A ReVolting development – Green Energy Stimulus Bankruptcies Come in All Sizes

By Paul Chesser, National Legal & Policy Center

The little-reported bankruptcy of a relatively small electric vehicle battery manufacturer last month illustrates the many problems with President Obama’s green energy stimulus program, and why the more appropriate location for the ramblin’, gamblin’ White House might be Las Vegas.

This smaller (compared to other Recovery Act beneficiaries) example is ReVolt Technology, which relocated from Switzerland to Oregon to take advantage of a $5 million Recovery Act grant from the Department of Energy in order to develop and mass-produce a “zinc-air” vehicle battery.

Its technology was developed in Norway where the company was backed since 2004 by Viking Venture Management. According to the Portland Business Journal, ReVolt believed it could “deliver twice the energy of conventional rechargeable battery technologies, such as lithium-ion.”

Federal money wasn’t the only attraction. The company also received $5 million in city and state loans, as well as business energy tax credits. Thus we have another alternative energy failure – much like the many wind, solar and electric vehicle busts that have been archived by Obama administration watchdogs – that went belly-up once the government money ran out.

Read the rest here: http://bit.ly/10W84SK

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41 thoughts on “A ReVolting development – Green Energy Stimulus Bankruptcies Come in All Sizes

  1. I wonder if Obama would give me $5milliion to (re)develop a new, novel gravity cell. Don’t tell him they’ve been around for over 150 years!

  2. Another green energy scam. Just set up any “green” company, apply for million dollar grants and enjoy the good life while funneling company cash to an offshore or Swiss bank acct, until the funding runs out. Then simply declare bankruptcy and close the company. Repeat.

  3. Green energy companies like this are just rejigged versions of previous perpetual motion scams.

    Meanwhile we are all forced to be part of the church of green, where catastrophe is only averted by some scam tax. Another fine example of green slavery, where we are all slaves to Big Green.

  4. Next candidate:

    Betting on a Metal-Air Battery Breakthrough
    A government-funded start-up claims it can make ionic liquid energy storage feasible.

    By Tyler Hamilton on November 5, 2009

    A spinoff from Arizona State University says it can develop a metal-air battery that dramatically outperforms the best lithium-ion batteries on the market, and now it has the funding it needs to prove it.

    The U.S. Department of Energy last week awarded a $5.13-million research grant to Scottsdale, AZ-based Fluidic Energy toward development of a metal-air battery that relies on ionic liquids, instead of an aqueous solution, as its electrolyte.

    The Fluidic Energy website is the company logo on top, the About Us and Contact Us links further down, and in between is a large Flash “intro” presentation that shows green fields, sunflowers, PV panels, some words mumbling about clean sustainable energy with the right storage systems… And that’s it.

    Well there’s the first half-million for the professionally-produced slick intro animation and cutting-edge site design, with the logo that took the ad agency an entire afternoon to design.

    They’ve been given even more money. Here’s a DOE ARPA-E (not to be confused with DOD DARPA) listing with downloadable fact sheet:

    http://arpa-e.energy.gov/ProgramsProjects/GRIDS/EnhancedMetalAirEnergyStorageSystemwithAdva.aspx

    ARPA-E AWARD: $2,993,128
    PROJECT TERM: 10/1/10 – 10/1/12

    This listing is electric grid related, storage for renewable energy. Has pic of presumably a prototype. So they’re past $8 million from DOE.

    This Oct 2010 article is informative. The funding came from the great non-functional Stimulus Bill, therefore as expected:

    Fluidic Energy facility to bring several hundred jobs

    Fluidic Energy, a growing renewable energy storage company, has committed to bringing a manufacturing facility to Maricopa County along with several hundred jobs.

    The Scottsdale firm, a spinout of technology developed at Arizona State University, hasn’t designated a location, but plans to ramp up production capabilities in the Valley, said Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

    So far, the U.S. Department of Energy has provided the company with two grants, one of $5.13 million in November 2009 and another $3 million grant in July through the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, which was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The company also has the backing of inverter manufacturer Satcon and Chevron Energy Solutions.

