Chronoptimists: Cleantech Is Full of 'Em

The Urban Dictionary, the user-generated slang web site, recently had a word of the day which I thought was particularly fitting for cleantech companies and entrepreneurs: the chronoptimist, someone who constantly underestimates the time it takes to complete a task (chronologically optimistic.) While entrepreneurs everywhere are guilty of being optimistic about how long it will take them to bring a product to market or raise funding, it seems like the slow nature of some clean technologies and the hopeful way of the do-gooder entrepreneur mean cleantech has chronoptimists in spades. Here are three of them:

Cellulosic Biofuel Makers: If you’re an exec at one of the companies racing to be the first in the U.S. to commercially produce cellulosic ethanol from non-crop plants and biowaste, then chances are, your firm has had to extend its commercial production deadline — maybe even a few times. Companies like Coskata, Verenium and Range Fuels have done so, and could face more hurdles if the economic downturn continues for a lot longer.

Slow-Moving EEStor: First stealthy ultracapacitor developer EEStor was planning to have its energy storage devices ready for Zenn Motors to integrate them into vehicles by mid-2008. Then the timeline moved to sometime in 2009. Are EEStor CEO Dick Weir and Zenn CEO Ian Clifford still being chronoptimists? The companies say Zenn’s car will be initially introduced in late 2009, with commercial availability in 2010. We’ll see.

Tesla’s Roadster Production: Now that electric car maker Tesla is producing Roadsters at a constant pace, you might not remember that the company had long delays getting the Roadster to market. During a media event, Tesla CEO Elon Musk even once actually acknowledged his persistent optimism in meeting quick deadlines, regardless of the reality that he was sometimes overshooting them. Chronoptimism!

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