Excerpt from The Wall Street Transcript's August 7 interview with Energy Conversion Devices CEO Robert Stempel:
TWST: What is Energy Conversion Devices?
Mr. Stempel: Energy Conversion Devices designs, develops and commercializes materials, products, and production processes for the alternate energy generation, energy storage and information technology markets. Our materials, products and production processes originate from the pioneering work of Stanford R. Ovshinsky in materials sciences, particularly amorphous and disordered materials. Using this technology, we have developed materials that permit the design and commercialization of products such as thin-film solar (photovoltaic) cells, nickel metal hydride [NiMH] batteries and phase-change memory devices. This past year and a half, we've been in transition from a primarily research and product development company to a commercial company, as many of our products are now becoming mainstream. For example, for many years in energy generation, we were making photovoltaic cells 'generating electricity from sunshine' on a small scale. We now have a very large-capacity operation at our wholly owned subsidiary, United Solar Ovonic. That operation produces about 27 megawatts per year, and we are adding a series of plants that will bring our annual capacity up to 300 megawatts by 2010. Our nickel-metal hydride battery, which in 1994 was used in a small number of electric and hybrid electric cars, has now been selected by General Motors for their first hybrid, the Saturn VUE, which is now on the market. So our battery product has become a commercial reality.
We have been prototyping our propulsion batteries with a number of OEMs, and we are looking forward to additional business there. Another product is our electrical phase-change memory or 'Ovonic Universal Memory' [OUM]. We founded Ovonyx (a company owned 39.5% by us) with Tyler Lowrey, the former Chief Technology Officer of Micron, in 1999 to further develop and commercialize OUM. It has now been accepted by most of the major semiconductor chip and computer makers under royalty-bearing license ' companies like Samsung, Intel, STMicroelectronics, Elpida and BAE Systems. BAE Systems recently announced that they will have first product available in August of this year. So those are our main products. I would say that the biggest shift that has occurred has been our move to true commerciality. We are doing a lot of manufacturing now, and so our business has changed.
TWST: What's the agenda at this point? What are the priorities for the next six to 12 months?
Mr. Stempel: Now, our priorities are, of course, to focus on our solar business' United Solar Ovonic. In addition to the existing solar manufacturing facility in Auburn Hills, we will have a second plant on line in fall 2006, also in Auburn Hills. We have two more scheduled that will come on line at the end of calendar year 2007 in Greenville, Michigan, which is over on the western side of the state. And then, as I said, we will build several plants after that to reach our goal of 300MW capacity by 2010.
Our second priority is Cobasys, our NiMH battery joint venture with Chevron Corporation that manufactures NiMH batteries for many applications, including for transportation and stationary uses. We are gearing up there because it appears as though our initial estimates of the hybrid vehicle market were probably understated. That's a good problem to have, and it is one that is keeping us busy seven days a week. As a result, it's also very high priority. Ovonyx is moving ahead on all fronts. The major manufacturers that have been granted licensees are getting closer to actually going into production. Obviously, Ovonyx has got its people fully occupied. Final details of many beta tests are being completed going into actual production.