    DOE has called the project “high risk” but with backing of Satcon and Chevron it doubled its investment. The technology has been worked on at ASU and now Fluidic by Cody Friesen

    Follow the natural progression. By June 2011:

    Fluidic Energy Announces Bruce Sohn as CEO

    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Fluidic Energy announced today that Bruce Sohn has joined the company as Chief Executive Officer.

    Mr. Sohn brings a wealth of experience in growing technology companies, including 24 years at Intel and most recently as the President of First Solar. Intel and First Solar both realized substantial growth during his tenure at each company.

    BTW, First Solar is doing the restructuring dance worldwide, operations and facilities and upper management, and is “transitioning” from making and selling PV panels to doing utility-scale installations, for utilities that want that clean cost-competitive dependable solar power.

    Further searching finds some buzz from this mention in Jan 2011 from only this site, announcing Fluidic Energy got another $17.3M in funding, if you want to know more then buy the site’s report. Strangely this exact same news made some more buzz in August 2011. I can find no confirmation.

    And that’s it. Nothing more recent, the Wikipedia entry lies abandoned.

    Are they already dead? The DOE listing said the project ran to October. Maybe they were advised to hold off the announcement until after the election, and now they’re waiting for the Big O to pull another gift from the magical bottomless sack of governmental “investment”.

  5. E.M.Smith: Normal zinc-air batteries are not rechargeable.

    The Revolt company was a spinoff of Norway’s well regarded research organization SINTEF (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SINTEF). It was relocated from Trondheim, Norway to Switzerland 6 years ago. 4 years ago they claimed to be only 1 year away from the first commercial products (see http://www.tu.no/industri/2008/11/18/norske-batterier-klare-for-markedet – Google translate will give a reasonably good translation).

    All in all it seems like a pretty normal startup company to me, and I think it’s a good idea to support startup companies like this one. Who doesn’t like the idea of higher density batteries? Of course one has to thoroughly evaluate the possibility for each company to succeed, and for all I know, proper due diligence may not have been performed before the company was welcomed to Oregon.

  6. @Espen:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinc-air_battery

    Large primary zinc–air cells such as the Thomas A. Edison Industries Carbonaire type were used for railway signaling, remote communication sites, and navigation buoys.These were long-duration, low-rate applications. Development in the 1970s of thin electrodes based on fuel-cell research allowed application to small button and prismatic primary cells for hearing aids, pagers, and medical devices, especially cardiac telemetry

    Things around since Edison are “not new”…

    Secondary (rechargeable) cells

    Rechargeable zinc–air cells are a difficult design problem since zinc precipitation from the water-based electrolyte must be closely controlled. The problems are dendrite formation, non-uniform zinc dissolution and limited solubility in electrolytes. Electrically reversing the reaction at a bi-functional air cathode, to liberate oxygen from discharge reaction products, is difficult; membranes tested to date have low overall efficiency. Charging voltage is much higher than discharge voltage, producing cycle energy efficiency as low as 50%. Providing charge and discharge functions by separate uni-functional cathodes, increases cell size, weight, and complexity. A satisfactory electrically recharged system potentially offers low material cost and high specific energy, but none has yet reached the market.

    So the have rechargeable cells, just not very good ones, despite working on it for quite a while.

    Mechanically recharged cells

    Rechargeable systems may mechanically replace the anode and electrolyte, essentially operating as a refurbishable primary cell, or may use zinc powder or other methods to replenish the reactants. Mechanically-recharged systems were investigated for military electronics uses in the 1960s because of the high energy density and easy recharging. However, primary lithium batteries offered higher discharge rates and easier handling.

    Mechanical recharging systems have been researched for decades for use in electric vehicles. Some approaches use a large zinc–air battery to maintain charge on a high discharge–rate battery used for peak loads during acceleration. Zinc granules serve as the reactant. Vehicles exchange used electrolyte and depleted zinc for fresh reactants at a service station to recharge.

    And a well understood recharging method does exist, but the battery doesn’t give the kinds of peak power desired.

    Yes, new ideas and startups are a fine idea… as long as they are using their own money.

