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Topfer, former Dell vice chair, bugs out at EEStor

The secretive Texas company loses a big fish on the board.

EEStor: You truly are the company that keeps on giving.

Mort Topfer, the former vice chair of Dell and one of the execs credited in helping turn it from a local phenomenon to a global PC powerhouse, has left the board of EEStor, according to Tyler Hamilton. Hamilton is not the disgraced bike racer but a reporter for the Toronto Star.

It's just one more bit of baffling news out of the Texas-based manufacturer of ultracapacitors, a device that stores electricity, and no doubt another factoid that critics will use to say that the company is not living up to its promises.

The company is supposed to be working on a state-of-the-art energy storage system for cars that recharges rapidly. It can also, allegedly, keep cars going for hundreds of miles. It has a big following among readers.

People I've talked to who have visited the company or tried to talk to them about their technology, however, have often come away confused and skeptical. "Weird", "mystery" and a shrug of the shoulders were some of the comments I got from visitors. The company does not issue many press releases and rarely talks to the press.

"If you had a way to turn lead into gold, you think you'd tell people," is how one VC summed up his feelings about the company to me in August.

Earlier this year, CEO Richard Weir also said that the first products likely would come out on or before the middle of 2008, or six months or so later than planned.

The URL for the EEStor's web site has been up for sale for a number of months.

Mort, by the way, is a big loss. He has worked in electronics for years and is well regarded as someone who can help a company scale. Dell named its main manufacturing center in Austin after him. In person, though, you'd never guess he was a big wig. The first time we met was at the Dell booth at a trade show. I thought the older guy with the gray, shoulder-length hair was an eccentric looking for handouts.