Friday, October 06, 2006

EEStor, a way out of oil imports?

EEStor is a startup working on a supercapacitor to replace batteries. If they, or one of their competitors can really deliver a low cost, reusable, dense energy storage device, the world will no longer need vast seas of oil.
What is their product? The device stores electricity directly in a capacitor instead of converting it chemically like our current car batteries. The capacitor has no moving parts and will last longer than the car. Plug-in electric cars don't work today because of the high cost of batteries, the limited range of the vehicles and a long recharge time.
EEStor is rumored to have solved all of these. The cost of their device will be reasonable, have nine times the energy density of lead-acid batteries, be half the weight and charge in minutes. The cost of electricity would be equivalent to 45 cents per gallon for gasoline.
Why is a better "battery" important? Most of the oil imported into the US is used for transportation. If we could gradually replace most of our gas burning cars and trucks with electric ones, we wouldn't need nearly as much imported oil. All that money could stay in the US.
We can create electricity from many different sources including wind, solar, coal and nuclear. Cars could be recharged at night when demand for electricity is low and many power plants are idle. (In the distant future, cars could even be used as a buffer in our electrical grid, taking in power late at night and supplying electricity during the peak hours from 2-4pm.)

Many startups have made outrageous claims, so I'm skeptical. I few things give me less cautious. The reputable VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers are backing of EEStor. Also the firm itself is very quiet and not making any wild claims or asking for investors. I'm hoping that EEStor can pull this off.

Now, if OPEC would only cooperate by keeping oil prices high for a few more years to make sure funding continues for new technologies like this, we can kick our oil habit and oil will go back to 20 dollars a barrel.

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