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Axion Power Concentrator 272: Oct. 4 '13: APMarshall AGM Notes; 10Q Filing For Q2; John Petersen On PIPE Mechanics & Incentives

|Includes: Axion Power International, Inc. (AXPW)

Notes on the 926/13 AGM with thanks to APMarshall62
The following is primarily a compilation of my copious notes from the 9/26/13 meeting with a lesser amount of my own analysis added (it should be clear which is which). I made little effort to edit it down as one would when writing an article since I expect you all want as much raw information as possible.

It is mostly chronological but there are places where I pulled together information on the same point from various events. I believe I've made that clear but have probably missed some instances. Also, I discuss some points in depth in paragraph format. For specific notes that I don't discuss in depth I use bullet points to separate them from the text and hopefully make this easier to read.

The main events for which I compiled notes include a Wednesday night dinner with John Petersen and several folks from ePower (also three of us Axionistas), the formal part of the annual meeting, the presentations (Vani Dantam and Mike Romeo) and subsequent Q&A that included Tom Granville, the two plant tours (battery facility and electrode facility), the ePower demo, and finally, the closing cocktail party.

ePower Dinner:
Jay Bowman, ePower's founder, struck me as a classic entrepreneur: He wouldn't fit in the corporate world but is smart, creative, and driven. He didn't share a lot of new info, but I thought it was very interesting how he described his system's interaction with the battery.

Essentially, he said that a graph of the battery usage would show second by second changes even at steady speed on level terrain. That was music to my ears because the more charge/discharge events the better the fit for the PbC.

Note: The next day Tom Granville mentioned that ePower had reported dramatic improvement in the performance of the automated carbon sheeting based batteries (the improvement was so dramatic because of the very specific nature of the ePower application with the very rapid give/take of power). I didn't fully understand the limited explanation he gave - it was something I hadn't heard previously. Bottom line of this side point was that the ePower application seems like an absolutely perfect fit for the PbC battery. In fact, much better than even the locomotive application, which doesn't have the extremely rapid fluctuations in giving and receiving power.

Jay also mentioned that the ability of the PbC to receive charge was the key differentiator vs. Lithium ion.

  • AGM batteries needed to be plugged in for over ten hours after only a few hours of driving. However, even with this accommodation, they only lasted 4,000 - 5,000 miles before degrading.
  • The PbC state of charge can fluctuate 15-20% say during a sustained climb. I was glad to see the relatively deep maximum discharge vs. the 1-2% we'd see in an auto stop-start application.
  • Jay Bowman said that truckers hate batteries and he didn't think truckers would do the 36 hour trickle charge once every 6-12 months to top off the batteries. However, he said Axion keeps upping the life expectancy of the battery in this application and believes it will last for the entire four year rebuild cycle without the benefit of the trickle top-off.

Jay spoke at length about the new 6.7 liter engine (the first conversion is in process). In steady state, the generator needs to produce 72 - 74 Kw of energy to cruise at low highway speed (55mph I assume) on a level road. The 4 liter engine produces about 93Kw after discounting the parasitic loads.

The Cummins 6.7 liter engine (used in pickup trucks) produces 240hp or approximately 128Kw after discounting parasitic loads. It burns 6.8 gallons per hour when powering a 120Kw generator. So, if the truck is driven at 68mph it should average nearly 10 miles per gallon. The dramatic increase in available energy indicated by these calculations is the reason Jay is very confident that the 6.7 liter engine will not be underpowered.

Yesterday, John Petersen e-mailed me some additional information along these lines. I was particularly concerned about the truck still being underpowered since the system will still use the same 115Kw generator (can be over-rated to 128Kw for 15 minutes per hour) and the same 150hp motor (can be over-rated to 380hp for up to 15 minutes per hour). While the horsepower rating is a little less than a conventional rig, the torque from the electric motor more than offsets that concern at low speeds and largely offsets it at higher speeds. He did say that fitting in a larger electric motor would be difficult given space constraints in the tractor frame.

Note: See Vani Dantam's discussion of hybrid and EV trucks for more info on the above topics.

