Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sony KDL-40D3500 change in model number

Sony KDL-40D3500 Review

A change in model number from 3000 to 3500 would suggest that the KDL-40D3500 represented a relatively minor upgrade from its predecessor the KDL-40D3000. However, the changes in specification are more wide ranging than you would imagine.

Most significantly, the 40D3500 gains a Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution which can potentially give a marked improvement in the display of sources such as Sky TV (1080i).

The 1080 lines of resolution match the resolution of the screen negating the need for any picture scaling to fit. If you have a device which outputs pictures in the superior 1080p (e.g. Sony's PlayStation 3) the 3500 can accept those pictures in their full glory.

As with the previous model, High Definition (HD) is where the Sony KDL-40D3500 excels. Hook up a 1080p capable source however, and you have even more pristine pictures. The KDL-40D3500 displays a clarity and sharpness that make you want to reach out and touch objects or people as they glide across the screen. Colours are wonderfully vibrant and reach a level of authentic realism to match any LCD.

Sony Bravia KDL-40D3500: Product details

Weight 20.5 kg
Brightness 450 cd/m2
HDTV Compatible Yes
HD-Ready Yes
Inbuilt Digital TV Tuner / Freeview Yes
Screen Format Widescreen
Progressive Scan Yes
Speakers Stereo
Resolution 1920x1080
Additional Stand/Cabinet included No
Zoom Yes
Supported Picture Formats 80i/p, 576i/p, 720p, 1080i/p
PiP (Picture in Picture) Yes
Speaker output 20 W
Contrast ratio 1800:1
HDMI Input 2
Scart Connections 2
Dimensions HxWxD 64.3x98.1x11 cm
Pixel response time 8.0 ms
Viewing angle H/V 178/178 degrees
Component Inputs 1
VGA (HD-15) Inputs 1
S-Video Input Yes
Phono output Yes
NTSC playback Yes
Frequency/Hertz N/A
Screen size (inches) 40
Full HD (1920x1080) Yes (1920x1080)
Built-In DVD/VCR No
Image Enhancement Engine Sony Bravia Engine
1080p/24Hz Yes

Sony Bravia KDL-40D3500 40in LCD TV

After making a frankly underwhelming start in the flat TV world, the time now finally seems right for Sony to start re-establishing the sort of dominance and association with quality that it once enjoyed with its Trinitron CRT TVs.

After all, the introduction of the first Bravia range marked a significant leap forward in Sony's flat TV quality, ambitions, and fortunes, so there's every reason to hope that the second generation of Bravias, as represented today by the KDL-40D3500, will advance things again.

First impressions, though, aren't spectacularly promising. For its design is totally uninspiring; just a boring dark rectangle for the most part, with the only ‘flourish' coming from a thin silver outer trim. Woo. Given the groovy designs now being delivered by Sony's Korean rivals, the Japanese brand really does need to start trying a little harder in the aesthetics department.

Connectivity is something of a mixed bag, too. On the downside, the set only carries two HDMIs when we increasingly like our large HD TVs to have three. But these HDMIs can, at least, take 1080p/24 feeds from Blu-ray players, and are joined by more or less everything else you'd expect of a modern TV, including component video and D-Sub VGA options.

The 40D3500's panel is a full HD affair, sporting a very striking claimed contrast ratio of 16,000:1 - the same figure as that quoted by Pioneer for its KURO plasma TVs, with their genuinely groundbreaking black levels. Crikey. If Sony has really managed to coax black levels out of an LCD TV that rival those of the leading plasma TV around, then the 40D3500 will really be something to talk about.

However, before we start to get too excited about this, we have to point out that inevitably, unlike with plasma technology, the 40D3500 can only claim a 16,000:1 contrast ratio by using a dynamic backlight system, whereby the backlight output (and therefore the image's brightness) is reduced when dark scenes are detected. The ‘native' contrast of the Sony panel with the dynamic backlight inactive is a rather more down to earth 1,800:1...

Still, as well as deserving credit just for actually publishing this more realistic figure when most rival brands don't, 1,800:1 is really not a bad native contrast ratio by LCD standards. The L37X01 we looked at recently, for instance, could only muster 900:1.

