October 17, 2012
The unsettled nature of the electric vehicle market was underscored earlier this week with the announced bankruptcy of A123 Systems, a battery maker that got federal stimulus money - something quickly pointed out by the Romney for President campaign. However, hope for EVs was bolstered by simultaneous news that Johnson Controls, another maker of batteries and many other electrical components, planned to buy some of A123's facilities.In addition, assets of Azure Dynamics, the innovative but financially failed builder of electric and hybrid trucks, will be auctioned early next month, suggesting that the products might again see the light of the market. These include Ford's Transit Connect Electric and E-450-based gasoline-electric hybrids that were bought in fair numbers by some large fleets.A123 has $144 million in debt and missed a $2.7 million interest payment on Oct. 15, and instead filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to news reports. Johnson Controls said it would purchase some of the company's facilities, and a Chinese automotive company indicated it might still purchase much of the firm. A123 was founded out of research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and $100,000 in federal seed money in 2001. It became a darling of the "green" industry movement, securing $249 million in federal loan commitments in 2009, when an initial stock offering sold quickly and at high prices.Not all the stimulus money was given to the company, but enough was that Gov. Mitt Romney added it to his list of wasted expenditures on green causes by the Obama administration. Also this week, Heritage Global Partners, a specialist in asset advisory and auction services, announced an online auction of the manufacturing assets of bankrupt Azure Dynamics. "Our upcoming auction of Azure Dynamics' extensive global assets offers a unique opportunity for bidders to acquire finished inventory and state-of-the-industry electric and hybrid electric drive technology machinery and equipment for the production of cost-efficient and environmentally friendly commercial vehicles," an announcement said.The sale will include finished and unfinished vehicles, non-powered glider vehicles, spare parts, hybrid electric and electric manufacturing equipment, and machinery for commercial vehicle production. The global auction will be conducted online at www.hgpauction.com/?auctionid=275 Nov. 8 and 9.