IPOs and Bankruptcies and Cleantech “Hot or Not”

Last night while watching Office reruns, I realized I’d been remiss, and a lot’s had been happening in the public equities end of the cleantech sector.  Not to mention yesterday’s billion dollar BK broiler announcement by the one-time Next Greatest Thing, Solyndra.

So, with my usual aplomb, I thought I’d simply peanut gallery what’s “Hot or Not” in cleantech.


Bled Out on the Operating Table

Solyndra – BK (and not the burger kind). Well, we wrote about it a lot, and nobody believes us.  But bad product is bad product, and high cost is high cost, regardless of how much money you throw at it.  So who’s going to calculate the impact on the DOE loan guarantee program’s projected loan losses? Not.

Evergreen Solar (NASDAQ:ESLR)  – :(  And it was such cool technology, too.  I’m very sorry to see this one go.  At one point some years back it was the savior deal of the sector.  But we are in a race to cost down or die. Not.


Filed, Not Yet Hell for Leather

Enphase – I’m very very interested in seeing these guys make it.   Lots of growth.  Very thin margins so far.  Product costs looks miserably high.  Need to cost down like a banshee running from the Bill Murray.  But you’ve got to love the category killer potential and how fast they’ve executed.  First microinverter guy to manufacturing maturity eats the others like oatmeal (sloppy but eaten nonetheless). Hot.

Silver Spring – Hmmmmmmmmh.  Home run potential, but what’s the term?  Very high beta?  These contracts are massive, far strung, very very tight margin.  They’ve shown they can get the growth.  But with long lead time sticky contracts, it’s about managing costs during slippage and change-orders well, and it’s a very competitive business.  One blown contract gives back all the profits on the last 8.  But, give kudos for getting this far and making it to be a real player.  Now we’ll see if you can execute. Hot.

Luca Technologies – Hello?  Are you serious?  I read this S-1 cover to cover.  I had my technologist read it and go find their patents.  We love this area.  The concept of microbes for in situ is old as can be, but very very interesting..  The challenge is always cost and performance (not really a new nutrient mix?).  How do you get the bugs, nutrients, whatever you’re doing, down the hole and into the formation far enough and cheap and effectively enough to make a difference.  But in the entire S-1 and website, there is not a single technology description, fact, proof point or ANYTHING that suggests they’ve actually cracked the real nut.  The few numbers they do mention are not even to the ho-hum level.  Did a real investment banker really sign up to this?  Who wrote this?  Their PR guy with a liberal arts studies degree?  Really?  This smacks of a “trust us I’m Jesus and daddy needs an exit” deal.  In reality, probably interesting, but still very very very very very very very early science project.   Not.


We have a whole collection of biofuels stocks to discuss now.

Solazyme (NASDAQ:SZYM) – half of its 52 week, less than a buck over its low. Not.

Kior (NASDAQ:KIOR) – Somebody correct me, but did the filings really indicate Khosla put money IN to this IPO?  And it got off at low end of the range even after that? From one of their filings: “In conjunction with the Issuer’s IPO, an entity affiliated with the Reporting Persons purchased 1,250,000 shares of Class A common stock, resulting in an increase in beneficial ownership by the Reporting Persons by that amount. The
purchase was made at the initial public offering price of $15.00 per share, for an aggregate purchase price of $18,750,000. The source of funds used to purchase the shares of Class A common stock was Khosla’s personal assets.” At least it’s money where it’s mouth is.  Not.

Amyris (NASDAQ:AMRS) – 58% of its 52 week high, 20% over it’s low. Not.

Gevo (NASDAQ:GEVO) – 40% of its 52 week high, c. 20% off it’s low. Not.

Codexis (NASDAQ:CDXS) – 55% of its 52 week high, c. 20% off it’s lows. Not.

I’d comment on the fundamentals of each one, but I don’t want you to think I’m depressed.  Oh, by the way.  Did I ever tell you the story about the cleantech sector’s magically changing cellulosic biofuels business plans to “cellulosic bio-anything-but-fuels” plans as people finally woke up and realized how tough using lousy feedstocks and high cost processes in a commodities market actually is.  Of course, careful you don’t change from targeting fuels to making feedstock for dirt cheap who would want to be in that business commodity chemicals or specialty chemicals with a global aggregate gross margin market less than your cash on balance sheet.

And a Few Tidbits

Advanced Energy (NASDAQ: AEIS) – I still really like this company.  Somebody’s going to own inverters.  And the numbers look very interesting.  Very. Need to dig deeper. Hot.

American Superconductor (NASDAQ:AMSC) – Ummm.  Do you believe their wind business ever recovers?  One customer.  Buying a competitor with one customer.  Both in China.  Customer doesn’t like single supplier risk where the supplier makes high margins?  What did you think was going to happen?  Ugly ugly story.  Very real possibility that they trade on a log curve to straight zero.  Some chance of sunshine, but I’d cancel the picnic. Not.

A123 (NASDAQ:AONE) – I really really really want this to work.  But what’s the path to profits?  Not feeling it. Not.

Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) –  “Don’t worry, the NEXT car will fix my company’s fundamental problems” – quote attributed to the Tesla CEO who replaces the next Tesla CEO. Not.

Active Power (NASDAQ: ACPW) – Hey, did anyone notice these guys are growing revenues AND margins?  A long haul, but keep it up!  Need careful consideration before I’d jump into flywheels, but someone deserves a ton of credit as coach of the year.  Hot.