`Big Rally' for Stocks to Continue, Jim Rogers Says

U.S. stocks, which surged the most in five years yesterday, will likely continue their rally this year because the ``out of control'' Federal Reserve is cutting interest rates to save investment banks from collapse, investor Jim Rogers said.
The Fed's support is ``why we're having a big rally, but that's not going to solve the problem,'' Rogers, chairman of Rogers Holdings and co-founder of the Quantum Hedge Fund with George Soros, said during an interview with Bloomberg Television from Singapore. ``The system is terribly corroded.''
The central bank is helping securities firms while delaying and deepening a bear market and recession, said Rogers, who is betting against financial shares. The Fed cut its benchmark for overnight lending between banks yesterday, continuing the most aggressive series of reductions since the rate became an explicit policy target in the late 1980s.
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index jumped 4.2 percent yesterday, the most since October 2002. The index this week dropped as much as 19.7 percent from its October record, nearing the 20 percent threshold of a bear market, following $195 billion in bank losses from the collapse of the subprime-mortgage market.
No `Bullets Left'
``What are they going to do when it's down 30 percent or 40 percent or 50 percent?'' Rogers said. ``They're not going to have any bullets left. They're not going to be able to solve the problems at that point.''
Rogers, who predicted the start of the commodities rally in 1999, traveled the world by motorcycle and car in the 1990s researching investment ideas for his books, which include ``Adventure Capitalist'' and ``Hot Commodities.''
Rogers said he continues to short Citigroup Inc., Fannie Mae and investment banks via an exchange-traded fund tracking financial firms and increased his bearish bet last week. Short selling is the sale of borrowed stock in the hope of profiting by repurchasing the securities later at a lower price.
The Standard & Poor's 500 Financials Index, which surged 8.5 percent yesterday for the steepest advance since March 2000, closed at a five-year low on March 17.
Taiwan stocks are attractive, Rogers said. The nation's Taiex stock index has slumped 3.8 percent this year, trailing only Brazil and Argentina as the best-performing stock market among the world's 20 largest, according to Bloomberg data.
Halfway Through
Rogers, whose commodities index has climbed more than fivefold since its inception in 1998, said raw materials are about halfway through their rally.
He also said the dollar, which has declined 15 percent against the euro in the past year, is likely to weaken further. The Fed should stop cutting rates, which would end that decline, Rogers said.
The Fed's mandate is ``to keep a sound currency, not to prop up Wall Street,'' said Rogers. He recommended selling the dollar in a Nov. 15 interview. The currency has fallen about 6.6 percent against the euro since then.

"Ready for a rally" - UBS Investment Research

"Sectors under the most pressure also rebound the most": UBSJOINING A small but growing chorus of bulls, UBS issued a report yesterday (Mar 19) saying “there is reason for optimism in global equity markets.”It noted that US monetary and fiscal policy response has been aggressive and more is likely on the way. ”Coupled with attractive valuations, low interest rates, and reasonable earnings growth, we believe prospects for a more sustainable rally in equities appear good.” UBS has an overweight rating on the US, neutral on Global Emerging Markets and Japan, and underweight on Europe and UK.Referring to the all the angst currently, UBS said there is a silver lining. While fundamental pressures on the US economy stemming from the decline in house prices persist, the policy reaction to financial market turmoil has become increasingly aggressive, particularly from the Federal Reserve.The uncertainty that has depressed overall equity market valuations is likely to dissipate, leading to a more sustainable rally than has appeared probable in recent months. “Thus, we are getting ready for a shift in markets to a more positive assessment of near term prospects based on the policy response we’ve seen so far and what may yet be coming.”In deciding how to position oneself for the rally, UBS noted that the historical pattern of a market rebound suggests that the sectors that have been under the most pressure also rebound the most. “Therefore, we have lifted our allocation to Financials and Consumer Discretionary.”Looking back over previous market sell-offs (-10% from 12-month peak) that were followed by a sharp rebound (greater than 10% in three months), UBS found that the sectors that led markets lower also tend to lead in the recovery.“This is an intuitive result insofar as a rebound in markets is probably driven by a change in fundamental expectations that allows the most impaired sectors to recover, while short-covering in bombed out sectors also reverses course.”UBS added: “We believe that markets are poised for a broad recovery in valuations driven by a decline in risk premiums. These moves are likely to benefit the whole market.”

Barton Biggs Expects 1,000-Point Gain in Dow Average

The decline in U.S. stocks is ``way overdone'' and the Dow Jones Industrial Average may rally 1,000 points, investor Barton Biggs said.

``We're in a financial panic,'' Biggs said during a telephone interview with Bloomberg Television from New York. ``We're setting up for a really big rally. I don't mean three or four hundred points on the Dow, I mean 1,000 points on the Dow. I don't know if we're going to get it next week or the week after. But this thing has gotten crazy and is overdone.''

Biggs, a former Morgan Stanley strategist who now runs the $1.5 billion hedge fund Traxis Partners LLC, said stock markets from Germany to Hong Kong may bottom out soon after tumbling this year. Biggs's prediction in March 2007 that U.S. stocks were near a low preceded a 16 percent rally in the Dow average during the next four months. His forecast that the Dow would climb as much as 19 percent in 2007 overshot its actual gain by almost 13 percentage points.

``We're at a really crucial point,'' Biggs said. ``This is a time to be buying stocks around the world and not to be selling them.''

