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Tritium, major supplier of EV fast-charging equipment, is insolvent

The Australian company failed to find buyers for its faltering business, leaving its customers and the future of its Tennessee factory in limbo.
By Jeff St. John

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Tritium Charging's Lebanon, TN manufacturing facility from the air.
Tritium's manufacturing facility in Lebanon, Tennessee. (Tritium)

Tritium, an Australian high-speed EV-charging equipment manufacturer with a large-scale factory in Tennessee, notified regulators on Thursday that it was insolvent, casting uncertainty over whether it can continue to fulfill remaining orders for chargers or service those that its customers have already installed.

In a Thursday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Tritium DCFC Ltd., a publicly traded company on the Nasdaq stock exchange, announced that it and three subsidiary companies were insolvent or likely to become insolvent,” and proposed placing control of the company under administrators working for accounting firm KPMG under Australian law.

McGrathNicol, an Australia-based firm specializing in restructuring companies, stated in a letter to creditors that four of its partners had been appointed by Tritium lenders as receivers and managers of Tritium DCFC Ltd. as of April 20, and would manage the assets and seek buyers for the business.

Tritium, KPMG, and McGrathNicol have not provided information about how Tritium’s insolvency may affect operations at its factory in Lebanon, Tennessee, which opened in August 2022 and is capable of producing up to 30,000 fast chargers per year. Nor have they addressed what the impacts of Tritium’s insolvency might be on customers who have installed its chargers or contracted for future delivery of its equipment.

Email inquiries to McGrathNicol were referred to a media relations firm that did not return requests for comment. But McGrathNicol partner Shaun Fraser told Australian publication Renew Economy that multiple bidders for the struggling company had bowed out,” leaving the company’s board of directors no choice but to appoint administrators.”

Tritium’s lenders have been supportive,” but the company’s Nasdaq listing didn’t provide the access to capital markets that the board had hoped,” Fraser told Renew Economy. It needed more time and more money — it didn’t have the capital to get there.”

Tritium has won a significant share of the global market for high-speed direct-current fast chargers (DCFC), used to quickly recharge electric cars, vans, buses, and trucks at highway rest stops, fleet depots, and other sites, with 13,000 DC fast chargers sold in 47 countries. It competes with global electrical equipment giants including ABB and Siemens, both of which have expanded their U.S. manufacturing capacity in recent years, as well as DC fast-charging providers such as Delta, Kempower, Lincoln Electric, Wallbox, and others.

Tesla, which makes proprietary fast chargers for its own vehicles, remains the leading provider of fast charging in the U.S., with more individual charging points than all other fast-charging providers combined. But Tritium, which has sold its DC fast chargers to EV-charging network operators including BP Pulse, ChargePoint, EV Connect, EVCS, and Shell Recharge, claimed roughly 30 percent of U.S. market share last year.

Tritium went public on the Nasdaq exchange via reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in January 2022, at a $2 billion valuation. The company set its sights on supplying the U.S. EV-charging market with domestically produced equipment from its Tennessee factory, which was announced at a February 2022 press event at the White House.

The firm has since won contracts for projects in Hawaii and Tennessee backed by the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure initiative, a $5 billion formula grant program created as part of the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.

In November, Tritium pledged in a press release to undertake business measures designed to achieve a path to profitability in 2024 and reduce external capital requirements,” including closing its DCFC charger factory in Brisbane to consolidate operations in Tennessee, after it was denied a $90 million investment from the Queensland government to keep its Australia factory open.

But the company ultimately failed to turn a profit and has seen its share price fall dramatically over the past year, from over $290 in summer 2023 to around $3 per share in Friday trading.

In retrospect, Tritium has been undercapitalized — meaning, not enough cash on the balance sheet — since becoming a publicly traded company in 2021,” Pavel Molchanov, managing director and equity research analyst at Raymond James & Associates, told Canary Media in an email. Like many emerging growth companies, Tritium has struggled to manage its corporate costs.”

Tritium is the second EV-related company that has gone under after winning accolades from the Biden administration. Proterra, a Burlingame, California–based manufacturer of electric transit buses, heavy-duty electric vehicle drivetrains, batteries, and fast-charging equipment, which went public via SPAC in 2021, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August 2023.

It’s not clear if the billions of dollars that Proterra invested in its businesses will be able to be rehabilitated by the companies that bought it out of bankruptcy late last year. Proterra’s battery-manufacturing, electric-drivetrain, and vehicle-electrification business units were bought for $210 million by an arm of international vehicle manufacturer Volvo. But its electric-bus manufacturing unit was acquired for $10 million by Phoenix Motorcars, a publicly traded U.S.-based electric medium-duty truck, shuttle bus, and school bus manufacturer with its own troubled history.

Molchanov noted that Tritium’s DC fast-charger technology, which includes a liquid-cooled system that was one of the first to make higher-voltage charging possible when it was unveiled in 2019, might be attractive to prospective buyers. I would imagine that the technology will be of interest to various players in the EV space,” he said.

But Ethan Lipman, CEO of consultancy EV-PV and a longtime EV-charging engineer, said it’s not clear whether Tritium’s technology offers a competitive edge for any would-be buyer.

The Tritium product evolved and got better at the same time that everybody’s product was evolving and getting better,” he said. He noted that ChargePoint, one of the biggest U.S. public EV-charging network operators, shifted from using Tritium’s chargers to manufacturing its own DC fast-charging equipment.

Meanwhile, other companies that manufacture competing DC fast chargers, such as Switzerland-based ABB and South Korea–based SK Group, have a global reach and a far broader set of business lines to support whatever challenges they may be facing in the EV-charging field, he noted.

Basic charging hardware is highly competitive,” said Bill Ferro, CTO of Paren, an EV-charging reliability and data analytics company. There’s likely room for Tesla and three other companies.”

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Jeff St. John is director of news and special projects at Canary Media. He covers innovative grid technologies, rooftop solar and batteries, clean hydrogen, EV charging and more.