A123 Systems, An Object Lesson In Toxic Financing

John Petersen July has been a ghastly month for stockholders of A123 Systems (AONE) who've watched in horror as the stock price collapsed from $1.30 on July 5th to $0.49 at Friday's close. While there was unfavorable news of a director resignation yesterday, all the other news over the last month has been positive, at least at first blush. In my view the market activity was both predictable and directly attributable to recent toxic financing transactions that will have A123 printing stock faster than Ben Bernanke is printing dollars for the foreseeable future. I'd love to be able...

Hydrogenics: New Capital, New Orders

by Debra Fiakas CFA   Hydrogen technology developer and fuel cell producer  Hydrogenics, Inc. (HYGS:  Nasdaq) closed out last year ‘following on’ with new capital and new fuel cell orders.  The company staged a public sale of its common stock through what is frequently referred to as a ‘follow on’ offering, coming along as this one did some years after the company’s initial public offering.  The pricing of these new shares of common stock was ‘followed’ quite closely by announcement of a new order for Hydrogenics fuel cells by a forklift manufacturer in North America.  The appearance...

Cleantech, Optimism Squared and the Family Reunion Investment Test

Last November, Merrill Lynch released "The Sixth Revolution: The Coming of Cleantech," a thematic report from strategist Steven Milunovich that heralded cleantech as a new investment theme and forecast a coming age of plenty. A few days later venture capital icon Vinod Khosla warned a Palo Alto audience “500 million people on earth enjoy a lifestyle that 9 billion people will want in 2050.” The differences between these two informed viewpoints are more than a little stark, but they highlight a frightening truth about cleantech: for the first time in human history the fundamental drivers of a technological revolution...

Can ZBB Grab a Piece of the Energy Storage Pie?

by Debra Fiakas CFA There are a lot of different technologies in the energy storage space.  ZBB Energy (ZBB:  NYSE) has staked its future on zinc bromide.  Batteries using zinc-bromide consist of a zinc negative electrode and a bromine positive electrode with a porous separator in between them.  Unlike conventional batteries, these electrodes do not take part in the reactions but merely serve as substrates for the energy reactions.  Thus there is no loss of performance from repeated cycling causing electrode material deterioration.  The zinc-bromine battery can provide two to three times the energy density...

Vinod Khosla on the Future of Lithium-ion Batteries

John Petersen On Monday of this week, the treehugger blog published a guest essay from Vinod Khosla that clarified his stance on the future of next generation lithium-ion batteries. The essay was prompted by "blog chatter" about an article in Earth2Tech where he was quoted as saying that lithium-ion batteries are overhyped. Since the Khosla essay included a link to my article "Why Lead-Carbon Batteries Will Deflate the Li-ion Bubble," I think it's important to tell readers that Mr. Khosla has written his own essay on the subject and encourage them...

It’s Time to Kill the Electric Car, Drive a Stake Through its Heart and...

John Petersen I was recently invited to prepare a memorandum on the battery industry for the electric mobility working group of the World Energy Council, a global thought leadership forum established in 1923 that includes 93 national committees representing over 3,000 member organizations including governments, businesses and research institutions. Since my memorandum integrated several themes from this blog and tied them all together, I've decided to publish a lightly edited version for readers. To set the stage for the substantive discussion that follows, I’ll start with an 1883 quote from Thomas Edison: “The storage battery is one...

Exide: Bargain Basement Battery Stock Ready to Start

Tom Konrad CFA Exide's Sundancer Electric Car.  Photo by Frank Lodge, EPA.  Public Domain NOTE: Since this article was first published, Exide Technologies (NASD:XIDE) stock has risen 22% from $2.31 to $2.82, but much of that rise was due to media confusion about a positive Credit Suisse research report on the unrelated Indian company Exide Industries, Ltd.  Details here. Exide Technologies (NASD:XIDE) is shutting down its battery recycling plant in Frisco, Texas, and selling the surrounding 180...

Distributed Energy Systems profile on Forbes.com

Distributed Energy Systems Corp (DESC) has been profiled on Forbes.com. Kenneth Reid, editor of Spear's Security Industry Analyst, recommends buying shares of Distributed Energy Systems. The Wallingford, Conn.-based company creates and delivers a variety of products for the alternative and decentralized energy markets.. . .The story of Distributed Energy and other alternative-energy players is a long-term one, say bulls like Reid. With the surge in oil prices this year, the story is resonating with investors. Distributed Energy shares are up 333% in the past year, trading around $8 after hitting a 52-week (intraday) high of $8.09 on Sept....