We discussed ePower's plan to build ten demonstration tractors. They would be delivered to key trucking companies to use as they wish, for free, for a limited period (a few weeks or months) before they would be asked to lease or purchase the tractor. While Jay was very clear that he didn't know how long the companies would want to test the rig before placing purchase orders, he believed that the test period could be short if the rigs perform as advertised.

Jay Bowman says he's spoken with a number of trucking executives who have basically said to him "Go away. You know what I want. When you have it come back with something I can drive. If it works, I'll buy it"

It is important to note that even the four cylinder ePower rig has well under 10,000 miles on it so the ten demonstration rigs will be very important for getting a substantial body of performance data.

A development that I found to be extremely interesting is that ePower has had an extended conversation with a Turkey-based trucking company about that company shipping a tractor to ePower to rebuild and ship back. This is particularly exciting because diesel fuel is extremely expensive in the EU (nearly $10/gallon) or roughly $2 per mile driven. The calculated payback with such very high fuel prices is under one year.

One factor that I think isn't being talked about sufficiently is that ePower will need to raise a seven figure sum to implement the plan to build ten demonstration units. JP is working on that issue and discussions with potential funding sources have begun. While the 3rd generation unit will soon be ready, I am concerned that the financing will have to wait for what likely will be several months for testing to be completed. John considers financing events to always be a challenge, but he is confident they will get it done with minimal impact to the timeline. However, I suspect I'm not the only Axionista who is skeptical of such assertions.

I think the three of us Axionistas at that dinner left with a very high regard for the ePower opportunity. Still, I don't see any follow-up orders beyond the ten rigs until summer 2014 at the earliest.

Axion Annual Meeting
At the formal meeting it was reported that 77% of shares were voted with all resolutions passing with 80%+ of votes except the three year issue passed with 75%+. (see the 8K statement that came out Tuesday for the details).

Bob Averill not present. Family wanted him off the board 3 years ago for what sounded like health reasons.

Leading CFO candidate at the meeting and Tom Granville introduced him along with the other company employees.

TG repeated and affirmed his statement that there would be large/significant orders by the next call.

I think attendance was lower this year than last. The number of Axionistas was similar but my impression was that the number of institutional investors was much less (no questions from institutional investors if I properly recall).

After the formal meeting, Vani Dantam gave a presentation. Much of his presentation involved bashing Lithium Ion but he also covered a lot of the markets the company is involved with (a broader spectrum of targets than in the past). He was followed by Mike Romeo Senior scientist who gave an introductory presentation on the PbC technology (note: Enders Dickenson left the company a few months ago for family reasons). After the presentations, the two presenters and Tom Granville took questions.

Vani Dantam presentation:
In a string, the voltage of PbC batteries is uniform to 1/100th of a volt.

Lithium Ion bashing:

  • Each cell encased in three steel cases.
  • BMS and thermal factors add 15-40% to cost (I believe this is above cell costs)
  • Operating cost and maintenance add 10-20%
  • LI provides limited power above 40 degrees C (50%) and 0% above 45 degrees. It also provides little power below -10 degrees C.
  • Thermal characteristics (Heat generation) means that a given application requires twice as many (NYSE:KW) LI batteries as PbC.
  • Mentioned the Dreamliner was originally launched without a BMS for the LI batteries. A BMS has subsequently been added. REMARKABLE
  • PbC has 2-4x faster recharge speed vs. LI in partial state of charge.

Stop start:
Ford Focus is a $210 option while Chevy Malibu is a $2,200 option. Point was that the automakers haven't really got their arms around the stop-start issue.

BMW and 5-6 other automakers are working with Axion. 3 of them have told Axion that they aren't happy with AGM. AGM stops working after 3-4 months.

A European automaker that has been buying Johnson Controls AGM batteries just contacted Axion. They have not been satisfied with the Johnson Controls product.

Hybrid and EV Trucks
In current hybrid trucks, all LI batteries do well in the first 1-2 hours until the batteries overheat and shut down. All other hybrid truck manufacturers are working with standard 12-18 liter truck engines rather than using smaller engines (4 liter going to 6.7 liter) running at constant speed as has ePower. Therefore, they will be limited to only incremental fuel economy gains.

If my recall is accurate Eaton's hybrid truck has sold something like 6000 units and is priced much higher than conventional trucks.

