AeroVironment Inc. has received a lot of press for its unmanned aircraft systems such as the Raven, which is launched by hand, and changed the rules of the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But for more than 20 years, the Monrovia company has toiled away developing fast-charging electric vehicle equipment – and now all that R&D is poised to pay off in a big way.
Nissan North America plans to market AeroVironment’s electric vehicle home-charging stations and installation services for its all-electric Leaf passenger car, hitting the road late this year.
With every other domestic and foreign automaker planning to launch an electric vehicle within the next few years, AeroVironment could score additional business as it is well ahead of the pack developing charging stations. Its Posicharge line is already used by electric-vehicle fleets.
“This is our first deal of its kind for the home charging stations,” said Steven Gitlin, a spokesman for AeroVironment. “We’ve been working this for years but are now ready to start seeing our technology used widely in homes.”
The stations, which will be sold independently by AeroVironment, plug into a standard home outlet and are capable of fully charging a car in eight hours. Pricing has not yet been established but the company said last year that it expects the units – not much bigger than a backpack – to sell for $500 to $1,000. The car is expected to have a list price of $25,000 to $30,000 and a range of 100 miles.
AeroVironment got its head start when in the late 1980s it teamed up with General Motors to supply charging technology that increased the range of the automaker’s vehicle battery packs for its first all-electric vehicle, known as the EV1.
GM halted EV1 production in the late 1990s, but AeroVironment kept developing fast chargers for industrial electric vehicles using lithium ion batteries, which Nissan will use in the Leaf.
Gitlin declined to specify how much the Nissan deal was worth, but Nissan plans to roll out as many as 50,000 vehicles over 12 months and has named AeroVironment its exclusive provider of charging stations.
In addition to manufacturing the stations, AeroVironment’s nationwide network of contracted licensed electricians will evaluate whether car buyers’ homes can handle the electricity demand. They also will install the charging stations.
Michael S. Lewis, an equity analyst with BB&T Capital Markets, expressed cautious optimism over the Nissan deal.
“The announcement is a great credibility boost for the firm,” Lewis said. “But in the near term we really can’t estimate what it means to the firm’s fundamentals. If the electric vehicle sees positive customer acceptance, then this is a significant development for the company.”
The announcement was made Dec. 11 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. AeroVironment’s shares closed at $31.65 on Jan. 13, up from $29.08 the Friday before the announcement.
Although Boeing Co.’s C-17 cargo plane – assembled by 5,000 workers in a Long Beach plant – has struggled to get orders from the U.S. government in the last few years, there seems to be no lack of interest abroad.
Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates signed a deal to purchase six of the cargo jets, up from an anticipated order of four, which will keep the plant operating through late 2012.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but the plane typically sells for about $250 million, pushing the total purchase price to an estimated $1.5 billion.
Then, just a day later, the Indian air force announced its interest in purchasing 10 or more C-17s, which would keep Long Beach production going until mid-2013. The C-17 apparently impressed the Indian government at an air show last year as its air force is hoping to replace its Russian-made fleet, Boeing officials said.
The plane, which carries up to 170,000 pounds in payload, has been lauded for its versatility in combat and humanitarian missions. There are 212 C-17s in service worldwide, including 19 owned by international customers.
Brewing Up Business
A microbrewery claiming to be the first in the Conejo Valley has opened in Agoura Hills.
The brew pub, called Ladyface Alehouse & Brasserie, occupies a 4,362-square-foot restaurant space at 29281 Agoura Road and has been brewing beer since December. It’s one of about a dozen in Los Angeles County.
The microbrewery, which has a 10-year lease valued at $1.5 million, is owned by Ladyface Ale Companie LLC, run by Agoura Hills residents Cyrena and Jean Luc Nouzille. David Griffiths is the head brewer; Ray Luna is the executive chef.
Although only 15-20 people were expected to be initially hired, business has been brisk enough to allow Nouzille to hire about 40 employees. The brewery makes an Indian pale ale, a Belgian ale and a blond.
The microbrewery is also licensed to sell five- to 15-gallon kegs and plans to expand into commercial sales this year. Nouzille said the company has plans to add a 35-foot-high grain silo to store barley for beer manufacturing when finances allow.
Staff reporter Francisco Vara-Orta can be reached at email@example.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 241.
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