Mention the name Energy Research (ERCC), and you might get a blank stare even from investment pros. "It's a global leader in electrochemical technology for generating electric power and storing energy, yet Wall Street hardly knows it exists," says Rick Tel-ler of Josephthal Lyons & Ross in Boston. He thinks the stock, trading at nearly 10, is a sleeper that could triple in two years.
Here's why: Teller says some important players have put big money in Energy Research. German auto giant Daimler Benz, Japan's Sanyo Electric, and Pacific Gas & Electric all have acquired 10% stakes. Daimler has put together a group that has committed $90 million to developing Energy Research's "fuel-cell" technology. The idea is to come up with a cheaper, simpler, less toxic, and more efficient way of generating electricity.
In the U.S., some 40 utility companies have formed the Fuel Cell Commercialization Group to help finance a two-megawatt plant that Energy Research is building in Santa Clara, Calif. In December, the Energy Dept. joined in by signing a five-year pact with Energy Research to develop a commercial carbonate fuel cell. The agency will provide $78 million for the $136 million project.
Direct fuel-cell plants produce power electrochemically, in much the same way a battery does. Teller says Energy Research stock could well surge, once a demonstration model of the fuel cell is successfully tested in Santa Clara.