NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The failure of A123 Systems (AONE), reported at Nature, may seem like a political scandal, or proof that green technology does not work. However, for those who follow the business, it's nothing of the kind.
Brian Warshay, an analyst with Lux Research in Boston, told me this week the Chapter 11 filing actually facilitated the company's sale to Johnson Controls (JCI), a larger company that will now have the time to make its electric car technology work.
"The technology is good," he said. "They made significant strides. The problem was the cost of production was too high for the current market, except in small niches."
The energy density of lithium-ion batteries, like those at A123, remains one-tenth that of gasoline, notes Warshay, and that's why electric cars are not making the kind of market headway that hybrids like the Toyota Prius are. But there is work being done on higher-density battery technologies, and on cheap low-cost, low-density battery materials that can store solar and wind power for later use on the electric grid.There are successful start-ups in both areas:
In energy density, Infinite Power Solutions uses ceramics to create batteries competitive with lithium-ion in electronics, while B.E.S.S. Technologies uses silicon nanostructures to create battery parts that last longer and charge faster.
In the area of low-cost grid storage, Aquion Energy uses a system based on sodium and salt water to store energy for the electric grid. Prudent Energy uses vanadium oxide molecules as the storage medium.
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