The Dow average has tumbled 16 percent to 11,951.09 since reaching a record in October after the subprime-mortgage market's collapse caused $195 billion in asset writedowns and credit losses at global financial firms including Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. A 1,000-point gain in the Dow from today's close would amount to an 8.4 percent rise.
U.S. stocks plunged today for the third time this week, sending the Dow average down 1.6 percent, after Bear Stearns Cos. required a bailout from the Federal Reserve and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to avoid collapse.

``Yeah, it's scary. It's always scary at bottoms. But I don't believe the economy is collapsing,'' Biggs said. ``This is not the end of the world.''

Temasek's Fund Says Investors Crossed `Maximum Fear'

Temasek Holdings Pte's fund management unit said investors have passed ``the point of maximum fear'' amid the global credit squeeze and it expects to meet a target of $3 billion in assets by June.

Fullerton Fund Management, which oversees $2.5 billion of third-party money and an undisclosed amount of capital for Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, saw the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to rescue Bear Stearns Cos. from bankruptcy as a turning point, Fullerton's Chief Executive Officer Gerard Lee said.

``The Fed coming in to facilitate JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s purchase of Bear Stearns is a watershed event, and most bottoms are found during watershed events,'' Lee said in an interview in Singapore yesterday. ``From that perspective, we could have already crossed the point of maximum fear.''

The Fed stepped in with JPMorgan on March 14 to provide emergency funding to Bear Stearns in the biggest government bailout of a U.S. securities firm. Before the announcement, Bear Stearns's clients withdrew $17 billion in two days amid speculation that the firm was running short of cash.

Templeton Asset Management Ltd.'s Mark Mobius said he ``generally'' agrees with Temasek's assessment that the markets have reached a bottom.

`Damn Close'

``If we haven't achieved it, we're damn close,'' Mobius, who oversees $47 billion in emerging-market equities, said in a phone interview from Hong Kong today. ``With the kind of liquidity that's pouring into the system, with the Fed, and now the European Central Bank and others putting more money into the system, we think stock prices are not going to remain down. We think there's a good chance of growth going forward.''

Some funds are already planning to buy shares in Asia, where stocks have tumbled this year even as economies in China and India continue to grow. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index trades at 14 times estimated earnings, after slumping 13 percent the past six months as fallout from the U.S. subprime crisis spread through Asia, making stocks in the benchmark 36 percent cheaper than the five-year average.

Value Partners Group Ltd., Asia's second-largest hedge-fund manager, is buying stocks in the region that were battered by the collapse of the U.S. subprime mortgage market, Chief Investment Officer Cheah Cheng Hye said this week. The Hong Kong-based asset manager aims to start a new fund in the second quarter to invest in Greater China property stocks, Cheah said.
Funds such as Clariden Leu AG, which manages $300 million, said the recovery from the U.S. housing crisis may take one to two years. Sales of new homes in the U.S. fell in February to the lowest level in 13 years as tighter loan restrictions and the prospect of even lower prices kept buyers away.

`Inflexion Point'

``What we have seen in the last couple of weeks culminating in the rescue of Bear Stearns by the Fed and a further pump of liquidity in the market may somewhat signal an inflexion point in the crisis but this bottoming out phase, we reckon, will take a long time,'' Michael Foo, head of Asian portfolio management at Clariden, said in an interview today.

Fullerton is still bullish on prospects in Asia, where it has most of its assets, and it said the goal to manage $3 billion excluding Temasek's funds by mid-year is achievable. State-owned Temasek manages a portfolio worth more than $100 billion.

``The fundamental reasons for this secular growth are all in place,'' Lee said. ``The few of the big economies are found in Asia. I'm talking about China, India, Vietnam and South Korea. So Asia being a destination for investment money from the developed world will continue to grow.''
Fullerton's main customers are wealthy individuals in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and institutions in Singapore where, in 2003, it became a separate unit of Temasek.
Fullerton aims to expand in the U.S., Europe, Australia and the Middle East, working with local partners to sell its funds or distributing directly to investors. Earlier this month, it teamed up with EFG-Hermes Asset Management to bring Middle Eastern funds to Asian investors. The company wants to grow its Middle Eastern and North African fund to $100 million within a year, Lee added.

IS THE sun peeking out now after the dark night of the US financial crisis?

There are perma bears who believe otherwise. There are born optimists for whom the sun will always shine. Increasingly, it seems that “experts” of various stripes are saying that indeed investors will feel the warmth of the sun soon. On March 20, US analyst Richard Bove was quoted by Bloomberg saying in a note to clients: “"I do, in fact, believe that the crisis is over. There will be more negative developments but they will be meaningless." UBS Investment Research and guru Barton Biggs are among other prominent voices who believe so too. The latest are Mark Mobius and Temasek Holdings’ fund management unit.In a March 27 article by Bloomberg, Temasek unit Fullerton Fund Management’s CEO said investors have passed ``the point of maximum fear'' amid the global credit squeeze and it expects to meet a target of US$3 billion in assets by June. Fullerton, which oversees US$2.5 billion of third-party money and an undisclosed amount of capital for Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, saw the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to rescue Bear Stearns from bankruptcy as a turning point, Fullerton's Chief Executive Officer Gerard Lee said in the Bloomberg article.``The Fed coming in to facilitate JP Morgan Chase & Co’s purchase of Bear Stearns is a watershed event, and most bottoms are found during watershed events,'' Lee said in an interview in Singapore. ``From that perspective, we could have already crossed the point of maximum fear.''

