A123’s Sale Moves Ahead

Doug Young A123 Systems battery cell products (Source: A123) After a stormy 2012 that saw growing trade friction between China and the US, I'm happy to see that 2013 is getting off to a better start with Washington's approval of a potentially sensitive sale of a bankruptcy US technology firm to a Chinese buyer. Many readers will know that I'm talking about the case of A123 Systems (AONEQ), a former high-flying US battery maker that fell on hard times as new energy industries worldwide experienced a broader...

How The Micro-hybrid Revolution Will Radically Change The Battery Market

John Petersen In late October I gave a keynote presentation at Batteries 2012, one of the largest lithium-ion battery conferences in the world. During the conference, I was buttonholed for a couple hours by the chairman's global strategy team for one of the top three lithium-ion battery manufacturers in the world. They started by explaining that their Global 100 company is abandoning the plug-in vehicle market to focus on sensible applications where it can earn a reasonable margin. Then they started drilling down with a series of detailed and probing questions about whether any of the principal lead-acid...

US Should Approve A123’s Sale

Doug Young A123 Systems battery cell products (Source: A123) In writing this blog, I generally try to keep my own views muted and focus instead on the latest news and what it means for the companies involved. But I'm making one of my occasional exceptions to that rule today to say that the US really should go ahead and approve the sale of bankrupt battery maker A123 Systems (OTC:AONEQ) to a Chinese company, since this deal seems to have few if any national security implications and blocking...

ePower’s Series Hybrid Electric Drive – Unmatched Fuel Economy for Heavy Trucks

John Petersen Over the last couple weeks there’s been a lot of message board chatter about ePower Engine Systems, a transportation technology company that has selected the PbC® battery from Axion Power International (AXPW) for its series hybrid electric drivetrain for over-the-road freight haulers who drive heavy Class 8 tractors. Since I introduced ePower to Axion and have tracked their progress for a couple years, I called ePower’s CEO Andy Claypole to ask his permission to share what I’ve learned about ePower’s hybrid electric drivetrain. After a series of phone calls and e-mails, Andy graciously...

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...

Axion Power – A Battery Manufacturer Charging Forward

John Petersen Last week Debra Fiakas of Crystal Equity Research published an article titled "No Battery Producer Left Behind" that was based on old information about the relationship between Exide Technologies (XIDE) and Axion Power International (AXPW) and reached several erroneous conclusions. Since I'm a former Axion director, the stock is my biggest holding and I follow the company like a hawk, Tom Konrad asked me to clarify the record and present a high level overview of Axion's business history, stock market dynamics and technical accomplishments over the last four years. Since Tom's request is a...

No Battery Producer Left Behind

by Debra Fiakas CFA In late 2009, nine companies in the battery sector were recipients of American Reconstruction and Recovery Act (ARRA) funds awarded by the Department of Energy to jump start manufacturing capacity.  By the end of December 2011, six of them had made enough progress to begin production.  Three were lagging behind, including Exide Technologies (XIDE:  Nasdaq) and its partner Axion Power International (AXPW:  OTC/BB).   Exide's Sundancer Electric Car, October 1973. Exide and Axion are not looking so quick today.  Photo by Frank Lodge, EPA. Public Domain ...

Tax Payer Investment in Advanced Batteries

by Debra Fiakas CFA For better or worse various government agencies in the United States have provided significant financial support for advanced battery development and production.  The federal government has a goal of deploying one million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles by the year 2015.  The replacement of gas-burning cars and trucks is expected to reduce economic dependence upon foreign oil and reduce carbon emissions that threaten our health and climate.  We all understand this line of reasoning. Public funds for battery development have been channeled through a mix of contracts for products and services, research grants, loan...

The Rocky Road to Lithium Ion Battery Commercialization

by Debra Fiakas CFA A bit of history… Schematic of a Lithium Ion Battery by Materialsgrp, via Wikimedia Commons Lithium ion batteries are a relatively recent innovation.  Scientists and engineers first began working with lithium applications in the 1970s.  A number of companies and laboratories worked through the next decade to perfect lithium ion batteries, using various materials for the business ends of a battery  -  the anode and the cathode.  It was not until the mid 1980s that developers settled on cobalt as...

