12 Battery and Ultracapacitor Companies Get Report Cards
Mike Millikin, the uber-editor of Green Car Congress, played professor and handed out grades to 12 battery and ultracapacitor companies in an article published by EnergyTechStocks. Because the article was written for a financial site, we can assume that part of the criteria used to rate the companies has to do with commercial potential, but that's not necessarily a bad thing since to make an environmental difference, these companies need to get huge and stay profitable.
The 12 companies that got report cards are: A123 Systems, Altair Nanotechnologies, Compact Power, EEStor, Ener1, Hitachi, Johnson Controls, Lithium Technology, Maxwell Technologies, Automotive Energy Supply, Panasonic EV, Valence Technology. Notable omissions are BYD and NEC (maybe he doesn't like three-letter acronyms?). See below for a few highlights.
On EEStor, the company that is always mentioned with the adjective "secretive":
The mystery man in Millikin's class once again got an "incomplete." While most professors wouldn't allow a student to have back-to-back incompletes, Millikin said, "What they're trying to do is difficult." He actually gave EEStor credit for keeping its mouth shut instead of issuing glowing press releases about itself. Being silent makes Millikin think, "They're making a serious effort." According to press reports, EEStor is working on a new method for making ultracapacitors, which are battery-like devices that may wind up in electric vehicles instead of, or in combination with, lithium-ion batteries.
On Maxwell Technologies, another make of Ultracapacitors:
This small public California-based company again got an "A" for its work with ultracapacitors, which are battery-like devices that ultimately may be used in combination with, or instead of, lithium-ion batteries. Millikin reiterated what he said seven months ago that Maxwell "clearly is a leader in ultracpacitors." But he also sounded a warning. He said Maxwell must drive down the cost of its ultracapacitor pack. Asked whether he thinks the company will be successful, Millikin said only, "Maybe," thus implying that Maxwell's "A" could be in jeopardy the next time around.
For more about the potential of ultracapacitors, check out this piece about some research done by MIT.
This is the first of Millikin's new class members and it starts out with an "A" based upon the recently-announced deal between Hitachi Vehicle Energy Ltd., a subsidiary, and General Motors. The deal calls for Hitachi to supply the lithium-ion battery system for a second-generation version of the GM Hybrid System that GM plans to put into production. Millikin emphasized that with this deal for a mild hybrid, Hitachi achieves production volume still not evident in others' plug-in battery development.
We still need to wait and see just how fuel efficient GM's second-generation hybrid system will be, but it at least this deal has the benefit of giving Hitachi large scale production possibilities, something that not many other battery makers can match so far.