Giving Electric Cars A Charge

Want to bet on a company intent on speeding the advent of electric cars? It's not General Motors, Ford Motor, or Motorola. Try Electrosource (ELSI), a little-known batterymaker whose shares trade at 2 1/2.

Its claim to fame: revolutionizing the lead-acid battery so it can power electric vehicles, according to CEO Mike Semmens. He claims Electrosource's superbattery, the Horizon, provides everything electric cars need: quick acceleration, light weight, fast recharge, and long battery life.

The Horizon is so good, says one New York money manager, that Chrysler may announce soon it will use Electrosource's battery for its NS minivan--Chrysler's first electric vehicle. Also expected to use the Horizon is U.S. Electricar, whose vehicles have a Ford chassis. In mid-January, Solarmax, a Florida electric-vehicle maker, placed a $2 million order for the batteries.

Semmens says tests show that the Horizon matches the performance of emerging--and costlier--technologies, such as sodium-sulfur or nickel-hydride batteries. He maintains that a compact car equipped with the patented Horizon battery can travel more than 100 miles before it needs to be recharged. A minivan would have a range of 80 miles, he adds.

One big investor in Electrosource expects the company to post a loss this year, on estimated revenues of $15 million to $20 million. But he sees the company making money next year--about 50 cents a share--on sales of $40 million to $60 million.

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