Mobius is Singapore-based and author of numerous books on emerging markets.Templeton Asset Management Ltd.'s Mark Mobius said he ``generally'' agrees with Temasek's assessment that the markets have reached a bottom. ``If we haven't achieved it, we're damn close,'' Mobius, who oversees US$47 billion in emerging-market equities, said in a phone interview from Hong Kong on Mar 27. ``With the kind of liquidity that's pouring into the system, with the Fed, and now the European Central Bank and others putting more money into the system, we think stock prices are not going to remain down. We think there's a good chance of growth going forward.''

Futuristic Crystal Review on the Future of Global Stock Market

Stock markets all over the world has been dropping since the beginning of this year. 2008 first quarter has been a major drop for Dow Jones Industrial Index, Nikkei, Hang Seng, FSTE, SSE, SGX. Busrsa Malaysia, Korean Kospi, AMX and many more stock exchanges all over the world.
Fundamental Analysis now registered value in many stocks and equities. Technical Analysis buy signals and chart formations are pointing to market bottom.

The next few posting will point to the future of stocks and share from well known fund managers. The opinions of these professionals will influence the direction of the market. Markets movements are controlled by major buy up and sell down by these funds. These fund managers are our futuristic crystall ball reviewers with tremendous power.

EEStor battery-ultracapacitor



Valued at some $66 million after Zenn Motor invested $2.5 million for a 3.8% stake in 2007, EEStor aims to solve the renewable energy problem with its "battery-ultracapacitor" hybrid technology. While traditional batteries wear out and have to be thrown away, "ultracaps" can be used and recharged for decades with almost no degradation; the downside is that they tend to hold about 25 times less energy per pound than lithium ion batteries, meaning that they have to be recharged fairly often. EEStor says it solved that problem using a ceramic ultracapacitor with a barium-titanate insulator that can absorb higher amounts of energy per given unit of mass. While critics claim the ultracaps are too costly to manufacture, EEStor plans to hit the market later this year.

EEStor unveils ultracapacitor-based battery system, Li-ion shudders in fear

If relying on sunlight and downhill routes in Venturi's uber-green Eclectic doesn't exactly sound feasible for your everyday (and night) errands, and your ultraportable's five hours of battery life just isn't where you think it should be, EEStor is hoping to remedy those issues -- along with basically every other battery-related quandary -- in one fell swoop. In another case of "this just can't be for realz," an elusive Texas company is coming clean about what's been happening in its labs of late, and the proclamations are nothing short of sensational. The firm boldly states that its one of a kind system, a "battery-ultracapacitor hybrid based on barium-titanate powders, will dramatically outperform the best lithium-ion batteries on the market in terms of energy density, price, charge time, and safety." Moreover, this miracle-working solution is said to produce "ten times" the power of lead-acid batteries at half the cost, sans the need for "toxic materials or chemicals." Additionally, EEStor is hoping to have its Electrical Energy Storage Unit (EESU) powering the wheels of Toronto-based ZENN Motor vehicles, and if "estimates" are to be believed, it will only take about $9 worth of electricity for an EESU-propelled car to travel 500 miles, compared to nearly $60 in gasoline. Of course, such a "breakthrough" product is bound to have its fair share of naysayers, and Jim Miller, vice president of advanced transportation technologies at Maxwell Technologies, is indeed skeptical that EEStor's technology will be able to withstand the unique pressures that a vehicle would place on the "brittle" structure. But we've got to give credit to the company's vow to veer clear of hype, as it notes that this is just the first time it has come forward to intro the technology, and maintains that it will "meet all of its claims" -- guess we'll see about that, eh?

Lockheed Martin Signs Agreement with EESTOR, Inc., for Energy Storage Solutions

Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] has signed an exclusive international rights agreement to integrate and market Electrical Energy Storage Units (EESU) from EEStor, Inc., for military and homeland security applications. Specific terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

EEStor, based in Cedar Park, TX, is developing a ceramic battery chemistry that could provide 10 times the energy density of lead acid batteries at 1/10th the weight and volume. As envisioned, EESUs will be a fully “green” technology that will be half the price per stored watt-hour than traditional battery technologies.

