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Ener1 in Chapter 11 Despite Federal Energy Grant

Both Democrats and GOP could face political fall-out.

by on Jan.27, 2012

Ener1's finances took a serious turn for the worse when major client Think went broke last year - the Think City battery car shown here.

Ener1 Inc., the ambitious New York-based maker of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage, has filed for bankruptcy despite receiving $118 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy — and lavish-support from the Republican-controlled state of Indiana, home to one of the company’s principal factories.

The “pre-packaged” bankruptcy was filed after the company reached agreement with its primary investors and lenders on a restructuring plan “that will significantly reduce its debt and provide up to $81 million to recapitalize the company,” Ener1 officials said in a statement released after the filing.

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Though Ener1 expects to continue operating and still hopes to eventually profit as battery car demand grows its bankruptcy filing could turn into a political football with both Democrats and Republicans pointing fingers.

The company’s statement said Ener1 expected to maintain its current employment level of approximately 700 and eventually repay creditors.  It has 275 employees in Indiana.

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First Drive: Volvo C30 Electric

Lease price, $2,100 a month, should plunge when next Volvo battery car debuts.

by on Mar.28, 2011

Volvo plans to produce only about 400 of the C30 Electric coupes, but the drivetrain will soon reappear in a new mass-market battery car.

The little coupe slips out the side door of a nondescript warehouse on the fringe of Indianapolis.  Tickling the throttle it surges ahead and effortlessly merges into traffic, yet so quiet it’s easy to miss as it rushes by.  Were it not for the bright white decals on the side of the car and the chrome DRIVe badge on the back one might not even notice the Volvo C30 Electric.

But the little coupe is the latest entry in a growing revolution, the move to electric power.  Later this year, Volvo will put 400 of the C30 Electric battery cars on the road, a quarter of them here in the United States.  They’re part of a project designed to test the new technology before Volvo launches a second battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, targeting a more mainstream market.

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Getting in on the pilot program won’t be cheap.  Volvo expects to lease the C30 battery cars for a whopping 1,500 Euros a month, about $2,100 at the current exchange rate.  That’s nearly six times more than you’d pay to lease either the new Nissan Leaf BEV, or the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.

Even then, laments Lennart Stegland, president of Volvo’s specialty vehicle subsidiary, the Swedish maker won’t come close to recovering the cost of the development program, never mind the price tag on its 24 kilowatt-hours of lithium-ion batteries.  But so it goes, he sighs, as you launch into an entirely new world of technology.

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EnerDel Announces New Lithium-Ion Battery Plant

Company says it will be the first mass producer of advanced technology lithium batteries for automobiles in the U.S.

by on Jan.22, 2010

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (left) and Ener1 CEO Charles Gassenheimer holding an EnerDel lithium-ion battery.

Lithium-ion battery manufacturer EnerDel will invest $237 million in a new manufacturing plant near its Indianapolis area headquarters in order to meet anticipated demand for batteries used in automotive and other industrial applications.

The news follows a decision by EnerDel’s electric vehicle partner, Think, to establish a U.S. manufacturing facility in Indiana.

Backed by a mixture of private funds and public incentives, which are the current norm in the still moribund public lending markets despite multi-billion dollar taxpayer infusions of cash, the new facility will more than double EnerDel’s U.S. production capacity and create 1,400 new, non-union jobs.

Existing production capacity in what is still a prototype operation by automotive manufacturing standards, is 11,000 lithium-ion battery packs. However, demand is projected to soar during the next several years, if electric vehicles become as popular as environmentalists predict, and regulations and incentives increase the market.

Lithium ion batteries, though expensive, offer more  power and have a longer life than the nickel metal hydride batteries that are used in the third generation Toyota Prius, the most successful electrified vehicle in history. EnerDel produces the batteries from raw materials and equipment produced in Japan and Korea since there is no indigenous advanced battery industry in the U.S.

A large majority of the six-year-old  startup company’s central Indiana workforce is comprised of former employees of various General Motors companies, including Guide, Remy and Delco, storied producers of electronic components, which were severely damaged, downsized or closed as part of the Delphi and GM bankruptcies during the past several years.

Because of this long history, going all the way back to the invention of the electric starter by Charles Kettering for automobiles – an invention that thrust gasoline engines ahead and doomed an earlier generation of electric cars, Indiana seems ideally positioned to become an electric vehicle research and development center, as well as a manufacturing one. The current state rate of unemployment is 10%, about the national average, but some northern counties have much higher rates.

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Nissan Inks Battery Research Deal with Enerdel

The company is betting heavily on electric cars after rejecting hybrid technology.

by on Jul.31, 2009

Tiida EV

The production-intent Nissan EV will make its official debut next week.

Nissan Motor Company has signed a contract with EnerDel and its parent company Ener1, an Indiana company that has been working on advanced lithium-ion automotive batteries.

The research is targeted specifically at developing a new generation of electrical conductive material intended to reduce cost and improve the performance of electric and hybrid vehicle batteries. The company is betting heavily on electric cars after rejecting hybrid technology.

“This project is about continuing the evolution of a critical technology,” said Charles Gassenheimer, CEO and Chairman of EnerDel, parent company Ener1, Inc.

“Nissan is one of the leading companies driving the electric vehicle market today. Over 12 months of discussions on this effort, our management and technical teams have had a tremendous opportunity to get know one another. We are looking forward to successful realization of this project’s important goals.”

EnerDel recently cut the ribbon at one of the most advanced battery production lines for large format cells at its Indianapolis plant. The facility is currently the only high volume manufacturing facility for automotive lithium-ion batteries in the U.S.

Several other companies are also moving forward with plants for building lithium-ion batteries in the U.S., even though tests of the emerging technology remain incomplete. However, tests by GM, Ford and their battery suppliers such as Saft and A123 have bolstered the case for using lithium-ion batteries in both hybrids and pure electric vehicles.

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