Itochu Invests Additional $20M in US Battery Maker Ener1

Itochu Corporation (ITOCF.PK), a Japanese commercial trading giant with deep ties in the automotive, utility and renewable energy industries. has invested $20 million in large-format lithium-ion battery maker Ener1, Inc. (Nasdaq: HEV). Itochu purchased 3.2 million shares of common stock from Ener1 at a price of $6.18 per share.

Itochu, which has previously invested in Ener1, said the investment increases its stake to just under 5% of total shares.

Ener1 produces high battery systems for the automotive and electric utility markets through its EnerDel subsidiary in Indianapolis, Indiana. In August, the company received a $118 million cost-share grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, which will be used to help double the company’s domestic production capacity.

Recent announcements stemming from Ener1’s partnership with Itochu include a Japanese project linking grid storage, electric vehicles, rapid recharging infrastructure and solar power, working alongside Mazda Corporation and Think Global electric vehicle company; the conversion of Japanese Postal trucks in the Kanagawa and Tokyo Prefectures; and the development of one of the world’s most advanced rapid recharge technologies, working alongside Kyushu Electric Power (KEPCO), the fourth largest power and utility company in Japan.

"Itochu has been an invaluable strategic partner for Ener1, supplying capital at important phases in the company’s growth and granting vital access to materials and equipment," said Ener1 Chairman and CEO Charles Gassenheimer. "Their deeply rooted relationships with many of the world’s leading companies involved in grid storage and electric drive continues to foster new relationships and open doors to compelling commercial opportunities."

Separately, EnerDel says it has active relationships underway with automakers Think, Volvo, Mazda, Nissan and Fisker. Their battery packs are also being tested by the U.S. Department of Defense in a prototype hybrid Humvee. Last month, the company was chosen to supply the batteries that will power a DOE-funded smart grid energy storage project by Portland General Electric (PGE) that will help manage peak demand and smooth the variations in power from renewable sources like wind and solar.

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