“Lockheed Martin has a wide range of innovative energy solutions for federal, state and regional energy applications,” said Glenn Miller, vice president of Technical Operations and Applied Research at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “The EEStor energy storage technology provides potential solutions for the demanding requirements for energy in military and homeland defense applications.”

EESUs are planned as nontoxic, non-hazardous and non-explosive. Since the EESU design is based on ultra-capacitor architecture, it will allow for flexible packaging and rapid charge/discharge capabilities. EESUs will be ideally suited for a wide range of power management initiatives that could lead to energy independence for the Warfighter.

“Lockheed Martin continues to focus on providing our Warfighters with new and innovative technologies that will make their jobs easier,” said Lionel Liebman, manager of Program Development – Applied Research at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “Our ruggedized BattPack™ energy storage unit generated considerable interest at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting in October 2007 for its potential for fuel savings in vehicular silent watch applications. The potential of an even safer, smaller and more powerful EESU in BattPack™ would significantly enhance the Warfighter’s capabilities.”

EESU qualification testing and mass production at EEStor’s facility in Cedar Park is planned for late 2008.

EEStor, Inc., of Cedar Park, TX, originally developed its solid-state EESU technology as a longer lasting, lighter, more powerful environmentally friendly electronic storage unit for a wide variety of applications. EEStor’s vision also includes EESU facilitating the conversion of wind energy and photovoltaics into primary electrical energy providers and increasing the role of renewables for increasing energy production. Its CEO and president, Richard Weir, is also the inventor named on its EESU principal technology patent.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin employs about 140,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.

EEStor Announces Two Key Production Milestones; 15 kWh EESU on Track for 2007

EEStor, the developer of a new high-power-density ceramic ultracapacitor (the Energy Storage Unit—EESU), has broken a long public silence and announced reaching two key production milestones. First, its automated production line has been proven to meet the requirements for precise chemical delivery, purity control, parameter control and stability.

Second, EEStor has completed the initial milestone of certifying purification, concentration, and stability of all of its key production chemicals—notably the attainment of 99.9994% purity of its barium nitrate powder.

The independent 3rd party chemical analysis was completed by Southwest Research Institute, Inc. located in San Antonio, Texas under contract with EEStor, Inc.

With these milestones completed, EEStor is now in the process of producing composition-modified barium titanate powders on its automated production line, and is moving toward completing its next major milestone of powder certification.

The company anticipates that the relative permittivity of the current powder will either meet and/or exceed 18,500, the previous level achieved when EEStor produced prototype components using it engineering level processing equipment.

The EEStor ESU is projected to offer up to 10x the energy density (volumetric and gravimetric) of lead-acid batteries at the same cost. In addition, the ESU is projected to store up to 1.5 to 2.5 times the energy of Li-Ion batteries at 12 to 25% of the cost.

According to the company’s initial patent, the EESU is based on a high-permittivity composition-modified barium titanate ceramic powder. This powder is double coated with the first coating being aluminum oxide and the second coating calcium magnesium aluminosilicate glass.

The EESU alternates multilayers of nickel electrodes and the high-permittivity powder. The resulting parallel configuration of components has the capability to store electrical energy in the range of 52 kWh, according to the document, with weight for a unit of that capacity in the range of 336 pounds (152 kg).

According to EEStor, the EESU will not degrade due to being fully discharged or recharged, and also can be rapidly charged without damaging the material or reducing its life. The cycle time to fully charge a 52 kWh EESU would be in the range of 4 to 6 minutes with sufficient cooling of the power cables and connections.

The first commercial application of the EESU is intended to be used in electric vehicles under a technology agreement with ZENN Motors Company. (Earlier post.) EEStor says that it remains on track to begin shipping production 15 kWh Electrical Energy Storage Units (EESU) to ZENN Motor Company in 2007 for use in their electric vehicles.

The production EESU for ZENN Motor Company is designed to function to specification in operating environments as severe as -20° to +65° degrees Celsius, will weigh less than 100 pounds, and will have ability to be recharged in a matter of minutes.

Kleiner Perkins' Latest Energy Investment EEStor Inc

VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in July led a $3 million preferred stock investment in EEStor Inc., a Cedar Park, Texas startup that is developing breakthrough battery technology.

The company was founded in 2001 by Richard D. Weir, Carl Nelson, and Richard S. Weir, who have backgrounds as senior managers in disk-storage technology at such companies as IBM and Xerox PARC. They previously co-founded disk-storage startup Tulip Memory Systems, where they won 16 U.S. patents.

According to a May, 2004 edition of Utility Federal Technology Opportunities, an obscure trade newsletter, EEStor claims to make a battery at half the cost per kilowatt-hour and one-tenth the weight of lead-acid batteries. Specifically, the product weighs 400 pounds and delivers 52 kilowatt-hours. (For battery geeks: "The technology is basically a parallel plate capacitor with barium titanate as the dielectric," UFTO says.) No hazardous or dangerous materials are used in manufacturing the ceramic-based unit, which means it qualifies as what Silicon Valley types call "cleantech."

