The two companies have been in a cooperative relationship since 2009, through a number of market-leading demonstration projects in association with THINK’s award-winning lithium-ion battery partner, Ener1, Inc. (NASDAQ:HEV).
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.
Following the success of these projects – ITOCHU has taken a stake in THINK – to formalise the partnership and further develop marketing and distribution opportunities for THINK’s urban vehicle and drive-train business lines in Asia. This initial investment is characteristic of ITOCHU’s investment strategy, taking toehold positions and increasing equity stakes upon the business achieving certain milestones. ITOCHU has been an equity investor and strategic partner of Ener1 since 2003.
“The partnership was already in place informally, as seen in the success we have had in ventures such as the Tsukuba Green Crossover Town sustainability project in association with Mazda,” said Masahiro Okafuji, ITOCHU Corporation President and CEO.
He added: “The demonstration projects are already delivering strong results, giving us the confidence to bring similar projects to other ITOCHU businesses. This will bring growth in Asia for all concerned parties – particularly those with the technology – in this case THINK and Ener1. ITOCHU is delighted to now formally partner THINK and develop this strategic business relationship in Asia.”
THINK CEO, Richard Canny, added: “This strategic alliance represents more than selling the THINK City in Asia; ITOCHU will also be marketing THINK’s EV drive system in the business-to-business sector, on the heels of recent purchases by Japan Post and Mazda. The latest generation drive system from THINK – the G4 EV DRIVE CONTROLLER, is now in full-scale scale production in Europe and ready to be commercialized. ITOCHU’s involvement as an industry heavyweight can only accelerate the growth of this new business line in new and exciting ways.”
THINK’s G4 EV DRIVE CONTROLLER is currently the most advanced electric vehicle drive system on the market. It is the fourth generation drive train from THINK, underpinning the THINK City EV with a power electronics system that integrates the battery powering the vehicle and the motor that drives it. This fast developing and growing business-to-business operation is increasingly important in THINK’s international expansion, with agreements underway in Asia, Europe and South America.
Ener1 Chairman and CEO, Charles Gassenheimer, who also serves as Chairman of the THINK board of directors, said: “ITOCHU is a formidable business development partner for Ener1, and now THINK. As a $130 billion enterprise, ITOCHU has the vision and resources to connect the whole value chain. Over a period of years, they have built the supply side with investments in mining, materials and equipment companies, and are able to stimulate demand for products through strategic investments in car companies, renewable energy, and grid storage related applications.”
He added: “Investments in infrastructure include an ITOCHU-owned chain of gas stations, convenience stores and property development companies. Ener1 and THINK technologies are at the heart of everything ITOCHU is looking to achieve within the energy efficiency sector, and we welcome today’s investment as a renewed commitment to a comprehensive and powerful strategy that will play out over the next several years.”
The latest generation THINK City is a purpose-built, all-electric car designed for urban environments. It can travel at highway speeds and cover 160 kilometers on a single charge (via conventional household outlet), with zero local emissions. It is the world’s first EV to be granted certification with the European CE conformity mark and EU homologation requirements (M1 certificate). To achieve these exacting standards, the THINK City has successfully completed very thorough testing and validation procedures.
European production of the THINK City continues in Finland with manufacturing partner Valmet Automotive, which also assembles the Boxster and Cayman models for Porsche AG. Customer deliveries are taking place across Europe in selected key EV markets such as The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Austria and Switzerland.
THINK has also announced plans to establish a U.S. production facility during 2011 in Elkhart County, Indiana, and is developing operations in Asia.
THINK is a pioneer in electric vehicles and a leader in electric vehicle technology, developed and proven over 19 years. It is one of few companies that has a ‘ready-to-market’ fully electric vehicle – the THINK City. With its market-leading range, driveability and recyclability, the THINK City is the first vehicle of its type to be granted pan-European regulatory safety approval and CE certification. THINK is also a leader in electric drive-system technology, and was the first to offer a modular and flexible EV drive-train solution in the business-to-business sector. With its Scandinavian origins and sustainability mindset, THINK is one of the most carbon efficient car companies in the world.
The history of ITOCHU Corporation dates back to 1858 when the Company’s founder Chubei Itoh commenced linen trading operations. Since then, ITOCHU has evolved and grown over 150 years. With approximately 150 overseas bases in 74 countries, ITOCHU, one of the leading sogo shosha, is engaging in domestic trading, import/export, and overseas trading of various products such as textile, machinery, information and communications technology, aerospace, electronics, energy, metals, minerals, chemicals, forest products, general merchandise, food, finance, realty, insurance, and logistics services, as well as business investment in Japan and overseas.
Ener1 develops and manufactures compact, high-performance lithium-ion batteries to power the next generation of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric vehicles. The publicly traded company (NASDAQ:HEV) is led by an experienced team of engineers and energy system experts primarily located in Indiana. In addition to the automobile market, applications for Ener1 lithium-ion battery technology include the military, grid storage and other growing markets. Ener1 also develops commercial fuel cell products through its EnerFuel subsidiary and nanotechnology based materials and manufacturing processes for batteries and other applications through its NanoEner subsidiary.