    Throwing tax payer money down a rat hole (or into private pockets) chasing after Yet Another Perpetual Dream in a well research “sounds good but fails” old technology is a very bad idea.

    On the face of it the Zinc Air battery is a poor match to electric vehicles due to the discharge demand being high and the battery being ‘slow and steady’. Add in that folks have been trying this for a while and failing, it’s not a very good bet. ( I first looked at these about 30? years ago as backup batteries for computer UPS systems. Decent for that, long standby and when you do use them up, just change out the metal and ‘good to go’ again.)

    So yes, Zinc Air batteries ARE already rechargeable, just via media swap rather than wall plug (that is actually a big feature); but poorly suited to the proposed use (vehicles). And it’s a crazy idea that the government ought to be burning my money on this kind of thing. Government is ‘exactly wrong’ as a venture capitalist.

  7. Reminds me of Molten Metal Technology. It was a VP Al Gore / Maurice Strong set-up to fleece money out of the US government and other stockholders.

    The tawdry tale of the top two global warming gurus in the business world goes all the way back to Earth Day, April 17, 1995 when the future author of “An Inconvenient Truth” travelled to Fall River, Massachusetts, to deliver a green sermon at the headquarters of Molten Metal Technology Inc. (MMTI). MMTI was a firm that proclaimed to have invented a process for recycling metals from waste. Gore praised the Molten Metal firm as a pioneer in the kind of innovative technology that can save the environment, and make money for investors at the same time.

    “Gore left a few facts out of his speech that day,” wrote EIR. “First, the firm was run by Strong and a group of Gore intimates, including Peter Knight, the firm’s registered lobbyist, and Gore’s former top Senate aide.”

    (Fast-forward to the present day and ask yourself why it is that every time someone picks up another Senate rock, another serpent comes slithering out).

    “Second, the company had received more than $25 million in U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) research and development grants, but had failed to prove that the technology worked on a commercial scale. The company would go on to receive another $8 million in federal taxpayers’ cash, at that point, its only source of revenue.

    “With Al Gore’s Earth Day as a Wall Street calling card, Molten Metal’s stock value soared to $35 a share, a range it maintained through October 1996. But along the way, DOE scientists had balked at further funding. When in March 1996, corporate officers concluded that the federal cash cow was about to run dry, they took action: Between that date and October 1996, seven corporate officers—including Maurice strong—sold off $15.3 million in personal shares in the company, at top market value. On Oct. 20, 1996—a Sunday—the company issued a press release, announcing for the first time, that DOE funding would be vastly scaled back, and reported the bad news on a conference call with stockbrokers.

    “On Monday, the stock plunged by 49%, soon landing at $5 a share. By early 1997, furious stockholders had filed a class action suit against the company and its directors. Ironically, one of the class action lawyers had tangled with Maurice strong in another insider trading case, involving a Swiss company called AZL Resources, chaired by Strong, who was also a lead shareholder. The AZL case closely mirrored Molten Metal, and in the end, Strong and the other AZL partners agreed to pay $5 million to dodge a jury verdict, when eyewitness evidence surfaced of Strong’s role in scamming the value of the company stock up into the stratosphere, before selling it off.
    source

    The Congressional Investigation report revolving around Molten Technologies link

    ….Finally, in an attempt to paint the current investigation as part of a political smear campaign against a close confidant of the Vice President, Mr. Peter Knight, some in the Minority have taken to reciting or attaching to their correspondence one-sided and generally inaccurate commentary by one or two journalists who had criticized the Subcommittee’s recent investigation into the Department of Energy’s funding of Molten Metal Technology (another client of Mr. Knight’s). They have ignored, however, the favorable reporting by the Washington Post, Time magazine, and other news organizations on this same matter. We also want to emphasize that the Subcommittee initiated the Molten Metal investigation at the urging of the Minority staff, and as an outgrowth of the Committee’s overall programmatic review of the Office of Science and Technology. That review has led to numerous changes in the Office’s management and operations, which we believe will improve the effectiveness of its technology development efforts. The issue here is Mr. Franklin Haney’s illegitimate refusal to provide subpoenaed documents. That is what the Contempt Report is about. For all of the above reasons, we strongly urge the adoption of the Contempt Report by the House of Representatives, followed by a speedy referral of this matter to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for prosecution under the criminal contempt statute.