As of last year, EEStor planned to build its own assembly line to prove the battery can work and then license the technology to manufacturers for volume production, UFTO says. Selling price would start at $3,200 and fall to $2,100 in high-volume production. Of course, all of this may have changed since KPCB got involved.

KPCB's investments are closely watched because the firm has made some of the most successful bets in VC history (Google,, Netscape, AOL, etc.). Energy investments carry a little extra risk for the firm since it is relatively new to the sector. Speaking at Stanford University in February, KPCB general partner John Doerr said the firm had made four energy investments so far, including fuel-cell maker Ion America. It will be interesting to watch how these companies develop.

Lockheed signs deal with EEStor

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.


Supercapacitors, also known as ultracapacitors or electrochemical double layer capacitors (EDLC), are electrochemical capacitors that have an unusually high energy density when compared to common capacitors, typically on the order of thousands of times greater than a high-capacity electrolytic capacitor. For instance, a typical D-cell sized electrolytic capacitor will have a storage capacity measured in microfarads, while the same size supercapacitor would store several farads, an improvement of about 10,000 times. Larger commercial supercapacitors have capacities as high as 5,000 farads.[1]

Supercapacitors have a variety of commercial applications, notably in "energy smoothing" and momentary-load devices. Some of the earliest uses were motor startup capacitors for large engines in tanks and submarines, and as the cost has fallen they have started to appear on diesel trucks and railroad locomotives.[2] More recently they have become a topic of some interest in the green energy world, where their ability to quickly soak up energy makes them particularly suitable for regenerative braking applications, whereas batteries have difficulty in this application due to slow charging times. If the LEES or EEStor devices can be commercialized, they will make an excellent replacement for batteries in all-electric cars and plug-in hybrids, as they combine quick charging, temperature stability and excellent safety properties.

MC and BC series supercapacitors (up to 3000 farad capacitance) produced by Maxwell Technologies
MC and BC series supercapacitors (up to 3000 farad capacitance) produced by Maxwell Technologies

A New Deal for EEStor

A delayed battery technology may indeed be on the way.

Good-bye batteries?: The startup EEStor says that it has technology that will store ten times as much energy as lead acid batteries.
Credit: Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority

Earlier this month, a stealthy startup that says its ultracapacitor-based energy storage system could make conventional batteries obsolete took a small step toward proving its many skeptics wrong.

The company, EEStor, based in Cedar Park, TX, has made bold claims about its technology but has so far failed to deliver a working commercial product. However, an agreement announced this month with Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, MD, suggests that the company could be making progress--at least enough to convince a major defense contractor that the technology has merit. The agreement gives Lockheed an exclusive international license to use EEStor's power system for military and homeland-security applications--everything from advanced remote sensors and missile systems to mobile power packs and electric vehicles. The technology, Lockheed said in a statement, "could lead to energy independence for the Warfighter."

Lockheed has not seen a working prototype but said that qualification testing and mass production of EEStor's system is planned for late 2008. Lockheed would not disclose the terms of the partnership. "We fully intend to work with EEStor this year to prototype and demonstrate this technology for the soldier," says Lionel Liebman, Lockheed's manager of program development in its applied research division. "We're looking at a lot of applications where the EEStor application can help."

EEStor says that its patented system is a nontoxic, safe, and lower-cost alternative to conventional electrochemical battery technologies, offering ten times the energy density of lead-acid batteries. The company also claims that its system allows rapid and virtually unlimited charging and discharging without significant degradation of the unit. (See "Battery Breakthrough?") But many experts have been skeptical, citing the difficulty of working with the material at the core of the company's system: a ceramic made of barium-titanate.

A lack of news from the company has only fed the skepticism. The last public announcement from EEStor came last January, when it revealed that it had made high purity barium-titanate powders on its first automated production line. But the company has so far failed to deliver units of its storage product to minority investor ZENN Motor, a company based in Toronto that plans to use it in electric vehicles. Originally, the devices were to have shipped in the first half of last year.

EEStor chief executive Richard Weir declined to comment on the development of the technology and the agreement with Lockheed. But he told Technology Review in an e-mail message that he's anticipating another "technical news release in the near future," at which time he would be open to discussing EEStor's progress in more detail.

ZENN chief executive Ian Clifford remains optimistic. "Every restatement of delivery time has been for good reasons," he says, suggesting that the Lockheed announcement and the due diligence that led to it "add credibility to the technology." He's now expecting delivery of the energy-storage unit in mid-2008. And it won't be a prototype, he emphasizes: it will be a mass-produced commercial product. "This is about commercialization, not hitting technology roadblocks. We're in constant contact with EEStor, with regular visits to their site. We always come away from every meeting much more excited that this is going to happen."

