Why Lithium-ion Batteries are Like Hippos in Pink Tutus

John Petersen In recent years lithium-ion batteries have been portrayed as glamorous, sleek, sexy and hot – the stuff of adolescent fantasy and mid-life crisis. Reality is more like a surreal remake of the Dance of the Hours sequence in the Disney classic Fantasia where hippos in pink tutus gossip about overweight dancing elephants. Let's face it folks, there are no cheetahs in the battery ballet. While lithium-ion battery packs are smaller and lighter than their lead-acid counterparts, both types of batteries are ridiculously heavy substitutes for a fuel tank. The sad part is that whispers from hippos...

Energy Storage on the Smart Grid Will Be 99.45% Cheap and 0.55% Cool

7.17.09 Storage Week John Petersen Infocast’s Storage Week was all I had hoped it would be, and more. While I thoroughly enjoyed serving on three discussion panels and was warmly received by roughly 250 attendees, including executives of companies that I've occasionally criticized, the most important value for me came from the opportunity to hear four days of high-level presentations by industry executives, national thought leaders and policymakers who repeatedly stressed that: From a utility perspective grid-based energy storage is the functional equivalent of an instantly...

Metal-Air Battery Stocks

by Debra Fiakas CFA Earlier this year, we added metal air batteries and the companies who are working to commercialize the technology on our list of promising acts to follow.  The Israeli battery developer, Phinergy, was added to our Mothers of Invention Index.  Back when I wrote the post “More in the Air than Spring” back in April 2013, Phinergy had attracted a bit of attention for a road test of Citroen C1 car outfitted with a technology far different than conventional lithium ion.  No one knows Phinergy.  It is too small and too foreign to impress...

Hydrogenics Awarded Contract to Supply Hydrogen Generators to China’s Largest Energy Companies

Hydrogenics Corp (HYGS) announced that it has received orders to supply electrolysis-based hydrogen generator plants to two of China's largest energy companies. China Electric Power Energy Group and China National Power have each purchased a HySTAT-A Hydrogen Plant, capable of producing 10 Nm3/h of high purity hydrogen at a pressure of 25 bar. In both cases, the hydrogen produced will be used to cool the generators in a coal-fired power plant. Delivery of both orders is expected to take place in 2006.

Alternative Energy Technologies and the Origin of Specious

John Petersen Thanks to a recent comment from JLBR, I've found a new hero in Dr. Peter Z. Grossman, an economics professor from Butler University who cogently argues that government attempts to force alternative energy technologies into an R&D model that was created for the Manhattan Project and refined for the Space Program will always result in commercial disaster because "the goal of the Apollo Program was the demonstration of engineering prowess while any alternative energy technology must succeed in the marketplace." In a recent article titled "The Apollo Fallacy and its Effect on U.S. Energy Policy" Dr....

Brilliant Light Power – Commercialization Status

by Daryl Roberts A potentially paradigm-shifting technology has been under development at an R&D firm in NJ called Brilliant Light Power.   For people monitoring the situation, the question currently is about the status of commercialization.   It is not a publicly held firm, but is in mid-stages of private equity capitalization in the range of $100-120M. I recently read a book  titled "Randall Mills and the Search for Hydrino Energy", offering a detailed and compelling history of the development of this novel renewable energy technology, authored by an insider, an intern who stayed on to work there for several years (published in...

DOE Reports That Lithium-ion Batteries Are Not Ready for Prime Time

by John Petersen Last month the DOE released its 2008 Annual Progress Report for the Energy Storage Research and Development Vehicle Technologies Program. This report is a frank and relatively upbeat assessment of the current status of Li-ion battery research and development that also provides a stark wake-up call for investors in energy storage stocks. The reality check has been done and the DOE’s verdict is clear: Lithium-ion batteries are not ready for prime time. In its description of ongoing research efforts to develop high-power batteries for HEVs, the DOE said: “High-power energy storage devices...