    And these are the SAME guys who politicians are allowing to shape the Energy and Economic policies of the USA and the world??? Where the heck is the MSM trumpeting the non-existent ethics of these two? Instead the MSM is 100% behind the continued rape of the taxpayers worldwide.

  8. From MIT Technology Review in 2009, the details of the ReVolt vehicle battery system are on page 2:


    For electric vehicles, ReVolt is developing a novel battery structure that resembles that of a fuel cell. Its first batteries use two flat electrodes, which are comparable in size. In the new batteries, one electrode will be a liquid–a zinc slurry. The air electrodes will be in the form of tubes. To generate electricity, the zinc slurry, which is stored in one compartment in the battery, is pumped through the tubes where it’s oxidized, forming zinc oxide and releasing electrons. The zinc oxide then accumulates in another compartment in the battery. During recharging, the zinc oxide flows back through the air electrode, where it releases the oxygen, forming zinc again.

    In the company’s planned vehicle battery, the amount of zinc slurry can be much greater than the amount of material in the air electrode, increasing energy density. Indeed, the system would be like a fuel-cell system or a conventional engine, in that the zinc slurry would essentially act as a fuel–pumping through the air electrode like the hydrogen in a fuel cell or the gasoline in a combustion engine. McDougall says the batteries could also last longer–from 2,000 to 10,000 cycles. And, if one part fails–such as the air electrode–it could be replaced, eliminating the need to buy a whole new battery.

    A metal slurry, which will have particles down to atomic size, pumped through tubes that would have to be permeable to let the oxygen molecules in. The metal slurry would be abrasive, sounds like a mechanical pump is involved which would suffer wear, and it also sounds like the zinc atoms could get into those tiny holes large enough for oxygen molecules, which would then oxidize in place and plug the tiny holes.

    Anyone want to try to explain why this was expected to work, and how it could work?

  9. One big difference between Las Vegas and the White House. Gamblers in Vegas have at least a slim chance of winning.

  10. EMSmith has a good point… I recall reading a textbook on battery technology about 10 years ago that was only about 150 pages but covered all of the battery technology that had been developed in the 1800-1900’s of which the most recent development/progress made on the technology came from the Russians because of its use on their early model submarines (pure electric setup no combustion engine).

  11. The current system rewards people that are good at applying for government grants, while ignoring people that are good at inventing solutions.

    History shows there is a much better approach than government grants and subsidies. Offer a large cash prize and inventors will invest their own time and money to solve the problem.

    Offer a 1 trillion dollar cash prize for a high efficiency, high capacity, long life rechargeable battery. It costs nothing to offer this prize and if successful, the result is worth much more than 1 trillion.

    From an investors point of view, even if the odds a 1 million to 1 that you will be successful in developing a battery, it is still worth investing up to 1 million on the chance of winning the 1 trillion prize.

    Multiply this by the millions of potential investors and inventors worldwide and you will generate an army of people working to solve the problem – all without spending a single dime of taxpayers money. Only AFTER the solution is found does the government have to pay, and they will quickly recoup their money through licensing the rights to the technology.

    For example, power companies will be potentially the biggest customers. Batteries can be used to store wholesale power from the grid when it is cheap and sell it back into the grid when it is expensive. For large power companies this can generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year in savings. BC Hydro for example makes about $500 million dollars a year in this fashion, using its hydro dams as batteries.

    Consumers as well. Any consumer that pays different electrical rates based on time of day will want a battery to store power when it is cheap and use this to reduce the house electrical bill when electricity is expensive. This is before we consider the impact on the auto industry.

  12. Im going to approach Idaho for loans for my new energy storage device, it is compact, portable and sometimes even green.
    Im calling it the Spudery, it also tastes great, mashed, with gravy on top. Hmmmm.

  13. Jonny, I’m afraid you will never make it in the renewable gold rush. You forgot step 1.
    Step 1. Donate (or preferably bundle) large sums to the Democrat National Committee.
    Step 2. Apply for grant and get back your donation many times over.
    See, I’ve fixed it for you.