ZENN has already switched to a different motor in its current low-speed electric vehicle, partly in anticipation of the new energy storage technology. "We're first in line," says Clifford. "We understand we'll be taking the first product off the production facility being built right now."

Liebman, who says that he has visited EEStor's facility in Cedar Park and was impressed, also expressed confidence in the company. He notes that EEStor's approach so far allows for a rapid ramp-up in production. "I think it's very real," he says.

Battery Breakthrough? ultracapacitors

A Texas company says it can make a new ultracapacitor power system to replace the electrochemical batteries in everything from cars to laptops.

The ZENN car will be the first commercial application of EEStor's new energy storage system. The company is expecting delivery of the systems later this year.
Credit: ZENN Cars

A secretive Texas startup developing what some are calling a "game changing" energy-storage technology broke its silence this week. It announced that it has reached two production milestones and is on track to ship systems this year for use in electric vehicles.

EEStor's ambitious goal, according to patent documents, is to "replace the electrochemical battery" in almost every application, from hybrid-electric and pure-electric vehicles to laptop computers to utility-scale electricity storage.

The company boldly claims that its system, a kind of battery-ultracapacitor hybrid based on barium-titanate powders, will dramatically outperform the best lithium-ion batteries on the market in terms of energy density, price, charge time, and safety. Pound for pound, it will also pack 10 times the punch of lead-acid batteries at half the cost and without the need for toxic materials or chemicals, according to the company.

The implications are enormous and, for many, unbelievable. Such a breakthrough has the potential to radically transform a transportation sector already flirting with an electric renaissance, improve the performance of intermittent energy sources such as wind and sun, and increase the efficiency and stability of power grids--all while fulfilling an oil-addicted America's quest for energy security.

The breakthrough could also pose a threat to next-generation lithium-ion makers such as Watertown, MA-based A123Systems, which is working on a plug-in hybrid storage system for General Motors, and Reno, NV-based Altair Nanotechnologies, a supplier to all-electric vehicle maker Phoenix Motorcars.

"I get a little skeptical when somebody thinks they've got a silver bullet for every application, because that's just not consistent with reality," says Andrew Burke, an expert on energy systems for transportation at University of California at Davis.

That said, Burke hopes to be proved wrong. "If [the] technology turns out to be better than I think, that doesn't make me sad: it makes me happy."

Richard Weir, EEStor's cofounder and chief executive, says he would prefer to keep a low profile and let the results of his company's innovation speak for themselves. "We're well on our way to doing everything we said," Weir told Technology Review in a rare interview. He has also worked as an electrical engineer at computing giant IBM and at Michigan-based automotive-systems leader TRW.

Much like capacitors, ultracapacitors store energy in an electrical field between two closely spaced conductors, or plates. When voltage is applied, an electric charge builds up on each plate.

Ultracapacitors have many advantages over traditional electrochemical batteries. Unlike batteries, "ultracaps" can completely absorb and release a charge at high rates and in a virtually endless cycle with little degradation.

Where they're weak, however, is with energy storage. Compared with lithium-ion batteries, high-end ultracapacitors on the market today store 25 times less energy per pound.

This is why ultracapacitors, with their ability to release quick jolts of electricity and to absorb this energy just as fast, are ideal today as a complement to batteries or fuel cells in electric-drive vehicles. The power burst that ultracaps provide can assist with stop-start acceleration, and the energy is more efficiently recaptured through regenerative braking--an area in which ultracap maker Maxwell Technologies has seen significant results.

On the other hand, EEStor's system--called an Electrical Energy Storage Unit, or EESU--is based on an ultracapacitor architecture that appears to escape the traditional limitations of such devices. The company has developed a ceramic ultracapacitor with a barium-titanate dielectric, or insulator, that can achieve an exceptionally high specific energy--that is, the amount of energy in a given unit of mass.

For example, the company's system claims a specific energy of about 280 watt hours per kilogram, compared with around 120 watt hours per kilogram for lithium-ion and 32 watt hours per kilogram for lead-acid gel batteries. This leads to new possibilities for electric vehicles and other applications, including for the military.

"It's really tuned to the electronics we attach to it," explains Weir. "We can go all the way down from pacemakers to locomotives and direct-energy weapons."

The trick is to modify the composition of the barium-titanate powders to allow for a thousandfold increase in ultracapacitor voltage--in the range of 1,200 to 3,500 volts, and possibly much higher.

EEStor claims that, using an automated production line and existing power electronics, it will initially build a 15-kilowatt-hour energy-storage system for a small electric car weighing less than 100 pounds, and with a 200-mile driving range. The vehicle, the company says, will be able to recharge in less than 10 minutes.

The company announced this week that this year it plans to begin shipping such a product to Toronto-based ZENN Motor, a maker of low-speed electric vehicles that has an exclusive license to use the EESU for small- and medium-size electric vehicles.

