.

Cleantech takes time to develop.

b said...

Kerry, I agree, eestor has made predictions that haven't resulted in announcements. It is discouraging but you have to balance that with the big picture.

Some have abandoned the eestory or their investments. That's something every individual has to settle for themselves. There is a guy in new york, long island who advises that Eestor is a scam. If it helps you, confer with him.

Kerry Thurber said...

No, I don't need to waste any time with a scam policeman. I'm far more interested in what seems to be a very tenacious loyalty to this technology.

I interpret what you've said to mean you'll be an advocate unless and until the whole thing self-implodes, or you die of old age. Correct?

B said...

Kerry,

It's a long story for how I got to where I am today with the EEStory. Briefly, I discovered EEStor via a wired article awhile back and thought, cool, better batteries. Then I started researching it and learned that better batteries are a big deal---not just for my laptop and cellphone but having a direct relevance to the energy independence of the USA. Since not much had ever emerged about EEStor, I got even more interested to learn whether or not they have it. Somewhere along the way, I started to hope not only that they would have it but that they would win the energy storage competition taking place all over the world. I became a fanboy. My understanding of the potential caused me to make a speculative investment in Zenn--something typically frowned upon by traditional journalism forcing me to not consider myself a traditional journalist. That said, since I don't cover EEStor to keep a roof over my head, I've had some advantages--due partly to exuberant interest--over traditional journalists.

Back to your question: it's one I get asked all the time by skeptics. But it's really not an answerable question for someone like me. It is an answerable question by an authority in manufacturing but not me. I mean if you know of a manufacturing expert that wants to visit with me and point out that hey, B, this thing is taking way way too long and they can cite examples of other projects that EEStor should be benchmarking against, then I'm all ears.

But really, the timing is a secondary issue if you think about it. As long as the surrounding parties are still behaving as if EEStor has the holy grail, then why does timing matter?

There are some very simple things that could occur that would be clear signals:

1) Kleiner would state they have written EEStor off the books.

2) Lockheed would say the agreement is no longer in place

3) Zenn would be caught selling shares or insiders would start leaking information.

So, that's the extent of my ability to entertain the negative. Don't get me wrong, I totally understand the frustration people feel because I feel it too in regards to timing.
And I know readers like you probably know less than me so it's very frustrating.

I think these two blogs have made things a little more strange than necessary for EEStor. Was there ever attention like this for Bloom or Nanosolar? Sure, articles on some renewable energy blogs but these websites of mine are like a bright spotlight. EEStor knows their claims warrant it even if they aren't big fans of it due to wanting their privacy respected.

I'm running out of gas responding to your question. I would reverse it and say, come back and tell me if there is an objective time parameter which an authority would say should be used to measure EEStor's progress. I'll write a 50 page article about it or post an audio or video interview. I'm not a traditional journalist....I'll post/publish practically anything if it's EEStor related and of interest to my readers.

Kerry Thurber said...

B says:
"I would reverse it and say, come back and tell me if there is an objective time parameter which an authority would say should be used to measure EEStor's progress."

Of course there's not one. I can't fathom how such a standard could exist.

But if there's no objective timeline, there has to be a subjective one. A timeline can only be irrelevant if it's unimportant to EEStor that there's real human beings involved who put their life savings and reputations on the line. Zenn as a company did just that. EEStor could save them a long and painful embarrassment with just one single 3mm sample tested at voltage by a third party. It wouldn't even have to come from their "pro duck shun" line. The mere fact that it's possible under any conceivable circumstances would do wonders for Zenn, who made all of this possible for Mr. Weir.

Assuming Weir et. al. are honest (which I do) there's only two possible conclusions:

1) They need more time.

2) They do not because they cannot. Something unexpected came up, and they're now obligated to provide all the cover they can for as long as they can.

windbourne said...

First, anybody who thinks that R&D operates on a timeline, REALLY have no clue.
Second, anybody who thinks that start-ups operates on a time, REALLY have no clue.
I have done both. And I can tell you that RARELY do either come close to the timeline.

I will say that I am a pessimist about EESTOR. HOWEVER, I will say that this has such potential to solve a number of issues for America's Military, that I could see this being tested in L-Mart first. Why?
Lasers and Rail Guns and other electrical weapons.
Nearly all of the electrical weapons depend on bursts. To get those, we currently use chemicals.
The problem is that using chemicals are just as bad as using bullets and missiles (chemicals in another design). IOW, these have LIMITED numbers.
However, all of our delivery designs are not based on Chemicals, but on generating Electricity. For example, the F-22 and the DDX's are both designed to generate electricity. The idea is to store the electricity in something that can release it quickly in LARGE quantities. That approach allows a large number of 'ammo'. In addition, something like a ship or even a tank, can be supplied from space during a battle.
So, what device are we talking about? Ultra-caps. Right now, they have low density and cost a lot for that. BUT, if EESTOR is even half right on storage and half right on costs, this will transform our military. It would allow us to have a large number of rail-runs and lasers, and even unique weapons like a heat-ray. Combine it with limited beaming of electricity and then you have the ability to store power and run a large of equipment. That would be EXTREMELY useful today in Afghanistan. Right now, roughly 1/4 to 1/3 of our goods being shipped is Fuel. With these items, it would allow us to cut the number of items that have to be shipped there. Considering that at this time, a large amount of our fuel is being hijacked and then used as IED's against us, well, this would be a huge accomplishment.

Personally, I am increasingly doubtful that EESTOR is for real. BUT, I hope that I am wrong. I hope that L-Mart is currently testing it and next year, we will find that all of the major car companies will announce electric cars based on this. BUT....

straker said...

"For anyone trying to establish credibility for their view on EEStor, it's important to cite actual facts. "

You should remember that every time you're about to post some stupid joke here when there's no news to report.

b said...

Can I get you some strawberry cupcakes with that request straker?