Satcon (NASDAQ:SATC) – Hammered, but still a market leader.  Got to think about this one – it’s historically traded for more than it’s fundamentals justified, but with PV Powered and Xantrex snapped up, hard to imagine they stay independent for long. Hot.

SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR)  – Wow.  Total. No guts no glory.  Highest cost producer, shall we call it the “performance queen”.  I do like this bet by Total, but it takes guts.  But when a market leader’s stock’s been hammered that far down somebody’s got to move and Total did . . .  Whether an individual investor can play is another story. Hot.

Ascent Solar (NASDAQ:ASTI) – Holy star solar batman!  These guys can sell ice to eskimos are have always been great R&D guys.  Still maybe the highest cost CIGS process known to astronauts.  I like these guys, but I’m not sure more cash fixes anything. Not.

Solon – What does “New US operational strategy” mean?  It means solar is a game of scale and execution.  Not.


Chrysler to Make Plug-in SUV, Minivan and New EVs

By John Addison (9/24/08). Chrysler builds on the success of its 38,000 GEM EVs that are currently on the road in the U.S. with new battery-electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid announcements. Any time I visit university towns, corporate and government fleets, I see these GEM electric vehicles being used for practical transportation and hauling. Often, they are powered by solar roofs and carports.

The new GEM Peapod will be available for purchase in 2009, with more models to come. Eco-friendliness gets a fresh face with the GEM Peapod. The GEM Peapod brings beautiful aerodynamic style to a gas-free, emission-free vehicle. This light electric vehicle has a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour and a range of 30 miles before requiring at least 6 hours for an adequate recharge of its lead-acid batteries. Peapod Specs

Three freeway-speed vehicle electric vehicle announcements were also made this September 24 by Chrysler’s ENVI – Dodge EV, Jeep EV and Chrysler EV. The development of Chrysler’s Electric Vehicles and Range-extended Electric Vehicles is led by ENVI – representing the first four letters of “environmental” – the Company’s in-house organization that was formed to focus on electric-drive production vehicles and related advanced technologies. Discussions are taking place with several lithium battery suppliers including A123.

The Jeep EV is a plug-in hybrid Jeep Wrangler SUV with an estimated 40 mile range in electric mode, before a small gasoline engine is engaged. The vehicle may give record fuel efficiency for customers that want SUVs, from families hauling kids and trailers to fleets. The Jeep EV will compete with the plug-in hybrid offering from Saturn VEU.

The Jeep EV uses an electric motor, an advanced lithium-ion battery system, and a small gasoline engine with an integrated electric generator to produce additional energy to power the electric-drive system when needed. The 200 kW (268 horsepower) electric motor generates 400 N•m (295 lb.-ft.) of torque. With approximately eight gallons of gasoline, the Jeep EV has a range of 400 miles, including 40 miles of zero fuel-consumption, zero-emissions, all-electric operation.

Minivan drivers have been longing for better mileage as the shuttle vans full of people and stuff. The new Chrysler Town and Country will use the same plug-in hybrid drive system as the Jeep EV.

Chrysler’s announcement should increase pressure on Toyota to announce a hybrid mini-van and for Honda to announce a more fuel efficient van using diesel.

For sports car enthusiasts, Tesla has new competition in the form of the Dodge EV, a hot two-seater with a body designed by Lotus. This battery-electric will have a range of 150 to 200 miles between charges – more miles, when driven with a feather touch; much less, with a lead-foot.

The electric-drive system consists of three primary components: a 200 kW (268 horsepower) electric motor, an advanced lithium-ion battery and an integrated power controller. The 200 kW electric-drive motor generates 650 N•m (480 lb.-ft.) of torque. The instant high torque of the electric-drive motor delivers outstanding performance, accelerating the Dodge EV to 60 mph in less than five seconds. The Dodge EV has a top speed of more than 120 mph.

Chrysler plans to have 100 of the new ENVI vehicles in fleets in 2009 and to start taking production consumer orders in 2010.

Three weeks ago, I had the chance to talk with Chrysler President Jim Press, an executive who is famous for staying in close touch with customer and dealer interests and issues. He knows how to make hybrid vehicles a success. He was President and COO of Toyota USA when Toyota made the Prius a best seller and when Toyota grew to global market leadership. After 37 years at Toyota, Mr. Press could have coasted into retirement. Instead he joined Chrysler as President and Vice Chairman, where he will be integral to building a new company.

In his travels, he notes a strong interest in EVs among younger people – he refers to this market segment as Millennials. Should Chrysler win with the new generation, they could be customers for decades. Look for Chrysler to extend the development of advanced, production-intent electric vehicles, and that it will apply electric-drive technology to its front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive and body-on-frame four-wheel-drive platforms in the next several years.

Jim Press, when talking recently with the Western Automotive Journalist, stated, “We need a new business model based on one word – Reality.” The new management team inherited a 4 million car per year overhead with sales falling to one million per year in the new era of high gasoline prices. Mr. Press is cutting unprofitable sales such as rental car fleets. He is focusing on a future of vehicles that give customers a visceral emotional connection with their car, while using electric drive systems to address fuel economy and environmental concerns.

Jim Press continues to move aggressively. After talking into the evening with California journalists, he took off for a red-eye flight back to Detroit. He wants to see Chrysler moving at the speed of their new vehicles.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report