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

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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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