On Oct. 8, 2017, both Elcomax and its wholly owned subsidiary Elcore requested a preliminary bankruptcy hearing at the district court in Munich, Germany. If nothing else, it allowed for business to continue until the end of last year, as wages and salaries were paid through the federal employment department in those three months. In mid-January 2018, it was reported that the Freudenberg corporate group, or, more specifically, Freudenberg Sealing Technologies, had bought the struggling business.
Manfred Stefener, CEO of Elcore and Elcomax (see image), told H2-international that company management was “greatly optimistic about getting the financing worked out,” even though it would take some time. Stefener, who also co-founded Smart Fuel Cell in 2002, said that some business partners had already pledged their support. He added that product development had made considerable advances and that market prospects were looking good.
He explained that Elcore had been in a bit of a “growth trap,” which might have prompted some risky decisions that had put the company in this unfortunate situation. A recent and, in his eyes, necessary financing round had not been as successful as had been hoped. “Still, everyone is in a good mood despite the difficulties,” he said. Stefener, who was presented with the European Inventor Award in 2012, had believed up until the very last minute that the company could prevent an exodus of personnel and avoid having to lay off most of its 100 staff members.
Interim trustee Hubert Ampferl explained, “The crucial factor will be how potential investors evaluate the prospects for growth in the fuel cell market.” His law firm, Dr. Beck & Partner, published a press release on Oct. 11, 2017, to look for suitable candidates. His colleague, Ulf Pechartscheck, said, “Comprehensive government funding makes the group’s products a particularly appealing option for residential building owners.” He, too, was confident that the company could attract the right kind of investor, meaning one that would continue to develop the technology and establish it on the market. Sales partner Thermondo, however, has already removed the Elcore 2400 from its website.
As recently as last March, energy supplier E.ON had announced that it had entered into a distribution agreement with Elcore to focus on clean and economic fuel cells for residential heat supply.
The Zukunft Erdgas initiative by Germany’s energy industry said that the national KfW Development Bank had meanwhile been offering EUR 7,000 to EUR 28,000 for the installation of residential fuel cells for over a year. Timm Kehler, chair of the initiative, explained, “There is demand for these funds. The fuel cell has caught the interest of the market. The program works.” Zukunft Erdgas estimates that 1,500 residential fuel cells were installed last year. “That was just the beginning. We’ve been very pleased with the results so far,” he said.