Japanese Itochu Corporation has invested US$5m for a 4% stake in Norwegian electric carmaker THINK Holdings AS.
This initial investment is characteristic of Itochu’s investment strategy, taking toehold positions and increasing equity stakes on the business achieving certain milestones. Itochu has been an equity investor and strategic partner of Ener1 since 2003.
The two companies have been in a cooperative relationship since 2009, through a number of market-leading demonstration projects in association with THINK’s lithium-ion battery partner, Ener1.
Following the success of these projects – Itochu has taken a stake in THINK – to formalize the partnership and further develop marketing and distribution opportunities for THINK’s urban vehicle and drive-train business lines in Asia.
The two companies are now looking to expand THINK’s line-up in Asia, including selling the City EV and marketing THINK’s EV drive system in the business-to-business sector.
THINK chief executive Richard Canny said that the company’s latest, fourth-generation drive system, the G4 EV Drive Controller, is now in full-scale production in Europe and ready for commercialization.
These projects have served as valuable test-beds to validate how battery, vehicle and grid technology function together in real-world environments. One such project in Japan involves Family Mart – the chain of convenience stores in which Itochu is a major share-holder, and Mazda Cars – one of many car companies in which Itochu has a minority equity stake.
Using the Ener1 battery and THINK drive-train technology, a fleet of Mazda 2 vehicles was electrified for trial in the project in under three months.
THINK has also announced plans to establish a U.S. production facility during 2011 in Elkhart County, Indiana, and is developing operations in Asia.