The ePower hybrid truck has been driven nearly 10,000 miles so far.

Current truck fleets get on average 5.4 miles per gallon. New trucks average 5.9 mpg.

The DOE target is 7.3 mpg. ePower is at 8.1 mpg and expects to get to 9.8mpg.

The fuel economy of a truck can vary widely depending on the experience and incentives of the driver. Trucking company C.R. England has driver incentives and its drivers average 7mpg.

Part of the improvement is driving more slowly and part is experience with shifting gears.

Note that the ePower tractor's electric motor uses an automatic transmission and electronic cruise control. This greatly simplifies driving and training requirements for drivers.

To save space, the fuel tank in the ePower truck is half the size of a standard truck.

The ePower truck accelerates much better than standard trucks and especially better than the Eaton Hybrid. ePower 0-60 mph with an empty 53 foot trailer is 45 seconds vs. 80 for standard and something like 110 for the Eaton hybrid.

Axion is also talking to several crane companies. The idea is that like ePower, the PbC will enable them to build their cranes with smaller diesel generators.

Residential and Community
Batteries are used to "clean" power.

California and New Jersey permitting processes now require the use of batteries with solar power systems.

Axion has created a product that provide 3KWH (4 KW) of storage as well as a 10KWH product.

Axion storage product was part of the design for a five car electric car recharging station (which I believe included solar) for a Caribbean Island nation.

Hawaii, Caribbean islands, and Latin America frequently have power costs of $.40-$.50 per Kwh. With solar now costing $.25 Kwh, battery storage makes economic sense.

Smart Grid
Utilities require 10% (sunny areas like CA) to 40% (cloudy areas like NE US) of solar capacity in storage.

PbC batteries used to "smooth" solar power during the day and to provide frequency regulation at night. The latter role is usually more lucrative.

Mike Romeo - Senior Scientist
Mike is pretty young and while he wouldn't confirm it, he would appear to be the successor for Enders Dickenson who a few months ago left the company for family reasons.

His presentation was pretty standard stuff as far as most Axionistas would be concerned. He talked about eliminating crystals and CDI (Concave down increasing) charging patterns which explains why PbC batteries self-equalize their state of charge when in a string (btw the cells within a battery function in the exact same way).

He reported that the Axion Powercube DSR (don't remember what the acronym means) or grade that the PbC has earned with PJM is 92% vs. the 70% minimum.

After the meeting I asked him a question about the BMW test protocol which involved the rest periods, which are very hard on lead-acid batteries. He mentioned an experiment Axion ran where they rested the batteries for five minutes after each event instead of the standard ten seconds. This regime ruined AGM batteries in a matter of a few days. This seems very interesting to me. I wonder if in the future we could see applications that combine AGM and conventional lead acid with PbC based on the idea that the PbC batteries can be used to keep the AGM batteries in a fully charged state. For example, in the streetlight scenario maybe one lead acid and one PbC battery could be used to lower the total system cost.

Question and Answer Period (Granville, Dantam, Romeo)

  • Tom Granville was asked about the next financing event. He said that the company would only need to raise money if it needed expansion capital, i.e. it would only need to raise more money if growth is greater or comes quicker than expected. I found that to be a hugely important statement.
  • Axion is in ongoing discussions with 2 lead acid battery companies. One is customer driven (presumably BMW and their supplier Johnson Controls / Varta). The second was described as internally driven by a desire to market a product with the capabilities of the PbC.
  • Mr. Granville said that these partner discussions did not involve the partner making the electrodes. He said the companies are working to "validate our product on their line". To me this seemed to be unchanged from the last conference call when he said that the potential partner had successfully built PbC batteries on their line. He did say that testing of the batteries vs. those assembled in New Castle was ongoing.
  • Several minutes later in response to another question he stated that Axion would be open to licensing the electrode and carbon sheeting processes as part of an incremental implementation that started with the entity buying all the complete batteries that Axion could manufacture in its facilities, followed by the partner buying all the electrodes Axion could manufacture, and then all the carbon sheeting Axion could manufacture. Note: It was somewhere around this point where Tom Granville laughed and said that Axion would never partner with Exide.

