While the green-leaning venture capitalists at Kleiner Perkins look like they own about 20 percent of buzzy energy storage firm EEStor, Vinod Khosla — an affiliated partner at Kleiner and head of his own firm, Khosla Venture — appears to have a different perception of the high-profile startup. He is “somewhat skeptical of this particular company [EEStor],” and while he believes that the science in EEStor’s patents are possible, these types of “radical approaches…are in the domain of a hope and a prayer,” he wrote in an article for Grist this weekend.
Given Kleiner hasn’t exactly been embracing a public link to EEStor as of late, and the startup has yet to produce a commercial product, missing its projected deadlines, it’s interesting to hear Khosla’s impression of the company. His skepticism of it is by no means uncommon — EEStor is one of the most controversial companies we’ve written about, eliciting many positive and negative comments about its supposedly revolutionary claims.
Khosla didn’t go into much detail about his skepticism of EEStor, or why he doubts the company. But I would be very interested to know what exactly pushed him over the edge — Khosla generally is willing to take a lot of risk in his investments, clearly sees the market opportunity for electric vehicles and power grid energy storage, and is looking for “a black swan,” or a truly disruptive technology, for auto technology.
The primary intention of Khosla’s article was actually meant to elaborate on his comments from a couple of weeks ago at the Always On conference, where he said that lithium-ion batteries are over-hyped. Khosla’s Grist article reiterates what Josie reported from the conference, which is that Khosla Ventures is backing lithium-ion battery technology because the “lithium-ion markets are here today” and “are good markets.”
If EEStor’s technology is viable and economical enough to be mass produced, it could revolutionize energy storage. Its claims are much more aggressive than the competition’s — as many have pointed out, perhaps too aggressive. We’ll wait to see if EEStor meets its upcoming deadline of an early 2010 commercial launch of the Zenn Motor car using EEStor’s technology. If the company yet again fails to start selling its tech by 2010, well, then we can probably consider Khosla’s skepticism smart.