San Francisco vehicle-charging company warns about prospects 

click to enlarge The vehicle charge point for a BMW i3, the electric automobile produced by Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW), is shown during the unveiling of the vehicle during the world premiere launch in London, U.K., on Monday, July 29, 2013. - SIMON DAWSON/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES
  • Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
  • The vehicle charge point for a BMW i3, the electric automobile produced by Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW), is shown during the unveiling of the vehicle during the world premiere launch in London, U.K., on Monday, July 29, 2013.

Ecotality Inc., which makes charging systems for electric vehicles, said Monday it could be forced into a sale or bankruptcy filing "in the very near future" after disappointing sales and suspension of payments from the federal government.

The San Francisco-based company said it hired a restructuring adviser to evaluate options, including new financing or a possible sale.

Ecotality made the comments in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company makes charging and power-storage systems for electric vehicles under the Blink and Minit Charger brands. It also does testing for government agencies, automakers and utilities.

Ecotality listed several setbacks in recent months, including its inability to sell enough commercial electric vehicle equipment to sustain operations in the second half of the year.

Ecotality also will miss the scheduled release later this year of a new Minit Charger product for industrial customers because of "unacceptable performance" during testing, and it hasn't been able to line up financing. The company said it learned Thursday that financing from an existing provider wouldn't be approved.

Last week, the company told the U.S. Department of Energy that if it couldn't find new financing, it might not be able to meet its obligations to the agency's electric-vehicle program. The department responded by notifying Ecotality that it would suspend payments and ordered the company not to incur any new costs, it said.

The company ran afoul of the U.S. Department of Labor over payments to workers and contractors. Ecotality agreed to pay $855,000 to cover back wages and damages.

And Ecotality said some of its charging systems have caused overheating and even melting of a connector plug when charging a vehicle. The company said some manufacturers have said they are considering advising customers to avoid Ecotality's systems if the company doesn't replace all connector plugs on about 12,000 stations.

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