The Long Ranger: EEStor's EV Ultra-Capacitor

A replacement for electric cars' lithium-ion batteries?


  • Zenn NEV

    Zenn NEV

    A Zenn NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle), which will soon run on EEStor's new ultra-capacitor. | March 18, 2010

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Update: On January 9th, 2008, Lockheed-Martin signed an agreement with EEStor for the exclusive rights to integrate and market EESU units in military and homeland security applications.

Just about anyone who has ever considered buying an electric vehicle (EV) and then decided against it cites one fact — and one fact alone — that caused them to rethink the idea. Range. The inability to drive long distances without enduring a five- or six-hour "refuel" has kept many of us out of the EV market. EEStor, a privately held Cedar Park, Texas, company dedicated to the design and manufacturing of high-density storage devices, has taken a major step forward in eradicating this problem.

Those long charging times result from the fact that most EV power systems rely on lithium-ion batteries, which take time to charge. Quick-charging the packs is possible, but this will result in shorter battery life. Neither way works well for the consumer. So the folks at EEStor decided to turn away from traditional battery systems and look toward capacitors, power storage devices that rely on two charged terminals separated by a non-conductive material called a dialectric.

There has been speculation all over the Web these past few months that EEStor had finally "cracked the code" and created an ultra-capacitor that is better than a lithium-ion battery cell in almost every way. It seems that the company has finally done so: On January 17 EEStor announced third-party verification of the dialectric powders needed to make these capacitors.

"This is a very meaningful milestone in terms of production of an ultra-capacitor for use in electric vehicles," noted Ian Clifford, CEO and founder of Zenn Motor Company. Zenn is an electric vehicle producer that holds exclusive rights to use this new technology in vehicles up to 2,645 pounds curb weight, roughly the same as a Honda Accord or Toyota Prius. "It will allow for the commercialization of high-range, high-speed vehicles for mass production," he said, finally making these cars a reality for the general public.

Clifford pointed out that there are presently more than 40 million cars worldwide that fit this weight specification, so the potential uses for this technology are huge. Zenn expects to receive the first capacitor units by the end of the year and will have them in its NEVs (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle, meant for around-town driving) by the middle of next year. Zenn is also developing a vehicle using the new capacitors that will be capable of highway speeds and meets all highway safety standards. It is actively seeking dealers to partner with throughout North America.

Unlike regular lithium-ion battery cells, the EEStor ultra-capacitors, or EESUs as they are called, are lighter, more versatile and can be charged and discharged up to a million times.

"To put this in perspective," says Paul Scott, co-founder of Plug In America, "I drive an electric Toyota RAV4 with a 1,000-pound battery that is capable of holding 27 kWh (kilowatt-hours) of power. I could replace my battery with three EESUs, weighing a total of only 300 pounds, that are capable of holding 45 kWhs of power." The additional power and reduced weight would more than double the vehicle's 120-mile range and it would recharge in a matter of minutes off 220 volts, slightly longer when using household 110 volts.

What's more, the EESU power system would not need to be replaced for well over a million miles. If replacement were to ever occur, the units are fully recyclable, and unlike batteries, contain no environmentally harmful compounds, according to Richard Weir, EEStor's president and CEO.

Electric vehicles may have a long way to go in terms of availability and popular acceptance, but with the announcement of EEStor's breakthrough, range will no longer be an issue. With this new technology in place, an all-electric vehicle that is simpler, more efficient and less expensive than a comparable gasoline car may be right around the corner. If Zenn has its way, you'll be able to pick up one of the company's cars at your local dealership, hop in, and drive it cross-country without stopping for longer than it takes to grab a bathroom break and a cup of joe.

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