    I was surprised. It would appear that Mr. Granville signaled that Axion is prepared to be more flexible on licensing than it would have appeared to be in the past. Still, one can see that the technology sharing under such an agreement would only take place after a series of confidence building measures were implemented over a period of years.

  • Vani Dantam talked more about the Lithium Ion battery industry. He said that domestic LI companies had an 18-20% cost advantage over imported LI batteries due to government subsidies and to a lesser extent reduced shipping costs. He did say that Axion faced a little bit of an uphill battle against LI because the latter has a longer, more mature, operating history.
  • Vani stated that ePower trucks are only slightly heavier than conventional trucks with the additional weight of the batteries being partially offset by the smaller fuel tank and smaller engine.
  • I think it was TG who said that Axion met with Rosewater recently and that Rosewater was currently at the CEDIA show in Denver. Note, Jay of ePower reported that he also met recently with Rosewater.
  • In response to a question about the Asian automaker that Axion first mentioned roughly a year ago (Axionistas speculate it is Toyota or Hyundai), Tom Granville had stated that Axion has recently signed an NDA with another division of that company. He had nothing to add on the automobile side. I presume this would imply that the company in question is Hyundai since Toyota has relatively few non-automotive businesses and Hyundai Heavy Industries would seem to have lots of potential for utilizing the PbC (world's largest shipbuilder as well as divisions that provide equipment for electrical utilities, construction, and green energy).
  • On two occasions during the meeting Vani Dantam backed off from the October estimate and referred the questioner to Norfolk Southern's statement that the 999 would be operational by year-end 2014 (just kidding, it's year-end 2013).

Other Events (Plant Tours, Cocktail party, and side discussions)
As far as the shop floor impression goes, the battery shop seemed busier than last year. Last year some of the melting pots for lead (I know that's not their real name) had broken down. This year, I think all of them were operating. Also, as JP noted, all three lines were operating.

The electrode building was the opposite. I'm not sure I saw a single person on the shop floor who wasn't involved in the tour. Last year, the electrode line wasn't operating either, but the operating staff was present and talked with us.

Overall, the facilities were neat and well maintained. At one point, I can't remember who said it, but one of the long-time employees said the facility looked better than it ever has in their previous experience. An example of this was a section of the concrete floor in the main plant that had recently been replaced. I don't remember it being a problem last year but maybe it was replaced due to some work that had taken place under the floor, but nevertheless, it seemed to be something the person with our tour felt should reflect positively on the company.

  • During the plant tour we were told that there has been continued significant and steady improvements in the electrode line throughput.
  • Prototype 3Kwh and 10Kwh Residential Cubes were on display as well as a streetlight application.
  • Axion has determined that a 3.6 Kwh battery paired with 1.5Kw solar panel system will provide a reduction of 30% in the power bill for a residential scenario involving a home with a baseload approximately the same size as the solar panel output.
  • The inverter used in the 10Kwh system was a Princeton DRI 10 model.
  • The street light was a an LED system supported by 2 x 30 HT batteries. Fully charged, the batteries could support the light for 100 hours of continuous operation. When asked why PbC, it was stated that lead acid batteries would have to be massively oversized to support the application to keep partial state of charge to a minimum. Lithium Ion batteries can have issues with the temperature. My theory on why PbC in this application is that the customer would like to standardize as much as possible. Also, given the time lag to receive replacement parts and the expense of shipping heavy replacement batteries, a long lasting but more expensive solution like the PbC would make more economic sense in the island scenario.

That evening, during the cocktail party, I followed up with Mr. Granville about his statement that Axion would not need an additional capital raise unless growth exceeds expectations. I characterized my question to him as "sustaining funding" vs. "growth capital". He disputed that characterization but didn't specify why.

I tried to get more information by saying that I'd assume if the company didn't need more capital it must be near cash flow break-even, which would imply that he must be expecting substantial sales over the next 12 months to get the $15m or more in incremental revenue that would be needed. He disputed the $15m number saying it would depend on product mix. I countered by saying that I'm assuming all of that would be PbC revenue (implying the highest margin business). He laughed and said that he'd like to get 40% margins but they are making proposals at lesser levels of profitability (My $15m number does imply roughly 40% margins but Mr. Granville was the one that brought up that number. BTW, I think that should be the appropriate long-run goal for Axion). I then went on to say that it seemed clear that ePower and Norfolk Southern and BMW weren't going to ramp up that fast and I asked him if he was expecting that the grid business would ramp up anything near that quickly. He didn't say anything confirming what I was saying but I think he would have argued with me if he thought I was off base. Do take the above as my analysis only and other than the 40% margin statement, please don't put much stock in my reading of Mr. Granville's body language.

