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Lockheed signs deal with EEStor

Defense contractor plans to evaluate energy storage systems from the ultracapacitor start-up. If all goes well, Lockheed will begin incorporating them into products.

Lockheed Martin has signed a deal with EEStor to try to integrate the ultracapacitor start-up's electrical energy storage units into the defense contractor's products.

Financial terms of the agreement, announced Wednesday, were not disclosed.

EEStor is developing a ceramic battery chemistry that could provide 10 times the energy density of lead acid batteries at about a tenth of the weight and volume, according to Lockheed. A Lockheed spokesman said the company is interested in energy storage systems a soldier can carry, but also car batteries and energy systems for remote buildings.

Lockheed will spend most of the year evaluating samples it gets from EEStor and, if all goes well, it can start incorporating them into products. EEStor will begin to conduct qualification testing and mass production of the units in late 2008. As part of the contract, Lockheed will have the exclusive right to use EEStor products in the homeland security market.

The company also announced that former Dell Chairman Mort Topfer has joined its board. Last year, it was reported that Topfer left the board. The Toronto Star broke that story. (I wrote a story repeating what the Star said, citing the newspaper.) Reporter Tyler Hamilton says that Topfer did leave, but is now rejoining.

This marks another unexpected turn in the EEStor saga. The company has devised an energy storage device that it says can change the battery industry. Zenn Motors of Canada is an investor and wants to incorporate the batteries into its cars. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is said to be an investor.

EEStor, however, doesn't say a lot. In fact, the company rarely gives statements or issues releases, though it's one of the favorite topics of debate in the clean-tech world. For instance, EEStor didn't say it will begin qualification and testing on the battery units that are part of this deal. Lockheed did, in its own release (which, incidentally, doesn't include quotes from EEStor). EEStor didn't put a release out on the deal, though it put one out on Topfer.

Some people who have visited the company's facilities or reviewed its patents have come away believers. Others have become skeptics. EEStor had hoped to come out with products in 2007 but was forced to delay.

The Lockheed deal gives the company a shot of credibility. Critics, though, will likely remain skeptical until they see the devices. Defense contractors, after all, sign lots of deals like this.