Thread: Driving Zenn

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    Thumbs up Driving Zenn

    Zenn-like driving could be the next big thing. Electric car turning heads in automotive industry

    Nicolas Van Praet, Canwest News Service Published: Friday, June 27, 2008

    Gilles Allard, production chief of Zenn Motor Co., still visits his local gas station despite the fact he drives one of the company's gas-less electric cars. As he says, he needs his milk and cigarettes.

    Allard is a busy guy these days. His small team is building Zenn cars at a factory just north of Montreal at a rate of two to three vehicles a day and counting. Every one of them is being shipped to dealers in the United States for willing buyers. They're still illegal on most Canadian roads.

    Like other companies selling alternative transportation in an oil-dependent world, Toronto-based Zenn has suddenly become a sexy stock. Its shares have gained 81 per cent over the past three months on the Toronto Venture Exchange despite the fact the company has yet to post a profit.

    Thing is, Zenn could soon be much more than sexy. It could be downright disruptive, turning the automotive industry on its head.

    Sometime over the next several weeks, a privately held and ultra-secretive company named EEStor Inc., based in Cedar Park, Texas, is expected to release the results of independent third-party testing of its electrical-energy storage unit, which aims to replace the electrochemical batteries we now use in everything from hybrid cars to laptop computers. EEStor says its system, combining battery and ultra-capacitor technology and based on modified barium titanate ceramic powder, could power a car for 400 kilometres with regular performance. It claims the unit would charge in a few minutes and weigh less than 10 per cent of current lead-acid batteries for the same cost.

    If it is proven to work, EEStor, and its equity and business partners, including Zenn and U S. defence contractor Lockheed Martin Corp., will have a technology that could change the transportation industry, with implications for renewable energy and any sector that needs electrical energy storage technology.

    Officials at Lockheed, which this year bought exclusive rights to use EEStor's power system for military purposes, have said the technology "could lead to energy independence for the war fighter." Officials with Zenn, which bought exclusive worldwide rights to the system for vehicles weighing up to 1,400 kilograms, say they believe it is the "holy grail" of electric storage systems.

    EEStor has said it expects its technology to be commercially ready within six months.

    "This is not small potatoes here. If this works, it really changes the transportation sector," says Massimo Fiore, an analyst with Versant Partners in Montreal. He rates Zenn a "speculative buy" with a one-year price target of $6.50.

    "You'd have a very strong decoupling from oil," he said. "(Zenn) could have a very big return for investors. But it is still speculative."

    Rick Welty of investment advisory firm Welty Capital Management in LaFayette, Calif., recently discussed Zenn on Bloomberg TV.

    "The caveat is the upside-downside potential" for the company's stock, he said. "If it doesn't work, it probably goes to $1 a share. If it does work, it could be $15 or $20 or far higher."

    Zenn's future growth is inextricably linked to EEStor's success or failure. It holds a 3.8 per cent equity position in EEStor, a strategic investment allowing Zenn to participate in the commercialization of its technology in such non-automotive applications as aerospace. And its next generation of planned cars, called the CityZenn, will trade in the company's current lead-acid batteries for EEStor's storage unit.

    A commercially viable power source by EEStor would boost the maximum speed of its cars from 40 km/h to 120 km/h, take them from the back roads to the highways, and thrust Zenn from a small company making niche electric vehicles into the global automotive mainstream.

    Zenn and EEStor are not alone in the hunt for electric supremacy. Several major and minor companies are working on making better-performing batteries for all-electric and hybrid cars. General Motors Corp.'s Volt car, powered with lithium-ion batteries, is perhaps the most high-profile electric vehicle planned. But Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan, Mitsubishi, Renault-Nissan and others have outlined plans for electric cars coming to market in North America as soon as 2010.

    The challenge for all is developing a battery that delivers enough power and range for everyday transportation at a consistent quality for mass production, said Eric Fedewa, an analyst for CSM Worldwide in Northville, Mich. "It comes down to ultimately what is it going to cost the manufacturers to produce that technology in the vehicle. And will consumers accept that cost?"

    EEStor certainly has its skeptics. They argue scientists and engineers have been trying to make a similar power unit for 20 years without success. And history has not been kind to some technology hopefuls, such as Ballard Power Systems.

