Why EEstor Hooked Up With Zenn

We’ve always wondered why, if high-profile Texas energy storage startup EEstor has such disruptive technology, it did an exclusive deal with small Toronto-based electric automaker Zenn Motor Co. for small- and mid-sized cars. EEstor’s energy storage technology can supposedly provide 10 times the energy of lead-acid batteries at one-tenth the weight and half the price, and move a car 400 kilometers after a 5-minute charge.

Well the Globe and Mail was wondering the same thing, and as such asked Zenn Motor founder Ian Clifford why EEstor made such an important deal with Zenn and not some large automaker. Clifford tells the paper that last year EEstor was raising development funding for its untested technology by selling licences to the rights for various applications; Zenn paid $2.5 million for the rights to use the tech for small- to mid-size cars, and then invested another $2.5 million into the energy storage maker.

Clifford says Zenn had the opportunity because the big automakers wanted to make safer bets on more well-tested technology than EEstor’s. In addition, both companies had cultures of being young and passionate. In describing the EEstor deal to the Globe and Mail, Clifford said:

“We were willing to take the risk when no one else would. Part of it was a leap of faith, part was due to diligence…We were like angel investors, in at the ground floor, able to negotiate a strategic agreement which, when they commercialize, will creative a massive global opportunity.”

Now that EEstor is a little more high profile and has started to show some testing milestones, we’re wondering how EEstor sees the deal in hindsight? Perhaps they’re kicking themselves for being held to a deal with a smaller automaker. It would also be interesting to see if EEstor has made it onto the radar of the big automakers — while they’re busy riding their green cars to D.C. this week, they can feel rest assured that for a miniscule investment a few years ago (Zenn’s $5 million) they could have secured first dibs on a promising EV tech.

That’s not to say that EEstor is a sure thing. The energy storage maker is behind on its estimated production start dates and is still quiet about how its technology is so revolutionary.