A Battery Saver for Forgetful Drivers

With a device for shutting off headlights, Smart Energy hits the road for Las Vegas

The key to never getting stranded by a dead car battery may be hidden in a piece of metal that measures less than two inches square. And this week, its manufacturer, Clifton’s Smart Energy Solutions, is taking the device—called Battery Brain—on the road.

The company will show the product at two big auto-accessory shows that are running this week in Las Vegas: the SEMA Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, put on by the Specialty Equipment Market Association, and AAPEX, put on by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association at the Sands Expo Center.

Last year more than 150,000 people attended the two shows, and Ed Brainiff, Smart Energy’s CFO, hopes the events will jump-start sales of his firm’s product line, which helps users avoid having to jump-start their cars. Currently Battery Brain is only available online at batterybrain.com; Brainiff wants to get it into stores and catalogs.

The device prevents the car battery from being drained when a driver turns off the engine but leaves electrical appliances on. Brainiff says that Battery Brain, which attaches between the positive battery cable and the battery, constantly tests the energy source’s power and will break the circuit before headlights, cell-phone chargers or CD players deplete the juice to the point where the engine won’t start.

“There is a universal need,” Brainiff says, “and this is just an extremely effective solution.”

There are three types of Battery Brain: a basic model with a manual reset to reconnect the battery after the device kicks in, a model with a remote reset, and a model with a remote reset and a remote turnoff. The latter can be used for anti-theft purposes. Smart Energy sells the most basic model for $39.95; the top of the line goes for $69.95.

Aharon Levinas, an Israeli scientist and inventor, invented the device and, according to SEC filings, sold his invention to Smart Energy Solutions in March for $100,000 in cash and 20% of the issued and outstanding shares of the company.

As an incentive for the company to get out and raise marketing capital, the agreement stipulated that Levinas would get an additional 20% of Smart Energy’s stock if the firm didn’t raise $400,000 within 90 days of buying the product rights. The company, however, raised $400,000 in one month and a total of $1 million within three months of the purchase.

Levinas now lives in the U.S. and is Smart Energy’s chief technology officer.

Brainiff says the firm is owned by a group of investors who came together to market Battery Brain. But the company has been around in one form or another since 1999. Before Brainiff and his fellow investors bought the firm in November 2004, it was a shell company that had been in the concrete cutting and trip-hazard removal business under a different name.

Battery Brain too had a track record when Smart Energy picked up the rights. Levinas, who thought it up “after getting stuck too many times,” introduced the first model in 1994 and has reworked the product a number of times since. Now he hopes Smart Energy’s backing will bring it wider exposure.

Sales have already picked up. Levinas says that while he has sold about 10,000 units online over four years, Smart Energy sold about 2,000 in the last month. Still, as Brainiff says, these sales are a “a drop in the bucket.”

Smart Energy Solutions lost some $333,000 after selling nearly $36,000 worth of the product in the second quarter, and has lost more than $740,000 in the last six months. The company this year set up a distribution program and purchased two manufacturing facilities in China totaling 6,000 sq. ft. Brainiff says the factories employ more than 80 people; the company employs a total of around 90.

Brainiff says he anticipated the losses and hopes the product’s national unveiling will now help drive sales, including bulk sales. He says the company is negotiating with a few car companies and military organizations that could purchases of thousands units.

What Brainiff needs is tens of thousands of people like Jack Young, a New Jersey retiree who says he purchased Battery Brain after “a couple of dead-battery situations.” Young says the product was easy to install and works well. More important, his battery hasn’t died since. E-mail to bquinlan@njbiz.com


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