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Zenn boosts stake in EEStor's energy storage

Electric car maker is moving ahead with plans to use EEStor's ultracapacitors, which the latter claims--with some dispute--will yield an affordable car-battery pack.

Electric car maker Zenn Motor has increased its investment in EEStor, a stealth company that focuses on energy storage and claims its technology will yield an affordable car-battery pack.

Toronto-based Zenn said Thursday that it has verified previously done tests of EEStor's ultracapacitor technology and that it has invested an additional $700,000 in the company.

The Zenn 'neighborhood' electric car. Martin LaMonica/CNET

As part of its agreement with EEStor, Zenn now has an option to purchase as much as 10 percent of the company--up from 3.8 percent--if EEStor delivers "production-quality" energy-storage devices for small cars.

Zenn now makes its namesake "neighborhood" electric vehicle, which has a top speed of 25 miles per hour and a range of 30 miles to 50 miles.

With EEStor's Electrical Energy Storage Units, Zenn intends to make the CityZenn, an all-electric car that would be highway-capable and have a range of 250 miles on a full charge, according to reports. In an interview, Zenn CEO Ian Clifford said he expects EEStor to deliver a unit by year's end, which will allow Zenn to commercialize the storage in cars next year.

Zenn has a license for use of EEStor's storage units for applications under 1,400 kilograms, which can cover consumer electronics and grid storage.

"In addition to our exclusive automotive applications, our equity position in EEStor gives our shareholders a stake in the many potential mass applications EEStor can pursue, such as power in portable consumer electronics, improving the performance of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar generation, and increasing the efficiency and stability of power grids around the world," Clifford said in a statement.

EEStor's ultracapacitor technology is also being tested by Lockheed Martin for military applications. The company is reportedly backed by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

The company claims that its ultracapacitor technology is major improvement on lithium ion batteries, able to deliver the equivalent amount of energy storage at a fraction of weight and volume of existing storage. It also claims that it storage units will not use any hazardous materials.

In April, it said that Texas Research International had verified the storage units' ability to operate in extreme temperatures.

But EEStor has numerous detractors who question whether the company, which has not publicly shown a working prototype, can deliver on its stated technical goals.