ClearEdge on the verge as fuel cell industry limps along

Greentech Media reports on the very bumpy road that all fuel cell startups have encountered, as they’ve plied VCs for more and more capital for over a decade even as profitability has eluded the sector. The latest news  is that ClearEdge, which owns the fuel cell assets of UTC, is teetering on bankruptcy. The company raised more than $136 million in VC since its founding in 2006.
While ClearEdge may actually be headed toward bankruptcy, other amazing facts litter the fuel cell industry like the fact that Vancouver based Ballard has not had a profitable year since its founding in 1979. It is unknown whether Bloom Energy, which has raised over a billion dollars, is profitable though in the summer of 2012 its CFO reported that it was half way to break even. If Bloom doesn’t make it, it’ll be one of the biggest VC meltdowns in history.
Fuel cells have proven very difficult to produce price competitively as the technology likely received VC funding before the tech was really ready for commercialization. If there are some positive trends in fuel cells’ favor it’s that they run on natural gas amid a natural gas boom and may well find niche usage in areas like data centers where margins are much better and customers are motivated to generate their own power 24/7. But for now, the industry has managed to stay alive, despite nary a whisper of profitability.