Electric Vehicles; Ineptitude, apathy … and piles of taxpayer money

John Petersen The last few weeks have been a media and political circus in the US as a pair of high-profile Department of Energy loan guarantees wound up in bankruptcy court. In the first case, solar power innovator Solyndra filed two years after closing a $535 million loan for a factory that never quite made it into production. In the second case, flywheel storage innovator Beacon Power (BCONQ.PK) filed about a year after scoring a $43 million loan for a 20 MW frequency regulation plant that was commissioned in June. Both are black eyes for the Obama administration’s...

Why The McCain Proposal Will Do Nothing For Battery Technology

On Monday, John McCain, in a drive to build his environmental credentials, pledged that if he were elected he would initiate a contest to come up with a car battery design that leapfrogs current technology and makes electric car and plug-in hybrids a reality. The winner would get a $300 million prize, or about $1 per American, which according to McCain is a small price to pay for the benefits this technology would yield. A politician would only make such a pledge for one of two reasons: (a) he has no insight into how innovation occurs in an...

What I Sold: VRB Power (VRBPF.PK, VRB.V)

VRB Power is the only public vendor of a flow battery chemistry, the Vanadium Redox Battery. I bought the company when I first realized that in order to get a large proportion of intermittent wind and solar energy onto the grid, long term electricity storage would be essential.  Of the available technologies, flow batteries are some of most technically elegant.  Since VRB is one of only two publicly traded vendors of large scale batteries, I bought some.   Lessons Learned I was not being discriminating.  Even with the belief that large scale storage will soon be needed to integrate...

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....

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...

Electro Energy, Inc. Successfully Integrates Patented Bipolar Battery Technology and Lithium Ion Technology

Electro Energy Inc (EEEI) announced it has successfully integrated its patented bipolar battery design with lithium ion technology to achieve a multi-cell prototype battery with increased discharge efficiency, reduced weight and volume, more flexible design, and lower manufacturing costs. This achievement combines, for the first time, proven bipolar wafer cell design with gel polymer electrolyte-based lithium ion (Li-ion) technology. The bipolar Li-ion (BP Li-ion) cells have the same positive attributes as Electro Energy's bipolar nickel-metal hydride (BP Ni-MH) design, which typically provides up to 50% more power, 30% lower volume and 25% lower manufacturing costs than competing technologies....

Energy Storage: Q1 2012 Winners and Losers

John Petersen The first quarter of 2012 was the best of times for shareholders of companies that are developing and manufacturing cheap energy storage products like lead-acid batteries, but the worst of times for shareholders of pure-play lithium-ion battery developers. The following table tracks stock price performance in the energy storage and electric vehicle sectors for the first quarter of 2012 and for the twelve months ended March 31st. Long-term readers will notice that the current list is a good deal shorter than it was in March of last year because of my decisions to...

Energy Storage, The Valley of Death and The Elephant Hunters

John Petersen Most readers know I'm a lawyer who works in small company finance. Clients come to us in their earliest development stages and upgrade to a larger law firm when they need more comprehensive service than a boutique firm like ours can offer. As a result, I've spent over 30 years guiding entrepreneurs through the "Valley of Death," an exhilarating, treacherous and often terrifying period in the life of every business that begins with the signing of incorporation documents and ends when cumulative cash flow turns positive. Most companies that enter the valley of death don't...

Lithium-ion Batteries Are Too Valuable To Waste On Plug-in Vehicles

John Petersen In November 2006, a slick issue-oriented documentary asked the provocative question "Who Killed the Electric Car" and argued that General Motors' EV1 project was terminated because of collusion between the auto and oil industries. The truth is nobody killed the electric car. It died in infancy from congenital birth defects and the same flaws that killed the EV1 will probably kill Tesla Motors, Fisker Automotive, Nissan's (NSANY) Leaf and GM's Volt. This is not a question of cost, performance, abuse tolerance or cycle-life. It's a fundamental flaw in the economics of using batteries to replace a...

Li-ion Motors and Frito Lay Ink Deal

Li-ion Motors. (HYBT) has inked a deal with Frito Lay to provide Hybrid Technologies' Lithium vehicles as part of their fleet sales program. Frito Lay has agreed to purchase and take delivery of the Lithium Mini Cooper model as well as the Daimler Chrysler Smart Car Lithium version. The first deliveries are scheduled for the first quarter of 2006. These vehicles will be part of Frito Lay's Hybrid fleet and the corporation's commitment to "green philosophy" as well as its well known philosophy of working with the latest in American technology. You would have thought that...

Micro-Hybrids – The Fuel Efficiency Innovation of the Decade

John Petersen I've been writing about micro-hybrid vehicles and stop-start idle elimination since May 2009. It's a cheap and simple fuel efficiency innovation that turns the engine off while a car is stopped at a light and automatically restarts the engine when you take your foot off the brake. It's not gee-whiz sexy, but it can boost fuel economy by 5% to 15% in city driving and dramatically improve urban air quality by reducing idling. What could be more sensible? When I first wrote about stop-start in "Why Advanced Lead-acid Batteries Will Dominate the HEV Markets," the...

Maxwell’s Earnings Restatement: Some Good, Some Bad, No Ugly

Tom Konrad CFA When Maxwell Technologies (NASD:MXWL) announced problems with its revenue accounting on March 7h, I took a look at the company’s reported Accounts Receivable  (where early revenue recognition usually shows up) and concluded that management had underestimated the scope of the accounting problems. Convinced that there was more to come, I not only sold the stock, but took a short position. On August 1st, Maxwell filed its restated annual reports for 2012 (including restatements of 2011), as well as  statements for the first two quarters of 2013. The Bad News:...

Energy Storage – Opportunities and Intellectual Short Circuits

John Petersen After writing about investment opportunities in the energy storage sector for a couple of years, today marks an important transition because I've accepted Nadsaq's invitation to include my blog in the Community section of their website. I'm grateful for the chance to reach a broader audience and hope that my weekly musings can help new readers separate hype from opportunity and avoid the intellectual short-circuits that are all too common in the energy storage sector. By way of introduction, I'm a working lawyer and accountant who has spent 30 years guiding emerging energy and technology...

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...

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...

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...