  14. Classic somebody else’s money problem. Govt takes the return on our labour by threat of violence. Govt staffs itself with semi-competent minions. Various reasons for this but results are obvious. The wisdom of committees is a thing of beauty, as in the smarts are inversely proportional to the number of minions present.
    Internal wisdom of the minion, if you do not know do not ask. Any one who has attended policy meetings will know exactly what I mean.
    Finally people in the employ of the govt, pay no tax. They are simply lied to about their real rate of pay. Note these same people will vehemently protest this point, but there is only one taxpayer.
    Electric storage has stalled since steam and electric cars lost the economic competition with the internal combustion engine. When the technological break-through comes, there will be no need for govt help.The market for this application is huge, massive wealth to the genius who solves this one.
    Of course its much easier to mine the shareholders, than mine the gold. If a mining company did the same as our govt has done, these same minions would be all over that company with fraud and securities violation charges. Moral do not steal,our government hate competition.
    Agenda driven mutts in govt jobs also fit the semi-competent descriptor, results trump intent.
    I need a more cheerful view of this, I keep coming back to, we are being attacked with our own wealth. Poverty for all seems to be the destination/goal?

  15. “…why the more appropriate location for the ramblin’, gamblin’ White House might be Las Vegas.”

    No Las Vegas wouldn’t be a good location for the current White House. In Vegas if you keep losing bets made with borrowed money at this rate they send someone out to rearrange your knee caps.

  16. I think I am going to recharge my “cold lager” batteries this weekend ……. I wonder if there is some type of grant I can apply for ?

  17. MattS says:

    November 29, 2012 at 7:50 am

    […] In Vegas if you keep losing bets made with borrowed money at this rate they send someone out to rearrange your knee caps.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    I like the concept. Let’s see if we can get the government to cough up some money to develop it. We can call it “Irony Resources.”

    The spouse works for a start-up without a saleable product so far (in development) and struggles to get funding from business people / investors. Every such start-up goes whereever it can to keep eating for as long as it can eat. The government is committed to projects explicitly for ideological over practical reasons and is the largest financier while using none of its own money. A successful outcome would have to be the exception.

  18. I have a somewhat new, and green, potato battery idea – where’s my Obamacash?

    What a bunch of crooks these green crony capitalists are – nomadic subsidy hunter gatherers, roaming from state to state, robbing from the poor to give to the rich.

  19. Perhaps Obamarama should pay attention to the Swiss govt (which chose not to subsidize this
    company), or the venture capitalists, who also passed. Or maybe, just maybe, he should hire someone other than Chu. You know, someone who knows what’s going on in the battery R&D business. Naw, that would make way too much sense for this braindead Chief Executive. The last news that seemed very promising came from Univ of Washington and involved a nano-based battery that seemed to have everything going for it, including ease in using existing battery manufacturing technologies. Was planned to commercialize in less than a year. If it is as good and cheap as its tests indicated, it truly is a revolutionary device. No word since then. The world
    desperately needs such a battery, and I don’t mean because of carbon emission reduction.
    Our world is largely powered by electricity, yet we still don’t have a practical way to store it.

  20. “Measures proposed in the Bill and consultations include:

    Household energy bills to rise £100 on average by 2020
    “Green” levy charged by energy firms to rise from £3bn to £7.6bn
    Switch to clean energy to cost £110bn over ten years
    Bill aims to encourage investment in low-carbon power production
    Energy-intensive companies may be exempt from additional charges
    Possible financial incentives to reduce energy consumption”

    GREEN BRITAIN not looking good

  21. Even if one of these long shot outfits hit and came up with a viable technology what does the tax-payer get out of it? Of course, the principals get paid. I’m sure that the Democrats get their huge kickbacks, but grants don’t have to paid back. I guess the public just gets the benefit at being able to buy the new product at considerable profit to the business.

  22. I’m all for ventures like this. And, yes, we have to fund a hundred failures for each success. So this company failed – that’s normal.