Plug-in Vehicles Are A Luxury No Nation Can Afford

John Petersen I'm going to apologize up front for revisiting a topic that inevitably draws furious comment from readers who just don't get it, or who refuse to get it. I understand that it's painful to learn that politicians, environmental advocates and the mainstream media have been lying about critical issues, but that doesn't make exposing the lies less important. So I'm going to endure the slings and arrows of the eco-religious one more time and use a new example to show that plug-in vehicles are a luxury no nation can afford. Ener1 (HEV) is a pure-play...

Exide: Many Alliances, Fewer Results

Debra Fiakas Alliance photo via BigStock  Exide Technologies (XIDE:  Nasdaq) is one of the largest transportation and industrial battery suppliers in the U.S., vying for market share with Johnson Controls (JCI:  NYSE) and EnerSys (ENS:  NYSE) among others.  Batteries are a competitive business, even as the automotive sector has attempted a recovery from the 2008 free fall in new car sales.  Electric vehicle and renewable energy storage applications have helped expand addressable market.  However, for a conventional battery producer capturing a share of these...

Grid-Based Energy Storage; A $200 Billion Opportunity

John Petersen Yesterday a reader sent me a copy of an exhaustive new study titled "Energy Storage for the Electricity Grid: Benefits and Market Potential Assessment Guide" that was commissioned by the DOE's Energy Storage Systems Program and prepared by Jim Eyer and Garth Corey. I've been following the work in progress on this report since last summer and have eagerly awaited an opportunity to shift away from the overhyped electric vehicle market and focus instead on a far larger market where cost, performance and substantive business merit will be the only drivers. It looks like my time...

Vehicle Electrification – a Bird in the Hand

John Petersen Since I'm frequently chastised for holding old fashioned views when it comes to vehicle electrification, I'll start this article by quoting one of the oldest known versions of a common English proverb, "A byrd in hand - is worth ten flye at large." While this theme is not always clear in my writing, it's never far from my thoughts. In fact it's the foundation of my conviction that manufacturers of cheap energy storage products are better investments than developers of cool energy storage products and batteries are great at minimizing waste but miserable at replacing fuel...

Understanding the Development Path for Li-ion Battery Technologies

Last Tuesday a reader who works as a consultant in the energy storage and hybrid electric vehicles industries and sent me an unpublished "pre-decisional draft" of a DOE report titled National Battery Collaborative (NBC) Roadmap, December 9, 2009, a high-level policy analysis that discusses the merits, risks and expected costs of an aggressive eight-year initiative to foster the development and facilitate the commercialization of Li-ion batteries. The draft roadmap was written during the last days of the Bush administration, has since been partially implemented in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 and has never been officially released...

Lead-acid Batteries and How Cheap Beat Cool at Google

On April 1st CNET News published a story about a previously secret technology that Google (GOOG) has patented and implemented system-wide. The technology, which Ben Jai of Google reportedly described as their "Manhattan Project," builds a 12-volt battery into each server to provide backup power. The point that fascinates me is Google's choice of small format valve regulated lead-acid batteries to keep its servers running. When an ultra-sophisticated company like Google picks cheap over cool for a mission critical function, I think it speaks volumes about the future direction of the energy storage industry. Stephen Shankland of...

More Common Sense in Energy Storage Investing

John Petersen Since last week's article, Common Sense in Energy Storage Investing, was well-received by readers who've recently discovered this blog and want to better understand the energy storage sector, I've decided to continue with the theme and drill down deeper into some broad issues. Most of today's material is pretty basic stuff, but when the hype machine starts spinning a firm grasp on economic reality and investment fundamentals can be important to investors that want to avoid a boom and bust bubble like we had in corn ethanol. In the fall of 2008 I confessed to...

Maxwell Technologies Provides Ultracapacitors for General Hydrogen

Maxwell Technologies (MXWL) announced that General Hydrogen Corporation, a leading developer of hydrogen fuel cell-based power systems for electric forklifts, has placed a 200,000 unit, three-year, purchase order for BOOSTCAP® ultracapacitors to enhance performance and energy management in its Hydricity® Pack technology. The purchase order is part of a strategic supply agreement through which General Hydrogen will source ultracapacitors exclusively from Maxwell and receive strategic pricing if volume thresholds specified in the purchase order are reached.