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Ecotality Finds $3 Million Bid to Open Bankruptcy Auction

Ecotality Inc. (ECTYQ), the maker of Blink electric-vehicle-charging stations, has received a $3 million purchase offer to kick off the upcoming bankruptcy auction for its business.

In court papers, officials at Ecotality, which obtained a $100 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, said that interested buyers will have to beat the initial offer from a company called Tellus Power Inc. if they want to take ownership of the San Francisco company.

Company officials didn’t explain in documents filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix whether Tellus Power–if successful at auction–would keep the 54-worker company operating.

Representatives of Tellus Power, based in Irvine, Calif., couldn’t be reached using the contact information listed in court papers. An Irvine, Calif.-based company called Tellus Power, which couldn’t be confirmed as Ecotality’s lead bidder, said in a recent job posting that it was the U.S. subsidiary of Tusai Holdings, a renewable-energy product manufacturer based on Hong Kong.

The company’s auction is scheduled for Tuesday, though some of the company’s creditors have asked Judge Randolph Haines to push back the date. A delay could give challengers more time to evaluate Tellus Power’s bid, which was unveiled late Saturday, attorneys for the company’s unsecured creditors committee said in court papers.

The winning bidder’s offer is set to be reviewed by Judge Haines at an Oct. 9 hearing.

Money from the sale will pay off some of the company’s debts, which grew after Energy Department officials stopped reimbursing Ecotality’s expenses in August. Prior to taking out a $1.25 million bankruptcy loan, company officials said that they had less than $500,000 in cash.

The agency had initially agreed to pay about 45% of the company’s costs–up to $100.2 million–related to its program to add charging stations in 21 major U.S. cities. The agency’s program, which was announced with a $218 million price tag, wasn’t completed by an April deadline, partly because of the company’s struggles, said Chief Executive Ravi Brar in court papers.

The company’s sale staff and dealers who tried to sell charging stations to customers outside of that federal program couldn’t bring in enough money to cover expenses, Mr. Brar said.

Ecotality has also grappled with a charger-plug-melting problem that, as of the bankruptcy filing, had yet to be explained. Some car makers have threatened to tell their drivers not to use the company’s charging stations until they replace all of the connector plugs, Mr. Brar said.

The Blink charging stations, more than 12,000 in all, are installed in residential garages and at shopping malls, restaurants, hotels and other places where drivers can plug in their cars to be recharged for a two- to eight-hour period.
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