    My only complaint is in government’s attempts to pick and choose winners. They are remarkably bad at it. The company was doing quite well under the traditional venture capital model. They might still have gone bankrupt but the angel investors were willing to assume that risk. There was no compelling reason to abandon that funding model and put the taxpayers’ money at risk.

  23. We should be forward-thinking, and alternative transportation energy is part of the picture. The U.S. Government should absolutely encourage and fund those efforts.

    Expect lots of failures. Accept them with a smile.

  24. I like the idea of providing some capital to these little startup companies. Regardless of where you stand on AGW, having reliable and practical electric cars would be great. Investing in battery tech seems like a reasonable thing to do. Small investments in companies that are pushing the envelop may pay off tremendously, although the majority won’t – which should be expected.

    This is a lot different then funding huge renewable energy ventures that have no chance at profitability now or into the future without continued subsidy.

  25. mikerossander,Torgeir & Charlie feel free to use your own cash and buy shares. Govt fails every time.

  26. So. a fru fru company run by hippies went bankrupt in Oregon. I am shocked!

    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

  27. Chemical storage of these one way at a time electrons has been a boon for portable devices of a small nature. Electrons are a bit like cattle, you round them up into an area, but they resist stacking, thus batteries need huge areas to store much power and the electric car batteries weigh as much as the car and take up huge space. Like carrying four passengers on your 250cc motor cycle, not conducive to long range.

    Science needs to define for us what electricity is and how it works, before we can start to learn how to round it up and corral it properly for future use. The chemical way is a dead end to large storage.

  28. Torgeir Hansson says:
    November 29, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    We should be forward-thinking, and alternative transportation energy is part of the picture. …
    ___________________________________
    Here is my carbon neutral transportation photo It is the latest technology.

    …. It is made entirely of aluminum except for the axles, and railing around the seats. All fasteners are stainless steel… the wheels have roller bearings. The wheels also have grease fittings so that the wheels may be greased without removing them from the axle. The vehicle sets on 300 lb. springs (500 lb springs in rear), which gives a very comfortable ride.
    The rear seats face to the inside…. The standard drivers’ wedge is mounted so that the cushion lifts up for a storage compartment underneath. There are also large storage compartments under the rear bench seats and the front seat. Each compartment has its own metal door.

    All the parts are sanded before welding. When all assemblies and parts are done they are sent to a powder coating shop, brought back, and the vehicle is then assembled.
    Vehicle weight —-600 lbs (approx. – options will vary weight)

  29. @Gail Combs says:
    November 30, 2012 at 5:09 am

    “Here is my carbon neutral transportation photo It is the latest technology.”

    LOL! Two horsepower. Not much top end there but it does run on biofuel.

  30. @Gail Combs:

    Could they maybe claim “Aircraft Quality Aluminum” to make it sound even more high tech? ;-)

    (Hey, my flashlight does it, so it can’t be that hard to do …)

    @H.R.:

    Um, those looked like miniature ponies to me… doubt if you get one whole horsepower out of the lot of them… ( but they ARE cuter though ;-)

  31. E.M.Smith says:
    December 1, 2012 at 1:09 am

    @Gail Combs:

    Um, those looked like miniature ponies to me… doubt if you get one whole horsepower out of the lot of them… ( but they ARE cuter though ;-)
    ________________________________
    Actually 10h (40″) Shetlands.

    Ponies have a better fuel conversion ratio than a horse and do not need grain as a supplemental feeding. If I recall correctly 14h is the optimum. Shetlands were used in coal mines in the USA into the 1970’s and in the UK into the mid 1980’s. They would probably still be used if PETA had not started screaming. (they are safer to use in mines) Horses are still used for some select cut logging in NC since they do not mangle the ground as much. Also a well trained logging horse will snake the log from the cut site through the trees to the staging site and return without a handler or snagging the log. Most handlers use a human driven team though. Getting Started in Horse Logging

    Here are some of the horse powered equipment seen at Threshers Reunions We may be very glad these guys keep this old technology alive.

    Maybe it is time to design a pony driven generator…..

  32. In January 2012, BP finally abandoned its 40 year involvement in the renewable/green energy technology. The technology was deemed not viable.

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