NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In 2010, Ener1 ( HEV), A123 ( AONE) and Advanced Battery Technologies ( ABAT) exhibited lackluster performance for a variety of reasons, ranging from delays in customer orders to share dilution from capital injection.

When Needham analyst Michael Lew initiated coverage of lithium battery maker Ener1 earlier this year, the company was becoming increasingly present in China, the world's number one vehicle market, and ramping up production to help Norwegian electric vehicle producer THINK fulfill a backlog of orders for more than 2,000 electric vehicles. Lew said he significant opportunity in the company.

Lew said that if Ener1 was able to ramp up its battery production to 900 packs a month while fulfilling Think's orders, it would "elevate the company's stature" in the emerging electric vehicles market and, furthermore, lead to more business supply agreements with tier-1 automakers.

Goldman Sachs analyst Mark Wienkes, however, maintains a neutral view of the stock, noting that the ramp up in Think sales in 2010 and 2011 was occurring more slowly than expected and that Ener1-Wanxiang bus and truck projects remain in prototype form given the still ongoing JV negotiations.

Lew has been optimistic about the possibility of long-term financial gains for Ener1 through its growing presence in China through a joint venture (JV) agreement with Chinese tier one auto parts supplier Wanxiang for developing battery systems, and relationship with Chinese automaker Geely via its partnership with Volvo; Ford ( F) recently sold its stake in Volvo to Geely's parent company.

Earnings and revenue consensus views for lithium battery company A123's coming quarter are thought to be undergoing revisions after the company recently told investors that the timing of its automotive OEM customer production ramp-up was to be pushed out to the second quarter of 2011, from the fourth quarter of 2010.

Wienkes, for his part, sees the OEM delays as "normal growing pains," but remains neutral on the stock. Craig-Hallum analyst Robert Brown was lowering his estimates for the company, but believes that A123 remains "well-positioned" to capture growth in the hybrid-vehicle and grid-storage markets given its "best-of-breed" products.

In the coming quarters, investors will want to know what Advanced Battery Technologies ends up doing with its $30 million capital injection via the issuance of millions of additional shares.

This diluting move was a disappointment for many investors -- announced just as the stock was strengthening on strong third-quarter results. "The market is anxious to see what this surprise was about," says Olympia analyst Paul Resnik.


"The lithium battery business could become very large depending on the market's acceptance of electric cars and hybrids, how quickly battery costs can be lowered and the extent of government subsidies," Wunderlich analyst Theo O'Neill says.

Case in point, General Motors ( GM) has now raised its planned production rate of plug-in hybrid electric Chevrolet Volts to 60,000 a year by 2012, from the initial planned production rate of 30,000 a year, according to D.A. Davidson analyst Avinash Kant, who cites industry sources in an equity research report. General Electric ( GE) recently announced that it will buy 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015, almost half of them from GM, including the 2011 Chevy Volt.

In light of this background, which of the lithium battery stocks mentioned do you think is most likely to stage a turnaround in 2011? Take our poll below to learn the consensus of TheStreet.

Which of the following underperforming lithium battery stocks do you consider most likely to stage a turnaround in 2011?

Ener1
A123
Advanced Battery Technologies

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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