A 123 Systems, the “green,” federal stimulus-funded lithium ion battery manufacturer, announced atrocious quarterly results today. Most expected that A 123‘s results would be dark red. What was a surprise was the simultaneous announcement that the company had entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a Chinese industrial group, Wanxiang, that will give the Chinese control of the company.
Remember that A 123 is the battery supplier to electric car-maker Fisker, and is also an investor in Fisker. It’s also the third US lithium ion battery manufacturer to go under. The other two advanced “green” battery failures were ENER1 and Valence. But the other two simply expired; there was no resuscitation attempt by a large Chinese industrial group.
Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa has been conducting an investigation into A 123 and Fisker — and the Department of Energy money that has been spent on these two companies to support Secretary of Energy Steven Chu’s pipe dream for automotive transportation. I personally told the Senate in outside witness testimony 30 months ago that the A 123 and Fisker story would end in failure.
Not that the Senate at that time paid any attention. It is a sad testament to the state of affairs in our country that a chemical engineer sitting in his back bedroom has more vision of the future than the National Academy of Sciences and the entire DOE. Of course, the chemical engineer had no economic or political motive, and looked at the thermodynamic problem while all others were on the gravy train. I have written a book for laypeople that explains energy and sustainability in simple terms. Now that billions have been wasted by our elected officials, perhaps I should invite members of Congress to read the book and gain some insight into the “green” stimulus failure.
Wanxiang is a Chinese auto parts maker, and of course it can bring some financial stabilityto A 123 — if it pours in money. Its problem will be that even if it uses sweatshop labor, the costs of the batteries will simply not come down by much, as there is not much of a labor component in the batteries. That is partly why I wrote my thesis to the US Senate. The CEO of A 123, Mr. David Vieau, still has the hope that this new investment after all the other investments will bring A 123 to the promised land. Good luck.