By some estimates, it would only require $9 worth of electricity for an EESU-powered vehicle to travel 500 miles, versus $60 worth of gasoline for a combustion-engine car.

"My understanding is that the leap from powder to product isn't the big leap," says Ian Clifford, CEO of ZENN, which is also an early investor in EEStor. "We're the first application, and that's thrilling for us. We took the initial risk because we believed in what they are doing. And energy storage is the game changer."

The key challenge, however, is to ensure that the barium-titanate powders can be made on a production line without compromising purity and stability. "Purification gives you better production stability, gives you better permittivity, and gives you the high voltages you're looking for," says Weir. "We've now got the chemicals certified and purified to the point we're looking for." (Better permittivity of the insulator improves the amount of charge that can be stored without letting the current leak across the two plates.)

EEStor announced this week that the first automated production line for its powder has performed as required and that permittivity will meet or exceed expectations. It also said that it achieved 99.9994 percent purity for its barium-nitrate powder, a crucial ingredient in the dialectric. San Antonia-based Southwest Research Institute independently confirmed the results.

In a traditional ultracap, that permittivity is given a rating of 20 to 30, while EEStor's claim is 18,500 or more--a phenomenal number by most accounts. "This is a very big step for us," says Weir. "This puts me well onto the road of meeting high-volume production."

Jim Miller, vice president of advanced transportation technologies at Maxwell Technologies and an ultracap expert who spent 18 years doing engineering work at Ford Motor, isn't so convinced.

"We're skeptical, number one, because of leakage," says Miller, explaining that high-voltage ultracaps have a tendency to self-discharge quickly. "Meaning, if you leave it parked overnight it will discharge, and you'll have to charge it back up in the morning."

He also doesn't believe that the ceramic structure--brittle by nature--will be able to handle thermal stresses that are bound to cause microfractures and, ultimately, failure. Finally, EEStor claims that its system works to specification in temperatures as low as -20 °C, revised from a previous claim of -40 °C.

"Temperature of -20 degrees C is not good enough for automotive," says Miller. "You need -40 degrees." By comparison, Altair and A123Systems claim that their lithium-ion cells can operate at -30 °C.

Burke, meanwhile, says that there's a big difference between making powder in a controlled environment and making defect-free devices in a large quantity that can survive underneath the hood of a car.

"I have no doubt you can develop that kind of [ceramic] material, and the mechanism that gives you the energy storage is clear, but the first question is whether it's truly applicable to vehicle applications," Burke says, pointing out that the technology seems more appropriate for utility-scale storage and military "ray guns," for which high voltage is an advantage.

Safety is another concern. What happens if a vehicle packed with a 3,500-volt energy system crashes?

Weir says the voltage will be stepped down with a bi-directional converter, and the whole system will be secured in a grounded metal box. It won't have a problem getting an Underwriters Laboratories safety certification, he adds. "If you drive a stake through it, we have ways of fusing this thing where all the energy is sitting there but it won't arc … It will be the safest battery the world has ever seen."

Regarding concerns about temperature, leakage, and ceramic brittleness, Weir did not reply to an e-mail asking him how EEStor overcomes such issues.

Nonetheless, the company has some solid backing. Its board has attracted Morton Topfer, former vice chairman of Dell and mentor to Michael Dell.

The company is also backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture-capital powerhouse that has an impressive track record: it made early and highly successful bets on Google,, and Sun Microsystems, among others. Whether EEStor can translate that success to the energy sector remains to be seen.

"I'm surprised that Kleiner has put money into it," says Miller.

Weir maintains that his company will meet all of its claims, and then some. "We're not trying to hype this. This is the first time we've ever talked about it. And we will continue to meet all of the production requirements."

EEstor Future Capacitor

EEStor is a company based in Cedar Park, Texas, United States that claims to have developed a superior type of capacitor for electricity storage, which EEStor calls 'Electrical Energy Storage Units' (EESU). Its CEO and president is Richard Weir, who is also the inventor named on their principal technology patent.[1]

These units use barium titanate coated with aluminum oxide and glass to achieve a level of capacitance claimed to be much higher than what is currently available in the market. The claimed energy density is 1.0 MJ/kg (existing commercial supercapacitors typically have an energy density of around 0.01 MJ/kg, while lithium ion batteries have an energy density of around 0.54–0.72 MJ/kg).[2]

Based on these claims, a five-minute charge should give the capacitor sufficient energy to drive a small car 300 miles (480 km). However, standard household wiring is not capable of delivering the power required for this, so charging times this short would probably require purpose-built high capacity dispensing stations.[3] Overnight charging at home should still be practical[4], as is using a second EESU for the home which could be charged overnight using cheap, off-peak electricity to then charge the EEStor unit in the car in 5-10 minutes on demand.[5]