  • An interesting aside to this conversation was when I suggested to Mr. Granville his statement was reminiscent of his 200-300% mistake back in 2011. He said that when he made that mistake he was thinking 2012 vs. 2010, which would have included substantial growth in the flooded contract. He admitted it was a mistake on his part and mentioned that Chuck Trego told him such as soon as the call ended. Later, I told this to some other Axionistas and they were all skeptical of Mr. Granville's explanation. I suppose we'll never know if this is true, but I guess it's at least as likely an explanation as the theory that Axion was expecting a 50 locomotive order from Norfolk Southern.
  • I asked Mr. Granville about the second half of the 2012 financing. He said that group planned to invest (and actually revised upward the $s during the process) and did what he characterized as an unusually thorough amount of due diligence, including calling customers (which to me would seem to be a normal level of due diligence). That group eventually withdrew for two reasons. Their financial situation weakened during the due diligence process and there appeared to be some issue specific to that organization's leader (ie not having anything to do with Axion). So, that leads me to think that they were involved with three groups: The 2012 group, the strategic investor, and Maxim.

A few minutes later, someone asked TG what market segments he was most excited about. He answered the same way Vani Dantam answered the question when it had been posed to him a half hour previously: First grid and second, trucking (ePower plus other opportunities). To me this answer added weight to the theory that Axion is expecting a lot of grid business over the next year.

The following is purely a guess so take it with a shaker of salt.

I think some Caribbean Island is going to announce a $100m initiative with the consortium of which Axion is a part to install a large number of solar panels along with energy storage/grid management, and energy conservation measures.

I'll pick St. Lucia as my straw man for no particular reason. The country used 310m Kwh in 2012. At $.50 per Kwh (the number Vani Dantam used as a cost for oil generated electricity), that would be $155m spent on electricity.

I estimate that each 5% of its total electricity supply switched to solar would cost about $30m and would require about $1m worth of (presumably) Axion power cubes at the 10% solar capacity to battery storage ratio for sunny places that Vani mentioned in his presentation.

So, very roughly speaking a $100m purchase order could get a system that would generate 15% of electricity used. Such a system would require $3m worth of power cubes. All for a country of 160,000 people.

In summary, I learned more than I expected but not enough to get me to go out and immediately buy more stock. Did I look Mr. Granville in the eye and decide he's a good or bad guy? No. BTW, he seemed "healthier" this year (he told me that last year he'd returned the day before the meeting from an overseas trip) for whatever that is worth.

I would be very, very surprised if the grid sale (or whatever it is) doesn't happen, but the financing was an absolute disaster that will act as a drag on the stock until the PIPE is over next spring. It will take very, very good news to overcome that and I've been conditioned over the years not to expect upside surprises from Axion.

In any case, the annual meeting was well worth attending and a lot of fun. It was a pleasure to finally meet John Petersen, and all the Axionistas are smart and interesting folks.

Latest News, Articles and Presentations...

Q2 2013 10Q Results Filing by Axion

Axion Power International's CEO Discusses Q2 2013 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Axion Power Investor Relations Access to Conference Call Replay and Downloadable MP3 (click the microphone icon labeled "2nd Quarter 2013 Earnings Webcast" for "Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 11:00 a.m. ET. Registration required


Understanding The Mechanics And Incentives In Axion Power's PIPE

Axion Power's Potential For Explosive Growth

CORRECTED: Axion Power: Is There Light At The End Of The PIPE?

Axion Power Announces Resignation Of Chief Financial Officer Charles R. Trego; Will Be Nominated To Serve On Board

Axion Power Receives Additional Purchase Order From EPower Engine Systems To Supply PbC® Batteries And Battery Management Systems For (10) Class 8 Heavy-Duty Trucks --

The purchase order is an extension of the existing agreement between Axion and ePower and further validates the performance of the PbC batteries in this hybrid application. At ePower's current specifications, each conversion kit System would require 56 PbC batteries and the PbC battery management system (NYSE:BMS). Axion values each truck conversion battery order at in excess of $20,000.00.


