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Ecotality Inc., headed by Pitt grad, files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Ecotality Inc., a maker of Blink electric car-charging stations and headed by a University of Pittsburgh graduate, has voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Phoenix.

Taxpayers are again the largest creditor of a failing “green” energy company thanks to a more than $6.46 million contract with the Department of Energy, which Ecotality is disputing. DOE provided the company with grants totaling $126.6 million to provide infrastructure for electric automobiles. CEO H. Ravi Brar is a graduate of Pitt's Katz School of Business.

A unit of the company, Electric Transportation Engineering, listed assets of up to $50 million and up to $500 million in debt in the filing.

In a statement, Brar called Monday's filing “regrettable” but added, “It is a necessary step to ensure that we continue to meet the needs of Blink customers and continue to operate the Blink network.”

It is the third of the Obama administration's showcase green energy firms to declare bankruptcy. The first failure — the solar company Solyndra — has been a lightning rod for critics of the administration's loans to green energy startups.

Brar could not be contacted Tuesday. His electronic mailbox said it was full.

In an SEC filing, San Francisco-based Ecotality reminded that it announced in August that it might be forced to file bankruptcy unless it found more funds because of weak sales. The DOE then suspended all funding pending an investigation.

The company told the SEC that it hoped to sell itself and continue operating as a “debtor in possession,” but that it could not make guarantees about the viability of its stock. Ecotality urged investors to use “extreme caution” when considering purchase of its equities.

The firm's stock traded for $2.40 earlier this year but fell into the $1.40s upon its Aug. 9 bankruptcy warning. The stock closed Tuesday at 16 cents.

Lou Kilzer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5628 or lkilzer@tribweb.com.

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