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By Robert Rapier on Sep 21, 2006 with no responses

Electric Car Breakthrough?

There are certain alternative energy technologies that I believe will have an enormous impact on our future. Heading that list is solar energy, followed by wind power, biomass gasification, and possibly cellulosic ethanol. Most alternative energy sources that I think have a real chance to make an impact involve electricity generation. Therefore, in order to really impact the transportation sector, we need to move toward electrifying more of our transportation options.

I was recently asked what kind of cars we would be driving 100 years from now. Without hesitating for a second, I replied “Electric cars.” A key reason we aren’t driving them now is that the range and convenience is not what we are accustomed to with internal combustion cars. Therefore, not only are the alternative energy sources themselves important, but the key to making them viable for personal transportation is developing energy storage devices that improve the range. Wind power is great, but we have to develop better ways of storing the power for when the wind doesn’t blow.

So, I was very pleased this morning to read the following story at CNN.com:

Gentlemen, stop your engines

It describes an innovative approach to energy storage, and one that potentially “could blow away the combustion engine.” Some excerpts from the article:

Forget hybrids and hydrogen-powered vehicles. EEStor, a stealth company in Cedar Park, Texas, is working on an “energy storage” device that could finally give the internal combustion engine a run for its money — and begin saving us from our oil addiction. “To call it a battery discredits it,” says Ian Clifford, the CEO of Toronto-based electric car company Feel Good Cars, which plans to incorporate EEStor’s technology in vehicles by 2008.

EEStor’s device is not technically a battery because no chemicals are involved. In fact, it contains no hazardous materials whatsoever. Yet it acts like a battery in that it stores electricity. If it works as it’s supposed to, it will charge up in five minutes and provide enough energy to drive 500 miles on about $9 worth of electricity. At today’s gas prices, covering that distance can cost $60 or more; the EEStor device would power a car for the equivalent of about 45 cents a gallon.

Of course the key there is “if it works as it’s supposed to.” A patent has been issued, so it’s got some credibility. During my recent conversations with Vinod Khosla, one thing we agreed upon was that energy storage devices have great potential for revolutionizing the world. He indicated that he is invested in this area. In fact, the article says that his firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, is backing the technology. Here’s hoping they are right about this one. If anyone knows more about this, let me know.