U.S. Clean-Energy Tech Firms Face Difficult Choices between Collaboration and Competition


2011-01-17 Scientific American, Peter Behr and Climatewire
Many firms seek financial help from China, which is pushing hard on green energy technology and offering bigger subsidies than the U.S. government

Wind Turbines

Image: Chauncey Davis, courtesy Flickr

Executives of ECOtality Inc. believed in 2009 that their battery charging technology would be a winner when plug-in electric vehicles began to hit the market this year. But with debts running far ahead of revenue, the San Francisco firm needed immediate financial support to stay in the game.

The help came from China, through a $2 million investment that year by a Chinese company. In return, the Chinese company received the rights to make and sell ECOtality’s chargers in its country and in other Asian markets. The relationship is one example of the complex linkage between American clean energy technology and Chinese capital and markets that will be a subject in this week’s U.S.-China summit in Washington led by President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

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