EEStor, the energy storage developer, has no shortage of skeptics. That comes with the territory when making ambitious claims about turning energy storage on its head while revealing little evidence as to how. And while Canadian electric vehicle maker and EEStor backer Zenn has bet heavily on the stealthy startup’s technology — which both say will enter commercial production this month — General Motors (s GM) is watching EEStor from afar. In a new interview with GM-Volt, Tony Posawatz, vehicle line director for the Chevy Volt, says, “The guys involved” with EEStor “aren’t a fly by night operation.” But he also admits that some of the company’s claims, “knowing what I know, are way out there.”
EEStor’s pledge to build ceramic batteries at half the price, a fraction of the weight and 10 times the energy density of lead-acid batteries, however, is enough to make Posawatz “take note and follow it.” In the event that EEStor makes good on its claims, GM-Volt asked Posawatz if the startup’s devices could replace lithium-ion batteries in the upcoming Chevy Volt. “It would take a couple of years,” the exec replied, but it would be possible.
We wouldn’t bet on that possibility becoming practical, however, in the near future. Having logged a quarter of a million miles on the road in pre-production Volt models, built more than 300 prototype battery packs and completed tests for more than 50,000 lithium-ion battery cells, GM said last month that its Chevy Volt is on track to meet its remaining production milestones less than a year from launch.
GM still has room to improve on energy storage for the Volt — notably extending battery life and managing energy storage in hot climates and cutting costs. Progress in these areas will be significant in the competition to win over consumers to plug-in vehicles at mass scale. But the hurdles on GM’s to-do list appear relatively low compared to those on the risky, uncertain path ahead for Zenn as it seeks to transform itself from a neighborhood electric vehicle maker to a drivetrain supplier using as-yet unproven energy storage devices from EEStor.
Posawatz’s comments highlight the reality that it would take more than proving the skeptics wrong by meeting its performance and cost goals for EEStor’s devices to really transform transportation. After commercial unit No. 1 — which could still be delayed — there remains deals to be made, hundreds of prototypes to be built and millions of miles of testing to log.