More trouble for the fuel cell market: ClearEdge Power files for bankruptcy



By Cosmin Laslau


Fuel cell developer ClearEdge Power has gone bankrupt, officially filing for Chapter 11. The company initially focused on proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, but suffered from a high unit price and a lack of differentiation, prompting caution early on. Nonetheless, ClearEdge was still able to raise money in recent years, including $73 million in funding in 2011 and $36 million in equity financing in 2013.


At the same time, ClearEdge was attempting to pivot from its PEM technology towards the lesser-known phosphoric acid fuel cell (PAFC) architecture, through an acquisition of United Technology Corporation (UTC)'s money-losing fuel cell unit in 2011.


This muddled strategy has left ClearEdge in a difficult situation. Its PEM technology is undifferentiated and costly, and its newer focus on PAFC technology has skeletons in the closet: PAFCs have a notorious history of losing money, with some estimating that UTC frittered away about $1 billion in their PAFC development before deciding to abandon the work.

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