We’ve been electric car fans for a long time, and the relationship between Feel Good Cars, located in Toronto, Ontario, and EEStor, located in Austin, Texas, is too intriguing to ignore. Feel Good Cars manufactures the ZENN (zero emission no noise) “luxury neighborhood electric vehicle.” According to the ZENN specifications, this two-seater car has a top speed of 25 MPH, a range of 35 miles, and costs $12,500.
No breakthroughs there. Just two days ago, taking advantage of 1.9% financing, my webmaster just bought a Ford Escape Hybrid for $25,000; a car that gets 40 MPG in the city and goes over 400 miles without refueling. Oh, and it can be driven on the highway, at speeds, shall we say, well over the speed limit. So for twice the price do you get twice the car? I think so.
Feel Good Cars is going for the neighborhood electric vehicle market, where they are probably about to compete with imports from Asia that will offer most of the amenities they have at less than half the price. But that’s today.
Anticipating their future – caught in a death squeeze between ultra low cost neighborhood cars and ultra high mileage freeway-capable hybrids – Feel Good Cars has scored what could be the coup that saves them. In late 2005 they signed an exclusive agreement with EEStor, a company that claims to have technology to produce an ultra-capacitor.
For those of you unfamiliar with capacitors, they are electrical devices that can store energy in the electric field between a pair of closely spaced conductors (called ‘plates’). When voltage is applied to the capacitor, electric charges of equal magnitude, but opposite polarity, build up on each plate. The problem with today’s capacitors is they have a very low energy density – that is, they cannot achieve kilowatt-hours per kilogram at a ratio anywhere near what is necessary for an automobile.
There are several companies in the race to produce an ultra-capacitor (all of them relying on nanotechnology), and EEStor, with no website and operating in stealth, is one of the rumored front-runners. That they have raised venture capital from the Silicon Valley heavyweight, Kleiner Perkins, lends great credibility to their claims.
According to a May, 2004 edition of the newsletter “Utility Federal Technology Opportunities,” EEStor claims to make a battery at half the cost per kilowatt-hour and one-tenth the weight of lead-acid batteries. Specifically, the product weighs 400 pounds and delivers 52 kilowatt-hours. This translates to nearly 300 watt-hours per kilogram, as good as the best lithium ion batteries out there, and certainly good enough to power an electric vehicle, particularly since capacitors can charge in minutes instead of hours, and don’t overheat. They are also potentially far less expensive.
Returning to Feel Good Cars, according to a press release issued about one year ago, they have “entered into a Technology Agreement with EEStor, Inc. to acquire the exclusive worldwide right to purchase high-power-density ceramic ultra capacitors for all personal transportation uses under 15 KW drive systems (equivalent to 100 peak horse power) and for vehicles with a curb weight of under 1200 kilograms not including batteries.”
Should all this come to fruition for Feel Good Cars, they will, theoretically, be able to offer freeway capable light vehicles with ranges competitive with hybrids. And for $12,500, that would be a good value for money. We will see.