Flux Powers into Battery Management

by Debra Fiakas CFA   Proper electric and thermal management of advanced battery packs is imperative.  During operation, voltage and temperature differences in the battery cells can lead to electrical imbalances and decrease system performance.  A good battery management system can ensure strong power delivery and extend battery life.  Dozens of battery management systems have cropped up to fill this need for the lithium ion batteries used in new electric vehicles and alternative energy applications.  The highly populated field has not intimidated the newest competitor, Flux Power Holdings, Inc. (FLUX:  OTC/BB). Flux is a 2008 spin-off of...

Altair Nano: Advanced Battery Sellout

by Debra Fiakas CFA Advanced battery developers have not had an easy time of it in recent years, or at any time for that matter.  There have been three bankruptcy declarations this year alone.  Ener1 and A123 Systems (AONE:  OTC/PK) were rescued by deep-pocketed buyers, who scooped up technology, contracts and relationships.  In this second post in the series we look at another advanced battery sellout. Altair Nanotechnologies (ALTI:  Nasdaq) has managed to avoid court rooms.  However, it did have to put itself up on the block, selling a majority of its...

Last Battery Developer Standing

by Debra Fiakas CFA Advanced battery producer A123 Systems, Inc. (AONE: Nasdaq) has flamed out, with the cinders of its lithium ion technologies snapped up by Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI:  NYSE).  Much has been written in the financial press over the past few weeks about the fate of A123 and the next step by Johnson Controls.  What is more, because A123 had received government loan assistance, the political pundits have taken advantage of the company’s embarrassment to make their case for or against government in general and public alternative energy investment in particular. What really has me...

Energy Storage: Q4 2012 Winners and Losers

John Petersen In late June I wrote a forward looking article that identified several companies in my energy storage and vehicle electrification group that I expected to perform well or perform poorly during the third quarter. Since short-term market changes are notoriously hard to predict, it’s worthwhile to look back and see where I got things right and where I got them wrong. So I’ll start today with a quick summary table and assess the relative accuracy of my Q3 calls, and then turn my attention to Q4, which is shaping up as a time of bright opportunity...

Exide Technologies: Anatomy of a Mistake

Tom Konrad CFA On June 1st, in the lead up to Exide Technologies’ (NASD:XIDE) first quarter earnings announcement, I made one of my better calls so far this year.  I wrote that the Exide stock was in the “bargain basement” and “ready to pop.” That day, XIDE traded in a range of $2.25 to $2.36, within spitting distance of its 52 week low of $2.22.  Four months later, the stock is up 45% at $3.25, despite two earnings misses in the meantime. My Mistake Unfortunately, I missed out on a good chunk of that gain.   A week...

A123′s Deal With China’s Wanxiang Would Value the Stock at $0.55 a Share

Tom Konrad CFA A123 Systems battery cell products (Source: A123)  It was no secret that A123 Systems (NASD:AONE) was desperate for money.  It’s also no secret that Chinese companies are interested in buying Western companies, especially when they can acquire useful technology in the deal.  So this morning’s announcement that Wanxiang Group Corporation, a Chinese largest autoparts manufacturer which has significant US operations, had signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding to invest up to $450 million in A123 through a combination of bridge loans, convertible notes, and warrants seems...

The Wanxiang Transaction Is Not Necessarily A Permanent Solution For A123’s Problems

John Petersen On Wednesday A123 Systems (AONE) announced the execution of a Non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with the Wanxiang Group that will, if successfully implemented, restore A123 to a sound financial footing. Since the basic deal terms are a good deal more complex than the reports one reads in the mainstream media, I think a drill down into the detail may be helpful for investors who want to understand what a restructured A123 will look like. The critical document for this analysis is the MOU included as Exhibit 99.2 to A123's recent report on Form 8-K. The...