Zenn Motor Still Waiting on EEStor

Updated: Zenn Motor‘s first highway-speed electric car, the cityZenn, is still on the way, but it may take a bit longer to get to market than originally planned, thanks to the slow moves of its energy storage partner EEStor. Zenn said this week that it’s waiting for the ultracapacitor technology from stealthy EEStor and doesn’t expect an initial introduction of the car until late 2009, with commercial availability in 2010. We contacted Zenn for clarification on what “initial introduction” means, exactly (Update: Zenn says “initial introduction” is introduction of a prototype/early production unit to press/industry). Zenn previously said it was targeting a fall 2009 launch for the cityZenn.

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So, what’s going on with EEStor? Toronto-based Zenn says it’s waiting for two final milestones in its contract with EEStor, but that the Cedar Park, Texas-based ultracapacitor developer is making “significant progress” in building out a full-scale production facility. Unfortunately, EEStor’s ultracapacitor — essentially a really advanced battery system — is at the heart of the cityZenn, which means the new car literally can’t move until either more progress is made on those ultracapacitors, or Zenn decides to switch to a different ultracapacitor or battery system.

This isn’t the first ultracapacitor delay from EEStor. The startup, backed by Kleiner Perkins, as well as Zenn, was originally set to have its ultracapacitors ready in mid-2008.

But if EEStor delivers on its promises, it may be worth the wait. Zenn, which currently makes low-speed electric vehicles, hitched its wagon to technology from EEStor because of the potential to get a leg up on the competition. The cityZenn is expected to have a top speed of 80 miles per hour and a range of 250 miles, with that EEStor ultracapacitor allowing the car to recharge in less than 5 minutes using a special charging station.

Early last year, EEStor reached a purity testing and production capacity milestone, but Zenn is still waiting on third-party verification of permittivity testing, as well as the last step — the receipt of an actual product from EEStor by Zenn.

Despite EEStor’s secretive operations, the startup has attracted interest from other companies besides Zenn, including Lockheed Martin, which is looking at developing body armor using EEStor’s technology, and Light Electric Vehicles, which said it signed an exclusive deal to use EEstor’s ultracapacitors in two- and three-wheeled vehicles.

Photo of a low-speed Zenn courtesy of the company.

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