OMG! A Cheap Specialty Chemical Company

by Debra Fiakas CFA Most investors probably pass over specialty chemical producer OM Group, Inc. (OMG:  NYSE).  It has a recent history of losses and by the usual multiples of sales and earnings its stock appears pricey.  I have taken a second look.  The modernization of the chemicals industry is a key step in attaining a sustainable and environmentally benign economy. OM Group has undertaken an ambitious reorganization.  Besides specialty chemicals, the company produces advanced materials and technologies for a variety of industries.  OM Group has held leading positions in cobalt-based and nickel-based chemicals.  Its advanced materials...

Bernstein and Ricardo Report: Cheap Will Beat Cool in Vehicle Electrification

John Petersen On September 26, 2011, Bernstein Research and Ricardo plc published a 450 page analytical report titled, "Global Autos: Don't Believe the Hype – Analyzing the Costs & Potential of Fuel-Efficient Technology," which combines best in class securities research from Bernstein with the deep automotive expertise of Ricardo, a global leader in engineering, product innovation and strategic consulting. The result is the most comprehensive, detailed and eminently reasonable forecast of short-, medium- and long-term trends in advanced automotive powertrain technology that I've had the pleasure to read. It's devoid of axe grinding or cheer-leading and...

Graphite Producers In Production

by Debra Fiakas CFA The series on graphite resource development is completed with a discussion of the companies that are currently in production.  The U.S. Geological Survey estimates 1.2 million metric tons of flake graphite are produced annually.  The vast majority  -  780,000 metric tons  -  are produced in China.  India and Brazil follow with 170,000 metric tons and 80,000 metric tons, respectively.  North America, which seems to show so much promise to the graphite resource developers that have been featured over the past few articles, is currently only contributing 30,000 metric tons per year to the graphite...

Lithium-ion Battery Stocks: Investment Opportunities or Subsidized Laggards?

John Petersen I'm often critical of public lithium-ion battery manufacturers based on objective investment metrics including their financial condition, their results of operations, their potential markets and the fundamental soundness of their business plans, but I don't usually drill down into thornier issues like technical merit and business execution because those questions are out of my depth and in the words of Harry Callahan, "A man's got to know his limitations." Every once in a while, however, organizations that are competent to evaluate those issues publish analytical reports that can help investors cut through the hype...

Maxwell’s 54% Q2 Growth: An Outlier, Not A Trend

Tom Konrad CFA When I wrote about Maxwell Technologies’(NASD:MXWL) earnings restatement earlier this month, I predicted that third quarter (Q3) earnings would be much worse than recent trends were leading investors to believe.  I expected the stock would decline as analysts revised their expectations to reflect Maxwell’s weak short term prospects, allowing me to exit my short position, which I still hold. Sure enough, analysts have reduced their earnings expectations.  Analyst consensus earnings expectations for Q3 have reversed from 13 cents to a 10 cent loss, while expectations for 2013 have plunged from 46 cents to 6 cents....

Energy Storage, a Tough Year and a Mixed Quarter

John Petersen Quarterly updates are among my least favorite tasks because they focus on where the energy storage sector has been instead of where it's going. I still haven't developed a presentation format I like, but it feels like things are heading in the right direction. Reader comments and suggestions on how I can make these updates more useful are always appreciated. The 12-month performance for the energy storage sector was dismal and the only companies that currently trade above their September 30, 2009 closing prices are Active Power (ACPW) and Enersys (ENS). Most other companies in...

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...

My ATVM Loan and ARRA Battery Grant Preview

John Petersen The next few days are going to be a very exciting time in the energy storage and electric vehicle sectors because the Obama Administration is preparing to announce a series of major ATVM Loan and ARRA Battery Manufacturing Grant awards. President Obama will be in Elkhart, Indiana where he will presumably announce an ATVM loan to Navistar (NAV) and may announce some additional ATVM loans or ARRA battery grants. Vice President Biden will be in Detroit where he is scheduled to announce one or more ARRA battery grants and perhaps some ATVM Loans. Secretary...

Battery Investing For Beginners, Part 4

John Petersen In "The Sixth Revolution: The Coming of Cleantech," Merill Lynch strategist Steven Milunovich heralded cleantech as a new investment theme and forecast a period of gut wrenching change followed by an age of plenty. A few days later venture capital icon Vinod Khosla warned his 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...