Canadian electric vehicle maker Zenn Motors has been stating its grand vision for a while: to supply a range of automakers and grid operators with energy storage technology created with partner EEStor. That’s what Zenn CEO Ian Clifford told us at the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference earlier this year. But this week, Clifford seems to have accelerated those plans and told Reuters and GM-Volt that Zenn no longer plans to sell its own higher-speed electric vehicle (the cityZENN car), and will also “shift focus away” from the low-speed electric it currently sells.
Instead, Zenn will now focus on acting as a supplier to the auto industry. Working with secretive EEStor, Zenn plans to make an electric drive train, the ZENNergy Drive system, which can deliver those oh-so-controversial performance claims from EEstor: 10 times the energy of lead-acid batteries at one-tenth the weight and half the price, with the ability to move a car 400 kilometers after a 5-minute charge.
Increased competition in the electric vehicle market played a role in Zenn’s decision to not make the cityZENN car, Clifford tells Reuters. “Why people would want ZENN to become another OEM is beyond me,” Clifford told GM-Volt.
In a way, it’s a smart decision by Zenn. Young electric vehicle makers need hundreds of millions of dollars in capital to build factories and mass produce EVs. Electric vehicle startups Tesla and Fisker had to turn to the Department of Energy for loans for their factory funds. But on the other hand, Zenn’s future is now even more tied to the success or failure of EEStor, which given EEStor’s secrecy and missed deadlines, is a risky play.