FocalPoint Analytics' important comment on Axion Power's recent Financing Transaction


Axion Power Receives Order To Supply Class 8 Truck Battery Strings For ePower


Axion Power Reports First Quarter Results For 2013-Press Release

Excerpts from the First Quarter 10-Q --


Axion Power Completes Private Placement for $9 Million in Senior Convertible Notes With Warrants and $1 Million in Subordinated Unsecured Notes With Warrants --


Axion Power on Panel at Energy Storage Economics 2.0 for New YOrk City and Beyond --


Axion Power's CEO Discusses Q4 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript


Axion Power Reports Results for 2012 --


Axion Power Completes New Continuous Roll Carbon Sheeting Process


Axion Power and EPower Engine Systems Inaugurate Strategic Alliance Using PbC Batteries in Hybrid Drivetrains for Class 8 Trucks


Dr. Ed Buiel, Axion's CTO until the end of 2010 -- A link to an archive of his comments on yadoodle about the PbC battery and much more. Invaluable commentary! Thanks to 481086 for putting the list together.

Axion Power PbC Batteries Continue To Demonstrate Effectiveness For Railroad Applications -- Axion completed shipping its high-performance PbC batteries to Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE:NSC), one of North America's leading transportation providers, for use in Norfolk Southern's first all electric locomotive - the NS-999.

"ePower's Series Hybrid Electric Drive - Unmatched Fuel Economy for Heavy Trucks" -- by John Petersen. Discusses the potential fuel savings for ePower's Hybrid electric drive for class 8 trucks using Axion's PbC batteries.

"Axion Power - A Battery Manufacturer Charging Forward" -- by John Petersen. This is an excellent summation on Axion Power's history. It is a good starting point for introducing Axion Power to friends and family.

Axion Power Weighted Moving Average Prices and Volume:

(through 09/29/2013)

9.29.13 AXPW Price.png

9.29.13 AXPW Volume

Axion Power Market Cap, Share Count and 200-day Volume:

Link to JP's write-up on this graph in the header of APC #248 --

(as of 09/29/2013)

9.29.13 AXPW Mkt Cap


Monthly Volume and FINRA Short Percentage

The FINRA short tracking graph is beginning to look like it may be a reasonable proxy for selling by the PIPErs. It was an extremely useful tool for tracking the big uglies a couple years ago and so far it seems to be providing the same type of information. If the data does in fact track the PIPErs activity, the lines would suggest that they pounded hard in May to set up a fear dynamic, eased up a bit in June once the angst was established and eased up again in July as the angst gained momentum and the stock price stabilized. [Prior months graphs' comments follow APH] With three days left to go in the month, July is already the all-time volume leader by about 400,000 shares. Unless volume plummets over the next three days, I'm expecting a total volume of more than 15 million shares for the month. It's a lot of selling, but its also a lot of buying and I don't think the buyers are timid or weak.

(updated through 09/29/2013)

9.29.13 AXPW Short

Axion Power Concentrator Comments Statistics:

(updated through 08/17/2013)

8.17.13 APC Comments


Links to important Axion Power research and websites:

The Axion Power Concentrator Web Sites, created by APC commentator Bangwhiz. It is a complete easy-to-use online archive of all the information contained in the entire Axion Power Concentrator series from day one, including reports, articles, comments and posted links.

Axion Power Wikispaces Web Site, created by APC commentator WDD. It is an excellent ongoing notebook aggregation of Axion Power facts.

Axion Power Website. The first place any prospective investor should go and thoroughly explore with all SEC filings and investor presentations as well as past and present Press Releases.

Axion Power Intra day Statistics Tracking: (new edition 10/1/2013) HTL tracks and charts AXPW's intra-day statistics.

PbC Cost Estimating Spreadsheet and Instablog: Apmarshall62 put together an instablog for estimating costs of the PbC. It includes a downloadable spreadsheet that you can use to plug in your own cost estimations.
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Disclosure: I am long AXPW.