Think City

For companies in the lithium battery business, multi-segment marketing has become a necessity. A few years ago, electric vehicles looked like the next smartphone-like growth area for battery makers. Now, it's more turmoil than profits for some battery makers.

David Roberts is CEO of one of these companies – EnerDel Inc. EnerDel used to be a part of Ener1 prior to its bankruptcy that was caused by being so tied down after taking on a stake in Norweigan EV maker Think, which had its own downward spiral. EnerDel's new focus is to not count on electric vehicles to turn in profits, because EnerDel doesn't expect EV sales to be strong in the next few years. The battery maker will continue to monitor the EV industry, but the time has passed to rely on it as a big money maker.

Instead, EnerDel, based in Indianapolis, is now looking more at commercial accounts that would buy batteries for grid storage, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, and home energy storage. One such client is the Alamada County, CA, transit authority, which uses EnerDel batteries to store electricity in its fuel-cell buses. Being creative and willing to travel abroad has brought in a Russian utility company and Japanese convenience store owners worried about living through another earthquake. This is all good news for the battery maker, but even before it ran into financial troubles, EnerDel was thinking about stationary energy storage. With the new focus on diversity, Roberts says he sees EnerDel becoming profitable next year – or by 2014 at the latest.

The company is not divorced from electric cars – in fact, EnerDel is continuing a relationship started by Ener1 in 2009 with Volvo to power the electric version of its C30. "We'd love to have 10 more like that," Roberts said. Today, EnerDel is not doing any business with Think.