There is likely nothing that has done more to shape the modern world than energy – both for good and evil.
For decades, the world has been on a search for a new source of energy – most alternatives, critics argue, are too expensive to be considered a replacement for oil.
Battery power is usually lumped in with other touchy-feely alt-energy sources as unprofitable and unrealistic, but now there may be a breakthrough. Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) are you listening?
There are two big problems with battery technology. First, it so expensive, batteries are hardly profitable. Second, its capabilities for energy storage are limited.
Applied Materials, Inc. (Nasdaq: AMAT), a company that created fortunes around the time of the Dotcom meltdown in 2000, may have accomplished some strides that could make battery power firmly profitable.
AMAT recently began shipping chip technology for innovative new solid-state batteries that could help double their energy storage.
What’s more, the company says it is solving obstacles around materials processing and the high cost of solid-state battery manufacturing. AMAT’s technology can help manufacturers churn out solid-state batteries at low cost and in high volume for the first time.
With solid-state batteries, the liquid electrolytes typically used in conventional batteries are replaced with solid ones that hold far more energy and that can be molded for something as small as a flexible wrist band. The potential applications for wearables, mobile devices and electric cars alone are inspiring.
The global growth in electric vehicles is expected to drive the conventional battery market to more than $50 billion by 2020, according to the American Ceramic Society. Accordingly, the organization views the potential for revolutionary solid-state batteries to be enormous.
The payoff for solid-state batteries is unlikely to come overnight, although the company already has customers most likely at the prototype and demonstration stage. But there is more to the Applied Materials story.
Applied Materials is one of the world’s largest suppliers of fabrication equipment to semiconductor, LCD and solar PV cell manufacturers. Its equipment is positioned smack in the middle of the torrid global market for mobile devices.
Applied Materials is up about 26% this year. But the chip innovator’s share price is still far below its peak of $57.44 at the height of the tech boom in April 2000.
The company’s price/book ratio is at 3.25 versus the semiconductor equipment industry average of 4.15. Its EPS growth is 325% versus the industry average of 83.58%.
Risks To Consider: Solid-state batteries ultimately may not become the standard for the new generation of batteries that help run wearable devices, phones and electric cars – some other yet-undisclosed technology may dominate. There is a huge amount of global research ongoing in the battery technology field. But Applied Materials has a very strong hand to play if it can help cut battery production costs while also doubling their energy storage capabilities.
Action To Take--> Applied Materials common shares can be bought at current levels – the company has lower debt than the industry average and certainly faster EPS growth over the past year. If its promise in solid state battery technology flows to the bottom line, the results could be explosive.