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Exide gets a warning from ratings agency

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

Moody’s, the credit rating agency that gave Exide a tough time a decade ago is once again putting the company’s financial performance under the microscope.

Exide Technologies has seen weak operating performance over the last two financial quarters that has resulted in a poor credit rating.

Moody’s Investor Services changed Exide’s rating outlook from stable to negative. The company’s rating is categorised as highly speculative in the categories of Corporate Family and Probability of Default Rating, as well as its liquidity rating.

In an attempt to remedy this, and raise its credit rating back to its previous level, the company has closed battery transportation and recycling facilities in Tennessee, Texas and Pennsylvania. The company hopes the savings on operational costs from closing these facilities will improve earnings for 2013.

These combined actions will bring North American capacity down to demand level and limit the company’s exposure to volatile core costs related to recycling.

The company could be in further trouble if it cannot manage fluctuations in commodity costs; if the global demand for battery products dips; or not being able to offset lower demand with restructuring savings could lower operating performance.

If Exide cannot achieve a sequentially consecutive improvement in operating profits, Moody’s could further downgrade it.

The company can be considered for a stable rating when it can sustain EBIT (total expense from interest payments) over 1.0x; generate positive free cash flow; and maintain an adequate liquidity profile.

The sale of the smelter in Frisco, Texas should gain the company US$37million, which will strengthen the company’s US$74 million in cash on its September 2012 balance sheet.

Exide's ‘highly speculative’ Corporate Family Rating of B3 reflects the company's business focus on markets that enjoy greater stability. The automotive aftermarket replacement battery market represents about 75% of Exide's transportation revenues (44% of total revenues). About half of Exide's revenues are generated in North America where industry reports indicate shipments of both aftermarket and OEM batteries have increased on a year-to-date basis through October 2012. 

Lithium goes stellar

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

GS Yuasa Lithium Power Inc. is designing lithium-ion batteries for the International Space Station. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, (PWR), a producer and designer of rocket engines, appointed the company to replace the current batteries on the space station.

At present nickel-metal hydride batteries power it but PWR is to replace the existing batteries with GY Yuasa's lithium-ion batteries.

GS Yuasa has recently developed the lithium-ion batteries (model: LSE134; rated capacity: 134Ah) specifically for the International Space Station's power requirements. The energy density of the batteries is around three times higher than those of the nickel-metal hydride batteries currently used.

According to GS Yuasa the batteries are expected to power the International Space Station for more than a decade.

Saft powering Canadian wind turbine

Mon, 11/19/2012 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

The energy storage system will include two large-scale lithium-ion battery packs to store energy generated by wind power from an 800kW wind turbine.

The harnessed energy will be fed back to the electrical grid to be used during peak times of energy consumption, with the battery being recharged during off-peak periods.

Saft has demonstrated that this base system achieves a maximum ramp rate of 10% per minute of the rated power output of the 800kW wind turbine while also providing up to 400kWh of peak shaving capability. The flexibility and scalability of Saft's solution also allows the energy content to be increased in 124kWh increments up to 992kWh if additional peak shaving capability is desired.

This is the first project of its kind that Saft is involved in in North America.

Plant-based anodes for lithium batteries

Thu, 08/23/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

Chinese companies Kuraray and Kureha are to produce lithium-ion batteries made from plant-based raw materials at a joint factory in Okayama Prefecture.

Traditionally the anode material comes from graphite but the new factory will use ‘hard carbon’ made from plant materials, including coconut shells.  The effect of using the hard carbon will have a more complex crystal structure than conventional graphite.  This will reduce deterioration occurring because of repeated charge – discharge cycles.

The factory for the joint venture will be built at Kuraray Chemical’s carbon plant and will cost US$ 38 159 000.  Output of the factory should be 1 000 tons of anode material annually.  Building work is due to commence in October with plans for the factory to be operational in Autumn 2013 with plans for expansion already being considered.

Lead-acid growth for Hitachi

Wed, 08/15/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

Hitachi Chemical Co will increase its production capacity for industrial lead-acid batteries by next January by expanding facilities of the subsidiary company Shin-Kobe Electric Machinery Co.

Some US$12 750000 (one billion yen) will be spent on constructing a building with a new assembly line at Shin-Kobe's Nabari Works in Mie Prefecture, the main site making lead-acid batteries.  It is estimated cell production capacity is likely to increase by 50%.

The site will make back-up power source batteries, the LL-W series of which demand is growing for in offices and factories at risk of power failures.  Joining 192 LL-W batteries together can produce 40kw of electricity for around ten hours.

Shin-Kobe Co. accounts for roughly 30% of the domestic market for industrial lead-acid batteries.  The LL-W products claim a battery life of 17 years, one of the world's longest, and are a fraction of the cost of a lithium-ion counterpart. 

Second Life for lithium-ion

Wed, 07/25/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

The ‘second life’ potential of batteries is a hot topic at the moment with the rise in EVs meaning more lithium-ion batteries will be in circulation, including the Nissan Leaf being mass-produced in the UK from 2013.  ABB and Zero Carbon Futures are both researching the potential utilisation of ‘used’ batteries.  When the batteries come out of the cars they would still have around 80% capacity, this would reduce the range of the car but still be sufficient to be put to another application.  Zero Carbon Futures, working alongside Nissan, are researching the energy storage potential of the used batteries for home energy management systems.

A123 sign two deals in as many days

Mon, 07/23/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

This July A123 announced they shall be supplying BAE Systems with lithium-ion battery packs for its new HybriDrive Series to be used on municipal buses. The following day A123 signed a deal with Chinese Ray Power Systems to supply a grid energy storage system.  This is great news for shareholders of A123.  Share price has risen for the first time since the company announced in June that it is struggling financially. 

South Korea battery exports reach new high

Mon, 07/23/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

South Korea shipped 20% more rechargeable batteries overseas in 2011 finacial year than the previous year.  Of these, 56% were lithium-ion making South Korea the world’s largest exporter of lithium-ion batteries for 2011.  The exports of the batteries were valued at US$3.8 billion according to the Korea Customs Service.

Emergency home power from EVs

Mon, 07/23/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

Progress is being made to develop EV batteries to be utilised to power homes during times of blackout. Following the 2011 Japanese earthquake much of the country was without electricity, EV batteries were used as a temporary in-home power supply.  Hybrid cars that feature an invertor can have the high-voltage direct current switched to a low-voltage alternating current to supply power back to a home at times of blackout. Nissan are leading the way in advancing this potential, they believe their Leaf car could power a home for up to two days, or individual appliances for far longer.

Growth for Johnson Controls

Fri, 07/20/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

Johnson Controls Inc. has begun a new partnership with PolyPlus Battery Corporation, a California-based battery manufacturer, and also announced plans for a Chinese automotive battery plant. 

PolyPlus will receive US$8.99 million from the US Department of Energy to invest in manufacturing lithium-ion batteries over the next three years.

PolyPlus is developing batteries that are lighter store more energy than the lithium-ion batteries that Johnson Controls currently produces.

Johnson Controls also announced this week signing a deal in China for a facility producing batteries for stop-start vehicles. It will be the first of its kind the company has in China.

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