ZENN Cars & EEStor's Ultracapacitor

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.

Zenn Car

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.

10 Responses to “ZENN Cars & EEStor's Ultracapacitor”
  1. Matt says:

    While I don’t want a car that goes just 25 MPH. (lame!)… I’d very happily have an all EV car with limited range. Why?

    Because in and around the city, I rarely drive more than 25 miles or so in one day. For the occasional times I’ll go on trips on the weekend, I’ll rent a big fat SUV & suck down lots of gas — it won’t matter to my overall average carbon footprint, because my main mode of transport around the city will be green, clean, EV.

    But the biggest reason I want an around town EV is because it will last forever… except, of course for the battery & tires & possibly brakes.

    There is no reason for an electric engine to die like an IC motor will. No 60,000 mile checkup. No Oil changes. And no death of the engine around 200,000 miles. It’ll keep going & going.

    There are way less moving parts inside an electric engine (no need for gears, no hoses & belts. Just the electric engine connected directly to the wheels. Simple… elegant… very long lasting.

    Just swap out the battery every 50,000 or so miles & whalla.

    Now… with $3 / gallon gas & $400 / kWh batteries the price differencial is marginal.

    However, with $6 gallon gas.. it becomes much cheaper to drive the EV.

    Europe… take note!


  2. L says:

    One of the biggest problem for alternative energy is accumulation.
    If you have an electric car fitted with this kind of ultracapacitors in the box you can use it as accumulator for your house.

  3. John says:

    Underline “…(EEStor) claims to have technology to produce an ultra-capacitor….”

    As an engineer who has worked in this field for decades, and having dozens of patents, I’m afraid it is “bunk”. It is impossible on several fronts. Good PR, lousy science.

    The car is good, but I fear they will be stuck with batteries for some time to come.

  4. Greg Woulf says:

    I’ve talked to other capacitor people that said it’s impossible, but they can’t really say, “this part is impossible,” it’s always supported by their own experience, and not by absolute impossible terms. I believed them because I didn’t know then and I trusted them to be experts.

    Georgia Tech made an announcement this year they they’ve made a breakthrough in capacitor technology. Guess what on, Barium Titenate capacitors. Big surprise that their discovery is practically word for word what’s in EESTor’s patent. They might use a slightly different material to get around a sloppy patent, but they’re saying the same thing.


    They’ve already shown double the amount that’s ever been realized by capacitor makers, so this absolute unbreakable ceiling of impossibility isn’t quite so solid as some would have you believe.

    If they were wrong about it being possible, then it’s just possible that EEStor is also telling the truth and so I did some digging.

    The founders of EESTor was Richard Weir and Nelson were working on an extremely thing titanium alloy coating, that actually worked and was scientifically recognized. They have experience in this field. By no means have they ever been considered scammers.

    They’ve verified the purity of a production line in their only public announcement showing that they have intention to build product. I think this secretive company, might be real. In any case I’m going to suspend my skepticism, and ignore people that say it’s impossible, that don’t have the ability to show how it’s impossible.

  5. John says:

    This was responded to in more detail on Tylers site, but basically, the Georgia Tech work was not in the same field as EEStor. True, they both used Barium Titanate, and the GT people made a significant step ahead in the field of BT loaded epoxy for incorporation in PC boards. An earlier paper by Penn State had predicted the maximum K of about 100, when 3M, DuPont, and other names were selling materials with about a 30K. The GT scientists, a clever bunch, found a way to increase the K to a little over 50. It still is limited to about 50 volts, and can no way compete with the EEStor claim of 20,000. Commercial capacitors the EEStor is similar to have a K value about that, but the cap drops off with temp and voltage. Under the claimed use conditions, they would have a K of about 200….way, way below the 20,000 of the reference.

    So, the puzzlement is that…100 times the K stability of current materials, and 20 times the voltage stress.

  6. Robert says:

    The only thing I don’t like about low speed vehicle’s is that if they are to be driven on roadways posted 35 mph or less then why NOT have programed to go 35 mph; doing 25 mph tends to irritate the driver behind you.

  7. brian says:

    A word to those who are scientists and to those who are not – not too many years ago when Sony put their cassette player Walkman onto the market, few folks could have invisioned an iPod. Be warned you critics of EEstor – you may one day be feasting upon a big plate of crow! Interesting to note that our ZENN is limited to 35mph by the Feds but not by technology – why not Federally limit all petrol engined cars to 70mph since that is the max speed limit ?? When we citizens truely begin to view our regulations we soon find that none make sense. Yeah, limit the ZENNs to 35mph for safety while allowing folks to purchase a motorcycle. Spock would spin in his grave. Our ZENN is the correct tool for the job and baby – we’re saving tonnes of cash!!! I’m going for a drive…..

  8. bob Deverell says:

    Some people have not realised why Zenn was chosen. EESTOR’s strategy should now be clear. Look at EESTOR like Intel. I can buy INTEL motherboards and Intel cards, but that is not the core business. EESTOR is targetting to get their technology into every car in the planet, just like Intel has done with the u.chip. Genuine ZENN/EESTOR inside. This makes makes better business sense sense than going in with one large car manufacturer and seriously limiting your options.
    Remember Dr Weir is a computer man.

  9. Carl says:

    Pollution: Moving from individual engines to central electricity generating plants would mean a net decrease in overall pollution. Even getting pollution out of our crowded cities would be a gain for public health.
    United States, Japan and Russia currently lead the global ultracapacitor industry, with makers such as Maxwell Technologies Inc. and NEC Corp. occupying the majority of world market. To keep up with their foreign counterparts, mainland China makers are upgrading their production technologies and improving their product quality and R&D.
    Dick Weir, founder and CEO of EEStor, told me a few weeks ago that there would be an announcement soon on permittivity of its barium titanite powder, considered a major benchmark that would trigger future payments to EEStor from ZENN, and I can only assume Kleiner Perkins as well.


  10. Jack Willard says:

    Are we looking for a true ultracapacitor or a battery? I have stumbled across a true cap which is inexpensive to make, (No exotic materials, just high grade activated carbon). charges and discharges in 3 seconds and yeilds a minimum of 212 F/g at a fraction of the cost of either EEStor or Maxwell. If this device were placed in parallel with a LI Battery it would decrease its size and cost. Look on the following site for the Clean Tech presentation by Dr. Carl Nesbitt.



Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.