Khosla-backed Recapping – An EEStor Competitor?

Here’s one reason why greentech venture capitalist Vinod Khosla might have been a bit skeptical of stealth energy storage company EEStor last year — looks like he’s invested in a company that could be a competitor called Recapping (that is if EEStor ever releases a product).

Recapping doesn’t have a website or a description on Khosla’s website, but when it won a $1 million grant from the Department of Energy through the ARPA-E program in late April it was described as “a novel energy storage device – a high energy density capacitor – based on a 3D nanocomposite structure,” that can deliver “high cycling ability, high power density, and low cost,” (hat tip Tyler Hamilton).

According to the DOE grant, Recapping and Pennsylvania State University will use the grant to develop the storage device and will use “traditional multilayer ceramic fabrication methods that will provide a cost effective alternative to battery solutions.” Sounds similar to the description for EEStor’s so-called ceramic battery, which has been underdevelopment for years, but has been stalled and has yet to come to market.

EEStor has the audacious claim that its device has 10 times the energy of lead-acid batteries at one-tenth the weight and half the price, and can move a car 400 kilometers after a 5-minute charge. According to the Barium Titanate blog the DOE energy storage projects that won these ARPA-E grants will be shooting to have energy densities in the range of 400Wh/kg and a target cost of around $250/kWh, which would be a similar range to EEStor. The Barium Titanate blog, which is run anonymously by someone who says they have a “small speculative investment” in Zenn Motor (a car company that plans to commercialize the EEStor tech), says whoever is behind Recapping could “qualify for a Nobel Prize.”

According to filings, Recapping raised $500,000 from Khosla Ventures back in 2008, and the only person listed on Recapping’s documents is Khosla Venture’s Alex Kinnier, who was previously a group product manager at Google where he built the Agency display advertising team.

Recapping is probably one of the “science experiments” that Khosla has said himself he is interested in taking a risk on. But until EEStor delivers a commercial product, it will only be a research project as well, despite the fact that Zenn Motors has bet its entire company on EEStor’s innovation. According to Zenn’s latest financials, for the first six months ended March 31, 2010, the company only generated $1.39 million in revenues, while it lost $3.86 million or $0.10 per share.

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