News Column

Memphis Firm Grows Green Car Market Overseas

May 15, 2013
plug-in car

The focus for a small green-technology company in Cordova, Tenn., has shifted from supplying American homes with wind turbines that would help supply electricity to helping the Republic of Tatarstan plan for a town served by a fleet of truly green electric vehicles.

Creating jobs at home by supplying demand for the company's green-power products overseas has Kronos Energy Solutions LLC president John Bogensberger talking about multiplying the company's sales by factors of 10 times or more next year.

"We're a small company perched on being a huge company," Bogensberger said.

The main driver for that growth will be a power pole, 16 meters or about 17 1/2 feet high, equipped with an array of five solar panels surrounding a vertical access wind turbine. Like a flower following the sun, the wind and solar energy will charge a lithium-ion core, providing a charging station for electric vehicles, he said.

In the United States, battery-operated cars recharge "from a fossil-fueled plant that's already on an overtaxed grid" and that's not a green car, Bogensberger said.

In Tatarstan, about 500 miles east of Moscow, a city called Smart for 56,000 people is being planned with no electrical power grid connections. The power poles supplied by Kronos Energy Solutions would line downtown streets like parking meters, recharging a fleet of 1,500 shared vehicles, like Zipcar or car2go in the U.S., he said. About one power pole for every three vehicles, or tentatively about 500 poles, are being talked about.

GreenTech Automotive Inc., a startup company making neighborhood electric vehicles at a temporary facility in Horn Lake with announced plans to build a plant at Robinsonville in Tunica County, would supply the vehicles, he said.

Kronos Energy, a custom fabricator, also currently supplies about 70 percent of subframe and chassis components that GreenTech uses to build its 25 mph maximum speed, two-seat vehicle, he said.

Having met in February with Tatarstan officials in Washington, Bogensberger said he's flying to Tatarstan May 27-29 for continued talks in partnership with companies in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Turkey.

"So we are a little bitty, 15,000-square-foot company with a global reach," he said.

The firm also makes a wind turbine and solar panel "wind-for-water" battery system that can be used to pump water in the developing world; a "Mast-R" system for boats that actor Martin Sheen is slated to highlight in a national public television spot, and durable plastic tractor-trailer fairings installed on the bottom of trailers that can reduce a truck's diesel consumption by an average of 10 to 12 percent, he said.

Bogensberger, 51, said their wedding rings were the only things of value that he and his wife, Lisa, had when he and a partner -- since bought out -- founded what he calls the faith-based company in 2009.

"God gave me the idea and we give all credit back to who deserves the credit," Bogensberger said.

With 15 employees, the firm provides health and supplemental insurance, a 401(K), an above-average salary of $17.57 an hour for shop-floor workers and a daily lunch that begins with a prayer, Bogensberger said.

"When they say this is a faith-based, people helping people help themselves company, their motto is strictly their motto," said Gerald Roberson, 51, a fabricator who also operates a water jet used to cut material up to 6 inches thick.

Roberson said he had retired from the U.S. Army and been unemployed for more than a year when he found the company about a year ago. "I was just blown away by it," he said.

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(c)2013 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)

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Source: (c)2013 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)


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