    But it also has a powerful venture-capital backer, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, with a pretty good knack for picking winners. Kleiner was an early investor in both Google and Amazon.

    "If for some reason EEStor is delayed, we will continue to use the best technologies available," said Ian Clifford, Zenn founder and chief executive. "But ultimately, to get 400 kilometres of range, the ability to recharge in minutes, low costs and the ability to operate in extreme climates -- all of those benefits, those come from EEStor. Those are the game-changing specifications."

    http://www.canada.com/victoriatimesc...2-18f662349b5f


    ========
    MPG Is Key In Future U.S. Vehicles. Japanese Cars Dominate Most Efficient List

    Mark Maier, Contributing Writer UPDATED: 8:06 am EDT June 27, 2008

    Will American auto manufacturers ever be able to engineer the world's most efficient vehicle?

    According to Motor Trend's latest list of the 15 most fuel-friendly vehicles, many of the dominant manufacturers continue to hold onto their top spots in the fuel efficiency hierarchy. Once again, vehicles from Toyota, Honda and Nissan will provide drivers with the greatest relief from high gas prices.

    American vehicles did appear in the top 10, however. The Mercury Mariner and the Ford Escape tied for sixth place (alongside the Mazda Tribute). All of these vehicles are hybrids but, ironically enough, they are all SUVs as well. Americans are left wondering when Detroit's "Big Three" will deliver an ideal sedan.

    In January 2000, General Motors Corp. unveiled the Precept -- a vehicle that, according to the company, was capable of 80 miles to the gallon with a 500-mile range. The New York Times referred to the diesel-electric hybrid as "probably the most expensive single car ever built." The Precept has yet to go into wide-scale production.

    This year, GM did offer two efficient sedans: the Saturn AURA and a hybrid version of the Malibu. According to the GM Web site, both vehicles are capable of a combined 28 miles per gallon. Still, they fail to appear on the Motor Trend list. According to Motor Trend, "All vehicles on the list had to be widely available now, so it is comprised of 2008 models only, and the cars that require pricier premium gas (possibly eliminating their fuel-economy advantage) have been noted."

    Regardless of these factors, American car shoppers will still emphasize a vehicle's payback period, or the time necessary for an investment to pay for itself. The costliness of new automotive technologies paired with their high demand in the marketplace means "going green" is going to cost a lot of green too -- a notion that will forever undermine the good intentions of good gas mileage.

    Distributed by Internet Broadcasting.
    =====

    Photo credit: A Zenn electric car makes its way along Toronto's busy King Street.
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    It seems every couple of months you see an article about a company who is about to make a huge breakthrough like this. Usually the article ends with statements similar to:
    EEStor has said it expects its technology to be commercially ready within six months.
    Which means they have something that works in the lab. We then don't hear about them ever again.. usually the idea or technology or whatever just doesn't pan out or doesn't scale to a commercially viable solution.
    EEStor certainly has its skeptics. They argue scientists and engineers have been trying to make a similar power unit for 20 years without success. And history has not been kind to some technology hopefuls, such as Ballard Power Systems.
    Still, this has some pretty big backers this time:
    Officials at Lockheed, which this year bought exclusive rights to use EEStor's power system for military purposes, have said the technology "could lead to energy independence for the war fighter." Officials with Zenn, which bought exclusive worldwide rights to the system for vehicles weighing up to 1,400 kilograms, say they believe it is the "holy grail" of electric storage systems.
    But it also has a powerful venture-capital backer, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, with a pretty good knack for picking winners. Kleiner was an early investor in both Google and Amazon.
    in the end it reminds me of the Simpsons:
    In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!
    I'm hoping this, and similar, technology bares fruit but I won't be holding my breath.
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    I'm hoping this, and similar, technology bares fruit but I won't be holding my breath


    Ya, I hear ya there. And pretty much share your scepticism too.
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

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    The fact that the article says Lockheed Martin bought the exclusive rights for military use doesn't mean much. How much did these "rights" cost? If it was only a few dollars, then it might be just a small insurance policy in case the technology really works. If the "rights" cost a ton of money that fund further testing, then, still, what does that really mean? Like most people, I guess I will wait and see.

    Another point, maybe Locheed needed a battery for a camera in a military spy drone, in which case, the "rights for Military use" have nothing to do with use in the automotive world..
    I fish for a living, but I have to work for money...

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