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...

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...

EVs, Batteries and Tales From The Valley of Death

John Petersen Today is the fourth anniversary of my blog on investing in the energy storage and electric vehicle sectors. Over the last four years I've penned 275 Articles and 45 Instablogs on topics ranging from technical minutiae to broad macroeconomic trends. Since most of my work focuses on challenges and risks instead of lofty and optimistic goals, I'm often derided as a curmudgeon who doesn't understand the dream. Truth is I've been a guide in the Valley of Death for over thirty years and while I love panoramic scenery, I can't overlook the dangers of old mine...

When Will Polypore Payoff?

by Debra Fiakas CFA   Diagram of a battery with a polymer separator. Lithium ion batteries make it possible to recharge your smart phone, camera and a multitude of other have-to-have-with-us-every­-moment devices.  Yet the average person knows very little of the inner workings of something so important to our daily lives.  One little item in a battery is a highly specialized membrane that fits neatly between opposing electrodes  -  the positive and negative poles that make an electrical charge.  This membrane manages the charge and discharge process. ...

Energy Storage: Q-2 2012 Review and Analysis

John Petersen While I jumped the gun last week and published my third quarter outlook for the energy storage and vehicle electrification sectors early, it's worthwhile to take a look back and see how my tracking list of companies performed over the last quarter and examine the past to see what the tea leaves in the bottom of the cup portend for the coming quarter. So without further delay I'll present my price performance table for the second quarter that ended on Friday. Q-2 was a dreadful quarter for Maxwell Technologies (MXWL) and ZBB Energy...

Will A123’s Batteries Make the Great Leap from Design Bench to Store Shelf?

by Debra Fiakas CFA In my last post Paper Power I outlined the attempt to develop a battery using carbon nanotubes and paper.   The materials seemed a bit unbelievable and it sent me into the history books to look at the battery.  In the mid-1700s Ben Franklin may have been the one who first coined the term battery to describe the capacitors had strung together for his experiments.  We all know about the scientist, turned politician.  What is less well known is that the ancients may have also attempted a battery-like instrument now called the “Baghdad Battery.” ...

One, Two, Three Uses for A123’s New Batteries

Tom Konrad CFA  A123 Systems battery cell products (Source: A123) A123 Systems′ (NASD:AONE) announcement of a new battery technology able to operate at both extremely high and low temperatures has the  headline writers dreaming of cheaper electric cars. Electric cars may be dreamy, but they are just one application of the technology.  There are at least two more, with significant near term potential. 1. Is it really about electric vehicles (EVs)? Sure, it would be nice to be able to trim $600 of the price tag of a Tesla (NASD:TSLA) Model...

Paper Batteries

by Debra Fiakas CFA A comment left recently on one of my earlier articles mentioned Vendum Batteries, Inc. (VNDB:  OTC/BB), a developmental stage company working on battery power solutions.  When looking into Vendum I expected the usual flowery promises investors hear from every other battery developer  -  some new metal alloy for the electrodes, an alternative electrolyte, or maybe a creative form factor.    However, Vendum is not just any battery “wanna-be.” Ok, Vendum does have an alternative electrode, but it is not just a tweak of the usual metal mixes.  It also has an alternative form factor,...

Energy Storage: Q3 2012 Winners and Losers

John Petersen I usually write a quarterly recap to summarize what happened in the energy storage and vehicle electrification sectors, but Q2 was a tough enough period that I don't see much sense in dwelling on the bloodletting. So instead of focusing on the past, I'll offer a quick summary table with lots of red ink and turn my attention to Q3, which is shaping up as a time of bright opportunity for some companies and profound risk for others. I expect three companies in my tracking group to perform very well in Q3 –...